Peyton Manning might wish the legacy talk had never started prior to Super Bowl XVIII. The Seattle Seahawks defense not only put a stop to the Omaha-calling genius’ passing attack on the world’s biggest stage, they put a screeching halt to his legacy writers. Genius was on the other side of the ball on this Sunday.
Leading up to Super Bowl XVIII, it was a Manning vs Sherman media frenzy, the potent offense of Denver represented by Manning in one corner, and the feisty Richard Sherman personifying the Seattle shut-down stopping defense in the other. Sports books in Vegas dialed into public sentiment and the Manning legacy talk, and made record profits, but the Seattle Seahawks and their fans welcomed the emotional proposition with much less fanfare.
From the opening snap, there is not much which could have given Manning an edge against such a powerful pass rush, instinctive and aggressive linebackers, and an ultra-athletic defensive secondary on Super Bowl Sunday. On this day, age, experience, or future hall of fame talk had little relevance. By the end of the second quarter, most fans had figured out who the real genius was. Can a defense really win a World Championship? Count on it.
Manning certainly spent countless hours watching film leading up to the big game. The NFL is a quarterback’s league, or was. Score more points, outsmart the defense, move the ball, eat the clock, and rest your defense are basic tenets. Winning the turnover battle, not forcing throws, stepping up in the pocket, using the run game, short passes, shifts, and motion all run through the offensive mind. Most importantly, finding and preying on the weakness of the defense is the quarterback’s game plan. None of those things happened. Perhaps the part of Manning’s legacy that was most exposed was, in fact, that he was unprepared; maybe even outsmarted. Uncharacteristic, but the Seattle Defense found the chink in his armor and continued punishing blows with every hand signal.
Credit the coaches and management in Seattle for the fine defensive performance, too. A new CEO, Head Coach, and GM were installed in 2010. Add Dan Quinn as Defensive Coordinator and a quality staff of former NFL stand-outs and a billionaire Microsoft owner, something good had to happen. Lots of smart people live in dreary Seattle. The Seahawks are their new sunshine.
Consider the foundation of this defense. Under this new management, nine of the 11 defensive starters were drafted by Seattle, with four of those players in their third season with the team one in their second. Only one key off-season trade was made. That was for giant defensive tackle, Tony McDaniel. All other pieces were in place, then molded. Talent is awesome, but management makes talent work.
Never count out motivation and spirit. It means something, even more today than yesterday. Like Texas A&M in the college atmosphere, no other NFL team draws enthusiasm from their fan base like Seattle. They are loud, even by New York standards. Defense is played with emotion, determination, and smarts. Fans like attention, too, and they get it in Seattle.
On game-day, when the clock starts, it is the players who have to make plays. Eleven vs eleven, straight up for 60 minutes, the mantra is drive, punish, defeat. If the players can block out everything else, in three hours or so, a World Champion will be crowned. In this game, eleven tough, smart young men came prepared, motivated, and inspired to put down the best offense in the NFL, and did so in fine fashion.
To be fair, Peyton Manning had already established a legacy in many circles prior to this game. He is certainly one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks of all time, statistically speaking. By dominating such an experienced, legendary quarterback on a world stage, the Seahawk Defense will now have to deal with its own legacy hype. The challenge will be to put a stop to any and all challengers on the next stage. A legacy is not built in a day.
By Joel Thompson
by Joel Thompson