By Ernie Palladino
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As Eli Manning looked on at his brother’s struggles in Super Bowl XLVIII, he must have said, “Welcome to my world, Peyton.”
Or, as Yogi Berra might have said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
Just as the smothering, covering Seahawks defense ruined Eli’s day at MetLife Stadium in a Dec. 15 shutout, so, too, did they wreck what should have been Peyton’s party on Super Bowl Sunday. Only, who would have thought the 43-8 trouncing actually made that 23-0 December whitewash look like a battle of titans.
This was a modern Super Bowl, after all; far from the days of the 55-10 and 49-26 non-games San Francisco perpetrated on Denver and San Diego in XXIV and XXIX, and others like it. This was supposed to be the day all arguments ceased about Peyton Manning’s postseason legacy. He was supposed to have stood on that platform with Lombardi Trophy in hand.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Seattle’s defense made sure of that.
You see, for all the rules which have made offense king in the NFL, Seattle proved defense still wins championships.
Seattle had the best defense this year, as Eli came to know when they picked him off five times and sacked him three. In that game, at least the Giants’ defense showed up for a while.
Peyton, trying to work his Broncos back from a defense that couldn’t stop Russell Wilson and a kickoff coverage unit that watched Percy Harvin race through it for a touchdown to open the third quarter, didn’t even have that in his favor.
Instead, he made mistakes. There were two interceptions before the game degenerated into garbage time. Malcolm Smith ran back the second 69 yards for a second-quarter touchdown. Before that, there was big Kam Chancellor picking off an overthrow to Julius Thomas to trigger the touchdown drive that Marshawn Lynch finished with his 1-yard plunge.
So much happened here to separate Manning from his second Super Bowl win; the high snap and safety on his first play from scrimmage, Harvin’s touchdown return that, ironically, came with the same elapsed time in the second half as the safety of the first.
But Manning hurt his team as much as Cliff Avril’s pass rush hurt him. Those were really what kept the Broncos from sticking around. He entered Eli’s world at just the wrong time, the wrong day. And that was a shame, if only because Peyton had a far superior receiving corps to work with than Eli. But the Broncos, too, ran bad routes, dropped balls, and their line failed miserably in keeping the Seattle heat off their leader.
Just goes to show you. Put some pressure on a Manning, either one, and they turn into Trent Dilfer on a bad day.
So it was that the best defense in the NFL shut down the league’s best offense ever. In the course of 60 minutes, a regular-season record 606 points meant nothing. Nor did the quarterback’s record 55 touchdown passes.
Peyton Manning, he of the records of 2013, was just another guy Sunday. In this day and age, that’s not nearly good enough to win a Super Bowl.
Manning has lost before. Double-overtime last year to the Ravens in the divisional round. We all remember what New England did to him and the Colts in the postseason. He was young enough to recover from those.
This? If he retires after this drubbing, no one would blame him. It was a day when the Seattle defense was great. The Seahawks turned the god human.
In the process, they turned a Super Bowl into one of the non-events we grew so used to seeing back in the Stone Age.
Good for Seattle. The Seahawks deserve the trophy. It could be the first of several if that defense stays as young and as healthy and as fast and as physical and as confusing as they were this year, as they were Sunday.
The other Manning didn’t come close to figuring them out in December. They were just as puzzling to Peyton on football’s grandest stage.
Peyton will have to be happy with his one Super Bowl trophy. He’ll just have to write off this latest try.
As if it never happened.
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