The Seattle Seahawks blew the doors off of the Denver Broncos as they cruised to a 43-8 victory in what might be the best team performance in Superbowl history. Their defense shut down the greatest statistical offense in NFL history and scored a touchdown, their special teams scored a touchdown, and their offense scored 27 points while committing 0 turnovers and only punting once the entire game. This was in every sense of the word, a perfect game for the Seattle Seahawks.
In this post, I’ll break down how the Seattle defense was able shut down Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos’ passing attack and also show how the Seattle offense was able to keep the chains moving to keep Manning off the field.
The bread and butter of Denver’s passing attack this year was crossing routes. When opposing defenses played man coverage, their defenders would get caught in traffic in the middle of the field, leaving a receiver wide open. When opposing defenses played zone, Peyton Manning would time his passes to hit his receivers as they were splitting two defenders. And that’s how 3 to 5 yard passes would turn into 10 to 15 yard plays. Seattle came into this game with a game plan to stop Denver’s crossing routes. They manned up on the outside, leaving the linebackers and one of their safeties in zone coverage, just sitting on those crossing routes. They were daring Denver to beat them by throwing downfield, over the top of their linebackers and in front of their deep safety and corners. On top of that, Seattle got great pressure from their front four, mainly Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril, which made Manning uncomfortable as he rarely had a clean pocket and at times was forced to throw before he wanted to. But enough of my words, let get into the play breakdowns:
Right from the beginning of the first quarter, the Seattle defense showed that they were going to be paying great attention to the crossing routes of the Denver receivers. On this play, Seattle safety Kam Chancellor does an excellent job of reading Peyton Manning’s eyes and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas’ route, breaking on this crossing route and delivering a huge hit to Thomas right as he catches the ball.
This next play is on a 3rd and 3 from Denver’s first drive, and was the very next play in the game after the play shown above. Again, Denver tries to create some space with crossing routes, and again Seattle is well prepared for it. Seattle has 4 defenders close to the first down marker where Denver has 2 potential targets, and as a result, Denver tight end Julius Thomas catches this pass short of the first down marker and is tackled immediately, forcing Denver to punt.
Here is another short pass from Peyton Manning in the first quarter. This time he passes to wide receiver Wes Welker, and once again it’s the Seattle defense swarming the ball, completely eliminating any chance for yards after the catch.
When Peyton Manning did attempt to go downfield in the first quarter, it resulted in an interception. On this play, he has Julius Thomas open downfield on a post route, but this pass sails on him, and Kam Chancellor is there for the interception.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Seahawks, a combination of big plays and third down conversions early in the game kept the chains moving and limited the amount of drives that Denver’s offense had. Following are a few examples:
The second offensive play for the Seahawks was an end-around to wide receiver Percy Harvin which went for 30 yards. This play completely fooled the Denver defense, as Harvin had already gained positive yards before anyone even realized he had the ball.
Check out the view from the endzone camera. Seattle leaves Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton unblocked, and he has no clue that Percy Harvin has just ran right past him with the ball.
A few plays later, Seattle was faced with a 3rd and 9 from the Denver 30 yard line. Denver sends 5 rushers at Russell Wilson, but he does a great job of quickly getting rid of the ball, hitting wide receiver Jermaine Kearse on a slant route for 12 yards and a first down.
On Seattle’s second drive of the first quarter, again they were faced with a third down. Once again Denver blitzed and again Russell Wilson showed poise in the pocket, leading his receiver into open space, this time hitting Doug Baldwin for a 6 yard gain and a first down.
A few plays later, the Denver defense had a chance to get off the field on third down. This time, Russell Wilson hits Doug Baldwin on a wheel route for a 37 yard gain down to the 6 yard line. Baldwin runs a great route, and Wilson shows excellent accuracy and anticipation on this throw. I pause the video just as Wilson is throwing the ball, and at the time, Baldwin isn’t open and he’s just begin taking his route downfield. Wilson is throwing to a spot and does it perfectly, as the ball arrives just as Baldwin gets there and he catches the pass in stride.
In the second quarter, Denver tried attacking the Seattle defense using their screen passing game. This would end up being futile as the great speed and awareness of the Seattle defense allowed them to sniff these plays out.
On this play, linebacker K.J. Wright initially blitzes. But when he sees Denver’s right guard and right tackle start to move out to block for the screen, he immediately recognizes the play, changes his direction, and makes the tackle on Demaryius Thomas.
