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Commentary: The MetLife Mauling of Manning

In the shadows of New York City, the Denver Broncos got mugged. Mauled. No, not outside some Bronx bar, but under the bright lights of MetLife Stadium, the New Jersey site of Super Bowl XVLIII.
 
Losing quarterback and five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning bristled at the question when asked if the 43-8 loss was embarrassing. Manning firmly said to use the word embarrassing was an insult.
 
I’m sure he thought it was an insult, but the biggest insult was how almost everyone, including me, didn’t believe Seattle was capable of shutting down Manning and the most prolific NFL offense this past season.
 
Granted, Manning didn’t play anywhere near his capability. But Seattle’s defense had a heavy hand in that. After all, the Seahawks were the NFL’s best defense this season and they proved the point with their play Sunday night.
 
I was listening to a Seattle defender after the game. He said their game plan was simple. They had to get pressure on Manning and keep turning it up to the point he became confused, hurried and out of sorts.
 
The defender spoke the truth when he said if you give Manning time, “he’ll cook you.’’
 
That’s how the Super Bowl became the MetLife Mauling of Manning and the Broncos.
 
We should be singing Seattle’s praises instead of diagnosing how one of the greatest regular season NFL quarterbacks is now 11-12 in playoff games.
Malcolm Smith was named the game’s MVP. Yes, that Malcolm Smith. The one that was a seventh round pick. The one that wasn’t deemed good enough to be invited to the NFL Combine.
 
Smith was one of a handful of qualified MVP candidates, all of them wearing Seattle colors. Instead, Smith was leading a parade at Disney World Monday and awaiting the delivery of a new car.
 
All he did was return a Manning interception 69 yards for a touchdown that made it 22-0 at halftime. Smith also recovered a fumble by Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. It led to a long list of Seattle touchdowns. 
In becoming only the eighth defensive player to be crowned the game’s MVP award, Smith recorded nine tackles. Five of them were solo. The linebacker defended two passes. He even endured a 9/11 truther’s intrusion of his MVP press conference.
 
It’s not like Malcolm Smith was a household name before Sunday. The Seahawks drafted him with a compensatory pick in the 2011 draft. There were 246 players picked before his name was called.
 
And it just wasn’t Seattle’s dominating defense that won the game. Second year quarterback Russell Wilson was productive with two second half touchdown passes and no interceptions.
 
And it was the play of special teams kickoff returner Percy Harvin, whose speed blinded Broncos defenders as he breezed by them for an 87-yard touchdown return on the second half kickoff. 
 
If the floodgates weren’t open before Harvin’s electrifying return, they were after the former Florida star took it to the house while Denver fans added another layer of frustration.
 
Harvin also ran the ball twice, for 30 and 15 yards. Denver ran the ball for a total of 27 yards for the game.
 
That’s how dominant Seattle’s defense was.
 
The pressure was all on Manning for this Super Bowl game. Now the spotlight turns to Seattle. They are a young, but talented, team. Twenty-one of the players on their 53-man roster were undrafted coming out of college.
 
They are deep in blue-collar players, but for one 60 minutes in MetLife Stadium Sunday night, they came together and shocked the world.
 
 Sport Columnist Joe Biddle can be reached 
at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

Posted on: 2/6/2014

 
 

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