Obviously, Seattle's performance was magnificent. Early, the Seahawks showed a conventional Cover 2, the defense that Manning sees most often. Then they began switching to unorthodox coverages, and Manning never caught on. For much of the contest, Richard Sherman was defending Eric Decker one-on-one, as if it were a basketball game. Seattle seemed to decide to take Decker out of the game, which it did. The Seahawks knew this would open up opportunities for Demaryius Thomas, who made 13 receptions. But Seattle also knew the rap on Thomas is that he's mistake-prone. Causing Denver to throw to Thomas worked beautifully -- he lost a fumble, and twice pulled up and quit running when he might have caught slightly overthrown deep balls. Decker had one reception for 6 yards. Sherman ended the Super Bowl invisible statistically, but had a great night shutting down Decker.
Seattle got terrific pressure on Manning using a conventional four-man rush. Bear in mind, this is how the Giants twice defeated the high-scoring Patriots in the Super Bowl -- not funky blitzes, conventional four-man rush combined with tight coverage so the ball doesn't come out fast, allowing the rush time. Over the course of 19 games, Manning dropped back to pass 805 times and was sacked just 19 times. That's once per 42 dropbacks, a sparkling stat. But in the Super Bowl he was repeatedly pressured, and hit as he threw on both interceptions. Manning seemed so sure he would not be hit in the pocket that on those interceptions, he heave-hoed when he would have been much better off just taking the sack.
Another thing the Giants did to the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl was force them to keep a tight end back to block, taking away the five-man patterns Tom Brady likes. Seattle took away the five-man patterns Manning likes. Often, Cliff Avril or Chris Clemons lined up in the "wide-nine" stance, far outside the offensive tackle, which forced tight end Julius Thomas to stay back to block. Thomas is a potent receiver and weak blocker; forcing him to block played into Seattle's strategy. Denver has confounded defenses with the long gainer to the tall tight end. In the Super Bowl this didn't happen.
Seattle managed to "roll" its defense -- subbing freely to keep players fresh. All season, Denver has tried to snap so fast that the defense can't sub, and becomes exhausted late. Each time Denver came toward the line of scrimmage, the group of Seattle defenders who would come in before the next snap was already standing with Pete Carroll, ready. This was a fine feat of team organization.
Denver has downplayed kick defense all season, having some of the league's worst stats. The Broncos' attitude seemed to be -- We score so much, who cares? Not only did this attitude lead to a Seattle kickoff return for a touchdown, three times the Seahawks stopped a returned kickoff inside the Denver 20, meaning the Broncos would have been better off with a touchback. This was an impressive demonstration of what disciplined kick defense can accomplish.
Seattle ahead 43-8 with six minutes remaining, the Super Bowl became Senior Night for the Hawks, as every active player got in for at least one snap. Of the 2012 Young Gun quarterbacks, Russell Wilson is now 28-9 with a ring, Andrew Luck is 23-12 with one playoff win, Ryan Tannehill is 15-17 and Robert Griffin III is 12-17.