On the very next play of their drive, Denver again tries a screen pass to Demaryius Thomas. This time, it looks like they may have a chance to get something positive out of it as they have 2 blockers for Seattle’s 2 defenders, but cornerback Byron Maxwell avoids Wes Welker’s block and makes a picture perfect tackle on Thomas, driving him back into the ground.
On this next play, Peyton Manning hits Demaryius Thomas on a slant route for a 7 yard gain, but the great speed and tackling from Seattle’s defense prevents any yards after the catch. Byron Maxwell does a great job of wrapping him up, and look at how fast Earl Thomas closes in from his safety position to lay a hit on Demaryius, just in case Maxwell didn’t make the tackle.
On this next play, Denver again tries to see if they can get their screen game working, but the answer still is no. This time it’s defensive linemen Clinton McDonald and Michael Bennett recognizing the play and making the tackle on runningback Montee Ball for a gain of 1 yard.
With the screen game not really working, Denver tries to go to their run game, but hit a wall there as well as the Denver offensive line was having trouble moving the Seattle defense off the ball. On this play on second down and inches to go, Cliff Avril makes the stop in the backfield, preventing Montee Ball from getting the first down.
On the very next play, Denver tries another run up the middle. This time they get the first down by a yard, but I wanted to highlight how quickly Seattle closed in on the running lanes. For a second, it looks like Ball might actually have a lane to run through, and then in a flash it’s gone as cornerback Walter Thurmond flies in, laying a hit on Ball.
Just to make sure they had exhausted all the options in their screen game, Denver tries one more time, and once again, Seattle shuts it down. This time Denver tries a screen pass to tight end Jacob Tamme, but linebacker and Superbowl MVP Malcolm Smith reads it and stays to the outside, forcing Tamme to cut downfield where defensive lineman Brandon Mebane lays a crushing hit on him.
Now we get to one of the big plays that made Malcolm Smith the Superbowl MVP- his interception return for a touchdown right before the end of the first half. This play was made possible by defensive end Cliff Avril who puts an awesome bull rush on right tackle Orlando Franklin, pushing him all the way back into Peyton Manning. Avril then gets his hand on Manning’s arm as he throws, causing the pass to pop up in the air, and Malcolm Smith does the rest.
On Denver’s ensuing drive, they try to get some points on the board before the end of the first half, but Seattle stops them on a 4th and 2 from the Seattle 19 yard line. If you were watching the game live, you probably saw defensive end Chris Clemons getting his hand up to deflect this pass, causing it to fall short. What you probably didn’t see was that Julius Thomas was open in the middle of the field had Peyton Manning saw him. Kam Chancellor was nearby, but had Manning seen Thomas and thrown to him as he was making his cut, he may have completed a pass to him for a first down.
Seattle entered the 3rd quarter with a 22-0 lead and set to receive the ball. Trying to keep the ball away from the ever dangerous Percy Harvin, Denver kicker Matt Prater attempted a pooch kick. At first, it looked like the play was going to work perfectly as the ball bounced in front of Harvin and by the time he got his hands on the ball, Denver’s coverage team was already near him. Unfortunately for Denver, they did not do a good job of keeping their lane discipline, and as you’ll see from the clip below, they left a huge lane for Harvin to run through. Some sloppy tackling then allowed Harvin to turn a good return into a huge return for a touchdown.
On Denver’s ensuing drive, they try to get a big play downfield on a deep crossing route to Wes Welker. Kam Chancellor does a great job of recognizing it and makes a great play to break up this pass. He initially is covering Julius Thomas downfield, but because of his great awareness, is able to pick up on the crossing route to Welker to get there in time.
Look at how fluid Chancellor is in his movement and footwork to quickly change direction and burst towards Welker to break up this pass.
I’ll finish this post up by looking at two more plays from Seattle’s offense in the third quarter that helped them put the game away. The first play is a perfect pass by Russell Wilson to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. This is just another example of how on target Wilson was on Sunday. Lockette is going to be running across the field on this play and is tightly covered, yet Wilson is still able to drill a strike to him perfectly in stride for a 19 yard gain.
On the very next play, Wilson connects with Jermaine Kearse for a 23 yard touchdown. Denver exhibits some poor tackling on this play, as Kearse is able to break four tackles on his way to scoring.
This gave Seattle a 36-0 lead, and for all intents and purposes put the game out of reach.
Well that’s it for my All-22 review of the Superbowl, and for this season’s All-22 reviews in general. Hope you have enjoyed them all, and see you next season.