Denver's Peyton Manning is hit as he gets rid of a pass during the first of Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on 2/2/14. (Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It took Peyton Manning 37 years to build a reputation as the best quarterback in NFL history, and only 12 seconds in the Super Bowl to fumble it away.
As much as it hurt to be humiliated by a 43-8 loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl, the pain will be nothing compared to the heat Manning will take for flopping on football's biggest stage. The Broncos were so bad Sunday, the sun might be embarrassed to show its face in Colorado.
"The word embarrassing is an insulting word, to tell you the truth," an obviously irked Manning said Sunday.
Football is not fair, and then you die a thousand deaths as a quarterback when your team looks scared and unprepared on the game's biggest stage. With an 11-12 record in the postseason, Manning gets dissed for choking in the postseason.
This loss won't help. Rout is not a strong enough four-letter word to describe how poorly the Broncos played. After throwing two first-half interceptions that ignited Seattle's rout, Manning will take the brunt of the blame.
"A lot of people will put the blame on Peyton Manning. ... But this is a team loss. It's not Peyton Manning's loss. It shouldn't be a knock on his legacy," Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said.
Has the NFL championship game ever been lost in a single play?
Embarrassing might be an insult to everything the Broncos achieved as they became the first team in league history to score more than 600 points in the regular season, then beat San Diego and New England in the playoffs. But embarrassing is the only way to describe what happened to Manning and the Broncos on the first snap from scrimmage. It is destined to go down as the most embarrassing play in Super Bowl history.
Manning is known for having all the answers. He walked into MetLife Stadium for the big test. The first thing Manning did? Misspell his name on the paper.
Standing in the shotgun, Manning barked signals Denver center Manny Ramirez could not hear above the din of 82,529 screaming fans. "Nobody could hear me," Manning said. As the quarterback walked toward Ramirez to fix the communication breakdown, Ramirez launched the snap far over Manning's head. The football bounced into the end zone. Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno pounced on it, conceding a safety to Seattle.
When did Ramirez figure out Manning was in no position to take the first snap of the Super Bowl, a play the Broncos had two weeks to rehearse?
"They told me on the sideline," said Ramirez, who admitted he snapped the ball three seconds after Manning expected it to be delivered. "There's no explanation."
The most prolific quick-strike offense in NFL history scored two points for Seattle without the Seahawks even trying.
And the Super Bowl dreams of Denver? Gone in 12 seconds.
"When you're trying to battle back, it's really hard," Broncos receiver Eric Decker said. "And I think you could definitely feel the momentum of the game snowball on us."
From the opening kickoff, which saw returner Trindon Holliday slammed down at the 14-yard line, the Broncos were dominated by the first rule of the playground: Athletes stay. Losers walk. No amount of intelligence or creativity can overcome a clear and decisive difference in speed and strength.
Super Bowl XLVIII was not NFC vs. AFC. It was varsity vs. JV. Whenever Seattle speedster Percy Harvin touched the football, whether as a running back or a kick returner, time and the Broncos stood still. Their championship aspirations faded to black.
Panic set in for Denver shortly before halftime. Trailing 22-0, Broncos coach John Fox eschewed a short field goal in an attempt to gain 2 yards on fourth down. Manning's pass to Demaryius Thomas never had a chance.
After Harvin opened the second half by taking the kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown that put Seattle ahead 29-0, Fox decided not to go for it on fourth down, facing fourth-and-11 at the Seahawks' 39-yard-line with 10 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The punt was a concession speech.
"We were on a national stage, in the biggest game in America," Decker said. "And to come out and play like that?"
It was super depressing.
Manning set a Super Bowl record with 34 completions. "Star Wars" numbers, but an unhappy ending. Fair or not, it's the dominant story of his NFL career.
Pardon John Elway for having a 1980s flashback for the lopsided Super Bowl losses he endured early in his playing career. "We just didn't play like we're capable of. I was disappointed," Elway said.
A year ago, a stunning loss to Baltimore in the playoffs gave the Broncos a sense of purpose and a motto: Unfinished business.
This loss to Seattle was worse. It shouted: As now constructed, the Broncos are not good enough to win it all.
As quarterback of the Broncos, Manning won the league's MVP award for the fifth time. Here's betting he would trade all those trophies for just one more championship ring. At age 37, Manning is running out of time to go jewelry shopping.
Read more: Kiszla: Broncos embarrass themselves in Super Bowl rout - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/kiszla/ci_25049324/kiszla-broncos-embarrass-themselves-super-bowl-rout#ixzz2sG0WjHGR
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