I have a confession to make and it’s not a good one. I initially started following the NFL in the early 1980s pretty much thanks to Don Lane who introduced the games on free to air viewers on Channel 10. Back then they showed only one game a week and he provided a detailed editorial each week, while also trying to show the basics of the games. At the time Joe Montana was the quarterback who could remain calm in any situation, and with his pathetic ‘bird legs’, I became a San Francisco 49ers fan.
The 49ers just happen to be the team eliminated by Seattle in the NFC Championship Game a couple of weeks ago. That game was intense, came down to the last play and received wide coverage following corner back Richard Sherman’s commentary of one of my favourite players 49ers Michael Crabtree, whom he deflected the ball in the end zone confirming the Seahawks win. It’s for that reason I’ve decide to ‘root’ for Denver this year.
Denver is captained (actually, like every NFL team, they have three team captains) by Peyton Manning, a former number 1 draft pick and a future Hall of Famer who has had a standout year with record touchdown passes and points scored. Manning has been in the system since Adam was a boy and the only criticism he has ever received relates to his post-season record. Despite having something like seven division titles he has only one Super Bowl ring and that came from a wild card spot back in 2006. His brother Eli, considered by most as the inferior quarterback in the family, has two – a clear injustice to true football fans. Much of the talk is whether Manning will retire post game on a high as Denver are favoured to win.
It just so happens, that a week prior to the game, a friend from New York dropped into my messy residence and delivered me a Colin Kaepernick (49ers QB) game jumper. At the time, he showed me a photo his wife sent him that morning from Long Island showing their house was under a foot of snow. The weather seemed to be the other conversation as the Upper North East had never held the Super Bowl and this game was being held in an open stadium not one of those domed monstrosities with astro-turf. Jamie was laughing that this could be a disaster. When asked who I thought would win, I confidently said Denver due to Manning’s experience, and commented it will be a blowout due to the inexperience of the secon year, third round draft Seattle QB Russell Wilson who will clearly succumb to the pressure. Time will tell.
I tape the show and manage to get home without knowing the result, and I put on the Kaepernick top for a bit of fun. The most striking thing I notice when I watch the coverage is how good the ground looks at MetLife Stadium. There’s no snow. There’s no wind. The grass is perfect. And in the pre-game show players are wearing shorts and even thongs (flip flops to avoid US confusion). The temperature is about 10 degree Celsius (49 F) so I am in a state of shock. The commentators mention that this crowd is atypical for the usual corporate supported Super Bowl crowd as they are so noisy – Seattle 12th-man noisy like.
Still with my face slackjawed, I watch the coin toss. I’m looking at the dude who is about to toss the coin as he is immaculately dressed in a full length fur coat with tassel like trimmings. They then announce that it is Joe Namath, the former Jets QB who guaranteed a win against Baltimore back in the 1960s. After one failed attempt, the call goes Seattle’s way and they elect to give the ball to the NFL’s number one offensive side in history. Clearly this is a statement. Seattle has the number one ranked defensive unit for the year and they are affectionately known as The Legion of Doom, a la Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain of the 1970s. The question about whether this is arrogance personified will be answered very soon.
The kick-off is relatively uneventful and within seconds the ball is in Denver’s hands. And then it happens. The fastest scoring drive in Super Bowl history but not like I have ever seen before.
Manning who is a no-huddle QB, is calling the play and moving, when the full back throws the ball over his head and next thing you know the ball is in Seattles end zone for a two-point safety. OMG that’s got to be the most embarrassing start ever in a Super Bowl and it comes from a veteran team. The look on Manning’s face is priceless and you can see he is shattered by the start. I didn’t realise it then, but the game is over at that point.
With safety’s, the other team receives the ball and Seattle move the ball well in a well-constructed drive. The Seahawks manage to move the ball within field goal range at which stage they drive is stopped and a field goal ensues making it an unusual 5-0 score line.
Denver’s next drive is based on run and goes nowhere as a 3 and outset. It is their first time this post season they have not scored on 2 consecutive drives. In no time, the ball is back with Seattle and again their drive is solid. They get to the redzone, and Wilson plays a couple of cautious plays before releasing a 3rd down pass to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse who drops the pass thanks to a Nate Irving strip, and this leads to a second Seattle field-goal. Incredibly despite their complete domination, the Seahawks only lead by a converted touchdown.
Surely, Denver will do something with the ball this time. Yes, they do, but not what they wanted. The ever reliable running back, Knowshon Moreno manages the fumble the ball and it is recovered by Seattle. There’s still a minute to go in the first quarter and Denver are playing like a rookie high school side. It is hard to watch now, as the next drive Denver have Manning throws just an awful pass that is intercepted by Chancellor mid-field. Seattle take this drive to the end zone, this time for a Marshawn Lynch TD and it’s 15-0 and it’s a blowout – just not the one I predicted. On Denver’s next drive, Seattle make another takeaway, this time for a Malcolm Smith touchdown and it’s 22-0 and there’s still more than 3 mins to half time. I think at this point everyone is only interested in the half time entertainment of Bruno Mars and the Chilli Peppers.
There’s nothing really to add to the game, as the second half largely follows the start of the first half. A pop up kick to start the half results in a Percy Harvin 87 yard punt return in the end zone. I’ve started snoozing. How can the NFL’s greatest-ever scoring side not even score and be down by 29 points when game conditions are ideal? Manning’s reputation will definitely be impacted by his performance today, so I imagine he’ll have no choice but to continue on next year.
More fumbles occur and Denver eventually get a touchdown bit the game whimpers to a 43-8 scoreline before the Seattle Seahawks are announced world champions (in a national league), for the very first time. Channel 1 stops the telecast before the MVP is even announced but I subsequently learn it is Malcolm Smith. Of the 80 or so NFL games I watched this year, this was the most complete victory of them all, and the most humiliating loss in a Super Bowl for over 20 years.