By John Boyle Herald Columnist
Rushing offense: B-
The Broncos were clearly committed to shutting down Marshawn Lynch, and for the most part did so while holding him to 39 yards on 15 carries. The Seahawks still gained yards on the ground, however, getting 45 from Percy Harvin on two carries, and 26 from Russell Wilson on three. Overall, 135 rushing yards against a team gearing up to stop it is an solid effort.
Passing offense: A-
And because the Broncos were making a conscious effort, there were big plays to be had in the passing game, and the Seahawks made them. Wilson was solid in the first half, then brilliant in the second half, throwing both his touchdowns while carving up the Broncos secondary to extend Seattle’s lead. Wilson finished 18 of 25 for 206 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 123.1 passer rating. And of course a lot of credit goes to Seattle’s often-maligned receivers, in particular Doug Baldwin an Jermaine Kearse, two guys who came into the league as undrafted free agents, and who on football’s biggest stage had 66 and 65 yards respectively, including a hard-fought touchdown each. Very good pass protection as well, with Wilson taking no sacks and very little pressure.
Rushing defense: A
The Broncos obviously don’t try to run much, but when they did, there was nothing doing against Seattle’s front seven, even when running against a nickel defense that has less size in the trenches. The Broncos averaged just 1.9 yards per carry, something that wouldn’t kill them in a lot of games, but was significant considering the struggles in the passing game.
Passing defense: A+
Peyton Manning finished with 280 passing yards and a Super Bowl-record 34 completions, and both of those are incredibly misleading stats. The Seahawks shut down the Broncos offense until the game was well out of reach, and harassed Manning all night despite not registering a sack. Pressure was key on both interceptions, including the one Malcolm Smith returned 69 yards for a touchdown on his way to Super Bowl MVP honors. In addition to Smith’s all-around big game, tons of credit goes to Kam Chancellor who set the tone early with a big hit, then added an interception, and to the pass rush — Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril in particular—that made Manning uncomfortable throughout the game. In short, the Seahawks completely dominated the most prolific passing attack in NFL history.
Special teams: A
Percy Harvin’s 87-yard touchdown to open the second half blew the game open if there was still any doubt, and was the most notable play of the night on special teams, but he wasn’t alone in making a difference. In particular, the kick coverage was outstanding, pinning Denver inside the 20 three times on kickoff returns. Steven Hauschka was solid as usual, hitting both field goal attempts early. Jon Ryan, meanwhile, was likely bored, as the Seahawks punted just once.
A lot was made heading into the week about the Seahawks having no Super Bowl experience on their roster. It ended up not mattering, because the Seahawks were the better-prepared team. While Denver struggled early and never recovered, the Seahawks played as well as they have all season in the biggest game of their lives. Coordinators Dan Quinn and Darrell Bevell both deserve a lot of credit for out-scheming their opponents in a big way.