A complete and utter lack of surprise.
Most of the football-watching world was no doubt stunned by the ease with which the Seahawks dismantled the Denver Broncos on Sunday, winning Super Bowl XLVIII 43-8 at MetLife Stadium. Even if you believed the Seahawks would win, you couldn't have reasonably expected that, right? But the Seahawks themselves, they did. They knew the Broncos' record-setting offense hadn't seen anything like Seattle's defense this year. They knew their offense was a lot better than it gets credit for, especially after putting up subpar numbers late in the season.
"We did exactly what we said we were going to do," safety Kam Chancellor said. "... We finished business."
And it was an early play by Chancellor that explains, better than anything you or I or any other observer can explain, why these Seahawks are the best and baddest team in football.
The official play-by-play lists one of the game's most significant plays as: P. Manning pass short middle to D. Thomas to DEN 40 for 2 yards (K. Chancellor).
But really that play said, "Welcome to Seahawks football, you'll be getting hit like that all night." Already trailing 5-0, the Broncos were trying to bounce back from that rocky start, but on their third play from scrimmage, Peyton Manning hit Demaryius Thomas over the middle for a short gain, then Chancellor reminded Thomas of what was coming for the rest of the night with a devastating blow.
As much as the safety on the game's first play and the field goal that followed gave the Seahawks an early cushion, it was Chancellor's big hit on Thomas that set the tone.
"It just sends a message," said Chancellor, who also had an interception that helped jump start the blowout victory. "Any time you come across that middle, you've got a chance of getting wrecked. That's the way we play on defense. We play physical, we want to instill our will."
Consider the Broncos and their record-setting offense wrecked.
The Seahawks are Super Bowl champions not because they have the flashiest offense, or even the most star-studded defense. They're champs because they have a defense that can impose its will on even the most prolific offense in NFL history. Manning set NFL records for passing yards and touchdowns this season and the Broncos were the highest-scoring offense in NFL history.
Yet when we look back at the 2013 season, the unit that secured its place in NFL history was the Seahawks defense. From the playmaking linebackers — a former seventh-round pick, Malcolm Smith, was the game's MVP — to the "Legion of Boom" to a pass rush that harassed Manning all night despite registering only one sack, this was a completely dominant performance.
"We saw this coming," defensive end Michael Bennett said. "We never went into a game thinking we couldn't win. We always knew when we played our type of defense that we play, there's no offense that can play with us."
Even better, the Seahawks did it playing pretty much the same defense they played all year. They didn't need to trick things up to hold the Broncos to their first game under 17 points in Manning's two seasons in Denver, or to make a team that averaged more than 37 points a game look pretty awful while turning the ball over four times.
"It was the same exact game plan," Bennett said. "At the end of the day when you've got these type of players, you don't need to change every week. We go out there and line up, play our defense and win."
And, yeah, that early hit by Chancellor set the tone for the rest of the night.
"I don't want to say (we were in their heads), but you know they were tip-toeing around those slants and stuff," Bennett said. "But, hey, I won't want to catch a ball if Kam Chancellor was running out there. K.J. Wright is 6-4, 255 playing linebacker. It's scary to go out there and catch a ball against them."
And to be fair to the rest of the team, it was a group effort. The Broncos did a good job containing Marshawn Lynch, so quarterback Russell Wilson carved them up in the second half to extend the lead. Seattle's special teams were spectacular, most notably in the form of a Percy Harvin kick return, and in a stat that will make coach Pete Carroll most happy, they won the turnover battle 4-0. The domination was as balanced as it was dominant.
"That's it," Carroll said. "That's exactly how we try to play. We've been what we've tried to put up pretty consistently for a lot of years. I'm thrilled that it came out like that so clearly and so obviously that that's the way we can play ball to win a championship."
The Seahawks were tougher, they were more talented, and they were a more complete team. And on defense, they were historically good on the way to securing a Super Bowl title.
"We'll let all the pundits, we'll let all the football historians … we'll force their opinion on what type of team that was," said emotional defensive lineman Red Bryant. "We dominated on the biggest stage when the light was the brightest and played the way we played, we'll let everybody else form an opinion of what we are."
No need for opinions. The defense that was the heart and soul of the Seahawks all season dominated a historic offense to key a Super Bowl win. This Seattle defense is one of the best of all time, and because of that, the Seahawks can finally call themselves champions.
The Seahawks adopted the motto "Seahawks 24/7, leave no doubt" last offseason. Sunday, despite having no doubt in themselves, the Seahawks and their dominant defense erased all doubt.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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