5 Reasons Why the Denver Broncos Lost Super Bowl XLVIII
5 Reasons Why the Broncos Lost Super Bowl XLVIII
The meeting of the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks at Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday evening was predicted to be a tight affair, pitting the league’s premier offense against one of the meanest defensive units in recent memory. It was the first time since 2009 that the No. 1 seeds from each conference would meet in the Super Bowl, and fans and experts alike were undecided on who would take to the podium with the Lombardi trophy in hand by the night's end.
Instead – against all expectations – the game was a complete blowout as the Seahawks dominated in every facet of the game on their way to a crushing 43-8 victory. The win marked Seattle’s first Super Bowl triumph since the inception of the franchise in 1976 while the Broncos’ record in the final showpiece dropped to 2-5. Quarterback Peyton Manning’s individual Super Bowl record fell to 1-2, and an overall playoff record of 11-12 has reared the age-old question regarding the five-time league MVP’s ability to emulate his regular season performances down the postseason stretch.
Any question of the 2013 season being the last for the future Hall of Famer was quickly dismissed by the 37-year old during a postgame meeting with the press, but there is no question Denver’s window of opportunity is dwindling rapidly. Manning has but a handful of years left in the tank while key players on the Broncos’ roster are set to hit free agency in March. Running back Knowshon Moreno, wide receiver Eric Decker and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie top the list of starters who may have played their final game in orange, and the Broncos’ front office will have some tough decisions to make this offseason as rebuilding a franchise around an aging quarterback is simply not a feasible option.
There is no doubt that Seattle deserved their win at Super Bowl XLVIII, and here are five reasons why the Broncos failed to match their NFC counterparts on the night.
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5. Crowd Noise
In a postgame media scrum, Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker admitted to reporters that Denver did not take crowd noise into account during their preparation for the contest.
Indeed, head coach John Fox actually turned down the volume of simulated crowd noise during practice leading up to the game because he felt it wouldn’t be an issue at a neutral venue. This was obviously a costly error as miscommunication between Manning and his offensive line was a running theme throughout the evening.
4. Missed Tackles
The Broncos missed so many tackles that it genuinely seemed like they gave up at halftime. Percy Harvin evaded six tackles on the kickoff return for a touchdown, and Jermaine Kearse caught a short pass late in the third quarter before spinning away from four tackles to reach the end zone, increasing Seattle’s lead to 36-0 after the extra point.
Doug Boldwin later squeezed past five Broncos on his way to the end zone on Seattle’s opening drive of the fourth quarter for what would be the final score of the contest, leaving Denver in a 36-point hole.
Denver gave up the fastest score in Super Bowl history when center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball as Manning approached the line of scrimmage to adjust the play call. The error led to a safety after just 12 seconds, giving the Seahawks players and fans an extra lift and also giving them possession of the ball in favorable field position.
The Broncos then opened the second half with what was essentially a game-ending mistake. Down 22-0 at the start of the third quarter, Denver’s special teams unit allowed Harvin to return Matt Prater’s kickoff 87 yards to extend the lead to 29 points.
2. Pressure on the Quarterback
The Seahawks’ defensive line did an extraordinary job of pressuring the quarterback in the pocket. Despite blitzing on just ten percent of Denver’s pass plays, Manning was pressured 16 times throughout the contest and was rarely able to settle into a rhythm.
Under normal circumstances when a quarterback feels pressure it usually means his wide receivers will outnumber pass coverage as more defenders rush the line of scrimmage. Against Seattle, Manning was under threat from the defensive line alone meaning the linebackers and secondary of the Seahawks were able to match up with the receivers and clean up any short and intermediate throws forced from the collapsing pocket.
The pressure also limited the number of times Manning could throw the deep ball which was an ever-present feature of his play throughout the regular season.
1. Losing the Turnover Battle
Manning was intercepted twice in the first half with Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith returning the second pick 69 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos would also lose two fumbles in the second half and were fortunate not to lose two more.
Running back Moreno fumbled on Denver’s second drive of the game, but left guard Zane Beadles was able to recover. Kick returner Trindon Holliday lost the ball late in the third quarter only for the call to be reversed following a challenge by the replay assistant.
Conversely, Seattle's ball protection was flawless due in large part to the Broncos' inability to find Russell Wilson in the backfield.
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