By Steve Williams
The biggest worry going into Super Bowl XLVIII was the weather. But that turned out to be the least of worries.
Still, the most watched game of the year in all of sports was a disaster, if you were pulling for the Denver Broncos and specifically Peyton Manning, as so many of us around here were.
Yes, Mother Nature did her part, providing an unseasonable temperature of 49 degrees at kickoff and holding off the snowstorm that blanketed Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey just a few hours after the game ended.
Holding off that ferocious Seattle pass rush was a different story. It simply prevented Peyton from being the quarterback we’ve known and admired for so long.
The result was embarrassing . . . er, uh, make that shocking.
The Seahawks, 2½-point underdogs, romped 43-8.
Super Bowls have seen better days, that’s for sure.
One TV columnist called it a “total bust as a game, middling year for ads …”
Super Bowl III quarterback Joe Namath, dressed in a fur coat despite the mild weather, even botched the pregame coin toss, flipping the coin in the air before the Seattle captain had selected “heads or tails.” The alert ref, fortunately, snagged the coin before it hit the ground, preventing a lot of confusion among bettors across the country.
Problems started for Denver on its opening play, as the football was errantly snapped past an unexpecting Manning and recovered in the end zone for a Seattle safety. Give the loud Seahawks fans, known as “the 12th man,” an assist for the quickest score in Super Bowl history.
Those two points, incidentally, turned ball boards across America upside down. All of a sudden, numbers like 2, 5 and 9 looked good, for entertainment purposes only, of course.
I wasn’t on a ball board this year. I was pulling strictly for Peyton. I wanted to see him add another Super Bowl win to his resume, even though ranking the NFL’s greatest all-time quarterbacks shouldn’t be based on Super Bowl wins alone, as some national pundits spin it.
The 2-0 deficit wasn’t alarming. After all, Manning had yet to touch the ball. But going three-and-out on the second possession wasn’t a good sign. And things got worse, instead of better.
Denver’s suspect defense did hold the Seahawks to a pair of field goals. An 8-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter still didn’t look too bad, but the first of two interceptions thrown by Manning led to a Seattle touchdown. Then a fluttering Peyton pass was turned into a pick-six by MVP Malcom Smith, giving the Seahawks a 22-0 cushion late in the second quarter.
Instead of barking “Omaha” at the line of scrimmage as he had done often in Denver’s first two playoff victories, Manning might have been muttering: “Ohmygosh.”
At halftime, this Super Bowl, for me, felt like a nightmare. Peyton even had that look on his face – I call it a funk – the one I’ve seen before when the former UT quarterback has struggled in big-time games.
There wasn’t a second-half comeback. In fact, Percy Harvin, former Florida Gators star, returned the kickoff 87 yards to make it 29-0.
I was disappointed for Manning. He might have had his best season ever, passing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns – new NFL records – and doing it at 37 years old and after four neck surgeries.
Had he won in impressive fashion, I believe he would have retired on top.
Now, I’m not sure if Manning will ever win another Super Bowl. Like he said after this last one, it’s hard just getting there.
Next season’s Super Bowl will be played in Arizona. There won’t be any worry about the weather, but the thought of facing that ferocious Seattle defense again might just be enough to drive a future Hall of Fame QB like Peyton into retirement. We’ll see.