Remember way back to last Thursday when I wrote about what the keys were for both the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks in order to emerge victorious in Super Bowl XLVIII? Uh, yeah…please disregard that.
First off, congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks for claiming the Vince Lombardi trophy. From the coin flip by a fur coat clad Joe Namath, the word to describe the Broncos’ performance is “STRUGGG-GGLING”. I’m not going to break down statistics like I normally do in my game recaps because the only stat line that matters is 43-8.
Disclaimer – I am going to write today’s article in the “we” first person. I normally don’t but my thought is, without us, there is not them. Also, we the fans have some impact on the success of both teams and feel the euphoria of victories and pain of the defeats.
The Good: We were one of the contestants in the Super Bowl and regardless of the outcome, there are 30 other teams who would have killed to get humiliated on that stage.
The defensive line was very effective in keeping Marshawn Lynch in check. Next!
The Bad: Everything! The record books will show that Peyton Manning set a SB record for pass completions and Demaryius Thomas set the mark for receptions. That, however is not reflective of how horrible the offense played. Now a good deal of that is due to a great Seattle defense but the Broncos’ offense is better than what we saw on Sunday. The Seahawks were able to put pressure on PFM all game long. As a result, seven ball-hawking, sure-tackling Seattle defenders gave up no yards after catch to Denver receivers. They also punished us on every reception. The salvo was fired on our first reception of the game when D.T. caught a pass underneath off of a rub route and was promptly pasted by safety, Kam Chancellor. What has often been a first downs or large gainer for us all year was held to a message-sending 3 yard gain. The Seahawks completely shut down our running game as well. There were absolutely no running lanes for Knowshon Moreno nor Monte Ball to exploit. Seattle’s defense was so physical that they knocked out Moreno early in the second half with an upper body injury. So the bottom line is our record-breaking offense was completely shut down, just like the 1983 Washington REDSKINS and the 2007 New England Patriots…and there are some who like to advance a theory that defense no longer wins championships. Seattle just proved otherwise.
Special teams flat-out stunk! What we were thinking to pooch the second half kickoff is beyond me. The weather in N.J. was conducive to Matt Prater‘s normal ability to launch it out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. So why we pooch-kicked it like that is still a head-scratcher. That notwithstanding, the kick coverage was abysmal. If our game plan was to pop up the kick to allow the coverage team to surround Percy Harvin, then we can blame the execution even more so than the strategy. Harvin did not take long getting to the second level of the coverage team and at that point the only players that had a chance to get him all had numbers in the 50’s on their jerseys. And as we know, that is an epic mismatch.
Then there was our old pal, Trindon Holliday. The game’s opening kickoff by Steven Hauschka went about 5-6 yards into the end zone. The diminutive Holliday decided to return it instead of taking a knee and giving the ball to the game’s most prolific offense on the 20. A very good special teams tackle by the Seahawks gave them some early momentum.
Defense: I personally thought that our defense played fairly well. After the nightmare of the safety on the opening play from scrimmage to make it 2-0 (I’ll get to that shortly) and subsequent free kick from our 20, the defense had to defend a short field. And they did just that; holding the Seahawks to a field goal. They actually kept us in the game as long as possible as our offense continued its anemic performance and constantly defended a short field. The “Bad” as it pertains to the defense is the two times it got fooled and didn’t keep contain on inside hand-off twice to Harvin that went for a combined 45 yards. Realistically, we allowed 24 offensive points; seven of which came in garbage time. So with our “prolific” offense, if you told me prior to the game that the Seahawks would have scored 17 points on our defense, I would have taken that. It’s the other 26 points that were demoralizing.
