The National Football League took a gamble when it went against convention and decided to stage the Super Bowl at an open-air stadium in New Jersey during the winter but it proved to be a great success.
Not least for the Seattle Seahawks on Super Sunday.
A week after snowfall in the greater New York metropolitan area caused concerns that the Super Bowl date could be in jeopardy, a more agreeable wave of weather arrived, putting more than 82,000 fans at MetLife Stadium into a party mood. By the end of the game, it was the Seahawks that celebrated under a sky full of green and blue confetti to mark their 43-8 trouncing of the Denver Broncos.
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Seattle proved that defense still rules in the Big Game as they embarrassed the habitually high-scoring Broncos to win their first NFL championship in franchise history. The Seattle defense was ranked the best in the country and proved why as it shut down the hitherto prolific Broncos offense and record-setting quarterback Peyton Manning, creating four turnovers and transforming what was expected to be a close-run game into a Super Bowl XLVIII rout.
The NFL's top-rated defense had faced the league's No.1 offense on five previous occasions, with the defenders leading 4-1. Seattle and their "Legion of Boom" defensive secondary, fast-covering linebackers and determined pass rushers, upheld the tradition on an unseasonably mild night in New Jersey.
"This is an amazing team," said Pete Carroll, the Seahawks coach, after his players were presented with the Vince Lombardi Trophy. "These guys would not take anything but winning this game."
Seattle turned two interceptions into second-quarter touchdowns to take a 22-0 lead at half-time, the second coming on a 69-yard interception return by linebacker Malcolm Smith, who received the Most Valuable Player award.
"It's just a tremendous feeling," said Smith, who also secured Seattle's NFC title-clinching victory over San Francisco by intercepting a last-gasp pass that was tipped by his team-mate Richard Sherman.
Cliff Avril, the Seahawks' defensive end, jarred Manning as he was throwing on the play and Smith snatched the floating pass in the middle of the field and took off for the end zone to score his remarkable touchdown. "Man, it's incredible," he added. "It's the way our defense is set up. We just run to the ball. It happens all the time like this. It feels great."
The Seahawks, who led the NFL in creating turnovers, also recovered two fumbles in the one-sided contest on Sunday as they secured a first Super Bowl crown in their 37-season history. The comprehensive victory was underway just 12 seconds into the contest with a two-point safety on a bad snap over Manning's head into the end zone on Denver's first play. It became the quickest Super Bowl score in history.
After Denver got the second half underway, Percy Harvin also took just 12 seconds to score, racing 87 yards into the end zone to take Seattle's lead to 29-0.
Second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, leading the second youngest team to play in a Super Bowl, took the spotlight from five-time NFL Most Valuable Player Manning by completing 18 of his 25 passes to rack up a total of 206 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. "At the beginning of the season I told our guys, 'Hey, why not us?' We had the talent. We wanted to win it all," said Wilson.
Manning, who set NFL records for most touchdown passes and yards passing in a single season, was throttled in the first quarter as Seattle put their stamp on the game by playing Denver receivers tight and registering crunching hits when they did catch the ball.
"We knew they were fast. It was still a matter of us doing our jobs better and we didn't do that," said Manning, who failed to win a second Super Bowl ring. "I think we played a great team. We needed to play really well in order to win and we didn't come anywhere close to that."
Seattle out-gained Denver 148 yards to 11 in the first quarter but only led 8-0. When they stepped up their pass-rushing pressure on Manning, the Seahawks harassed him into the interceptions that helped break the game open.
With the Broncos desperately far behind, Manning made a futile attempt to make it a contest with a series of high passes, and in the end set a Super Bowl record with 34 completions, while receiver Demaryius Thomas set a record for most receptions with 13.
"It was a combination of coverage and pressure as it always is in pass defense," said John Fox, the Denver head coach. "There is a reason why they were the No.1 team in defense this season. Give them credit."