And that leads me to the one point I have belabored all year-long; turnovers. Two Manning interceptions and two fumbles accounted for four official turnovers (I say official because that opening play safety doesn’t count as an official turnover, but it most certainly is. Again, I’ll get to that shortly). In most of our games this year, we either lost or tied the turnover battle. However there was no team on our regular season schedule like the Seahawks. I said repeatedly that eventually our inability to protect the ball was going to come back and bite us in the rump roast…and it did. Don’t call me Nostradamus, I am just stating the obvious. Manning’s first pick was just a bad, forced thrown on his part. To me, it seemed that he was already gripping and was trying to make something happen. His second interception, which was returned for a touchdown by eventual Super Bowl MVP, Malcom Smith should be credited to the defensive line of Seattle as they collapsed the pocket and hit Peyton as he released the ball. The issue I have with that one is the offensive line’s inability to pass protect and Moreno becoming a spectator as the ball fluttered into the arms of Smith (I’ll get to that one shortly as well).
Then there was the fumble by Demaryius Thomas after a pretty, 23 yard pass and catch between Peyton and him. Byron Maxwell made a sensational play when he punched the ball out of Thomas’ hands. His fist was well-placed right on the ball like a silver hammer and Malcom Smith became the first person in Super Bowl history to record a pick-6 and recover a fumble recovery.
Did you see what I did there paring Byron Maxwell’s name with “Silver Hammer?” That is my ode to the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
<<OK, I’m back>>
The Ugly: Everything! However I guess I should be more specific for entertainment purposes. The ugly started when we lost the coin flip. Most of the season saw the Broncos win the toss and defer to the second half. And it has been a recipe that had worked well all year long. Now that unto itself is not that ugly but it was clearly a sign of things to come. Then the ugliest play of the game was also the first play from scrimmage of the game. With the ball at our 14 yard line (thanks, Trindon), there was clearly a communication issue between PFM and center, Manny Ramirez. From the shotgun, Manning walked back up to the line to make a change. As he approached the line of scrimmage, Ramirez snapped the ball. It sailed over Peyton’s head and was recovered by Moreno in our end zone for the 2 points. I guess that was “Manny being Manny”…never mind, that’s the baseball playing Manny Ramirez. From there it was all down hill.
On Manning’s second interception, with the ball fluttering through the Jersey air and Smith focused on making a play, Moreno was a bystander. Any football player and/or fan who knows the game is aware that when you see a ball floating up in the air like that, you bat it down, tackle the defender, or anything you can to keep from turning the ball over. Moreno seemed frozen as Smith made the play. The rest is history; and at that point, so was the game.
Frankly, the whole game was just ugly!
This article is nothing more than a recap of what happened on Super Bowl Sunday. Emotionally, as a fan, I am surprisingly in a good place. I normally would have been depressed, very angry, or some combination thereof. However, once Malcom Smith’s interception made it 22-0 just before halftime I conceded defeat in my mind and redirected my thought process from the destination to the journey. I realized that despite getting blown out on the nation’s biggest sports stage, that we really had one heckuva year. It was a year which saw records fall and victories pile up (13 of them to be exact, 15 if you count the post season). It was a year of overcoming one setback after another; from the off-the-field antics of Von Miller, Matt Russell, and Tom Heckart; to injuries to more starters and key players than any other team (with the possible exception of the Patriots); to the collapse and subsequent heart surgery of head coach, John Fox. And yet, there were, in the Super Bowl. I, for one, am proud of our Broncos! I realize that we have a lot of work to do and tweaks to the roster that need to be made which are tantamount to getting back to this spot in February, 2015 in Glendale, AZ. However, at least we only need tweaking (that’s tweaking, not twerking…get your mind outta the gutter) and not complete overhauls like many teams in the league. Also, I bet if you ask the fans and players of the 30 other teams, they would have loved to have gotten their butts kicked in the Super Bowl. Now focus on the all of the good that happened in 2013 and revel in it. It was a great year even if we came up a game short of our ultimate goal. And never forget that we still root for one of the classier and successful organizations on the American sports landscape
So, Broncoholics, forget the 2013 destination, focus on the journey and don’t stop believin’! (See what I did there?)