Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) celebrates with the Lombardi Trophy after beating the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. (Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — The Seattle Seahawks now own their first Lombardi Trophy. They earned it convincingly, demolishing the Denver Broncos 43-8 to win Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The Seahawks broke the game open with a 69-yard interception return late in the second quarter and drove a stake through any thoughts of a comeback on the first play of the second half.
Denver's record-setting offense was diffused by four turnovers -- two interceptions and two fumbles -- that led to 21 points. Seattle's vaunted secondary smothered Manning's receivers and the Seahawks completely erased the running game of the Broncos (27 yards on 14 carries).
"I think we played a great football team," Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said. "We weren't sharp offensively from the very get-go. Give Seattle a lot of credit. They are an excellent football team, and they caused a lot of our mistakes."
Percy Harvin's 87-yard kickoff return to start the third quarter gave Seattle a 29-0 lead.
"Being injured all season took a toll on me," Harvin said. "It was a counter-right. We hadn't put it on film all year, so we knew there was a great chance that we would catch them off-guard. Those guys pretty much cleared out the whole right side of the field."
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson played with resounding calm. He finished with a 123.1 pass rating and completed 18 of 25 passes, including 11 in a row. Wilson threw two touchdown passes before he joined running back Marshawn Lynch on the sideline to start Seattle's celebration with three minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Lynch (15 carries for 39 yards) was corralled by a defense committed to stopping the run.
"It was a really good game for our guys on all sides, not just defensively," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Carroll became the third coach to win a college football national title and a Super Bowl, joining Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson.
"We had a lot of hard work," said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who was carted to the locker room in the fourth quarter with what proved to be a high ankle sprain. "I hope we etched our names in the history books. This is the No. 1 offense in the history of the NFL, and we were able to play a good game against them. Peyton Manning may go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, and we're just blessed to have an opportunity to play against them. I can't believe it."
The Most Valuable Player was Seahawks outside linebacker Malcolm Smith, who returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and recovered a Denver fumble.
Manning set a record for pass completions in a Super Bowl with his 33rd in the fourth quarter, but Denver never mounted a threat. The Broncos' lone consolation came on the final play of the third quarter. Manning completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to avoid the first shutout in Super Bowl history. Denver tacked on a two-point conversion pass to wide receiver Wes Welker to reach the final 15 minutes trailing 36-8.
Harvin, who also had a 30-yard run in the first quarter of just his third game with the team this season because of injuries, fielded the second-half kickoff on a bounce and picked up two blocks running to his left for the score.
Cornerback Byron Maxwell punched the ball out of Thomas' hands for the Seahawks' third takeaway in the game -- and 46th this season -- with 5:55 left in the third quarter. Wilson needed only six plays to lead his team 58 yards, finding wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a 23-yard touchdown reception and a 36-0 Seahawks advantage.
Manning finished 34-for-49 for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Wilson completed 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas made 13 catches for 118 yards and one score.
Manning, who lost a fumble on fourth down in the fourth quarter, was intercepted twice in the first half, and that followed his nightmare start. On the first play from scrimmage, Broncos center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball from Denver's 14-yard line to the right of an unsuspecting Manning -- the quarterback took a step to his left to give instruction to his left tackle -- and running back Knowshon Moreno recovered in the end zone. The score was the fastest in NFL history -- 12 seconds into the game.
Seattle's speed overwhelmed the Broncos' prolific offense, which looked mostly pathetic Sunday. The Broncos' seven offensive snaps in the first quarter resulted in a safety, an interception and 11 total yards.
"We didn't talk about the size of hits, we talked about, 'Can we get him off the spot,'" defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of the Seahawks' game plan. "We knew they'd have to deal with us in terms of us being fired up."
It was a stunning and sudden train wreck for the Broncos, who closed a season defined by explosive plays -- and an NFL-record 606 points -- with mishaps in every phase of the game. Manning was antsy in the pocket with his offensive tackles leaking pressure off the edge. As he scanned the field, Manning all too often saw blurs of Seattle's white jerseys closing on Denver receivers.
"We knew they were an excellent defense as far as the scheme we thought they were going to play," Manning said. "They executed better than we did."
In the second quarter, as the Broncos faced a third-and-13 from the Seattle 35, Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril crashed off the edge and tipped a Manning pass. The ball floated to Smith, who took it to the house to give the Seahawks a three-touchdown lead.
"It's the way our defense is set up. We run to the ball. I'm just so happy to be here. I'm just the one today," Smith said.
The interception ended a 15-play Broncos drive after Denver ran just seven plays and didn't convert a first down in the first quarter.
"They played an outstanding game, they're a great football team," coach John Fox. "It definitely didn't go our way."
At the end of two quarters, Manning went to the locker room with a 48.3 passer rating and the largest halftime deficit in a Super Bowl since 1990 (XXIV). He threw a critical incompletion on fourth-and-2 from the Seattle 19 with 1:01 remaining, when Fox passed on a field goal before Manning skipped an out route to the far sideline, giving the ball back to Seattle.
"I told him he had a great season, a record-breaking season and he just came up a little short tonight," Fox said.
Lynch plowed for a 1-yard touchdown to stake the Seahawks to a 15-0 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter, capping a seven-play drive that began with strong safety Kam Chancellor's interception at the 37-yard line.
NOTES: Seattle C Max Unger left the game in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury. Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor left the game briefly with a leg injury suffered covering a kickoff in the second quarter. ... Broncos OG Louis Vasquez (ribs) and RB Knowshon Moreno (back) were ruled out in the fourth quarter. ... Smith's interception return for a touchdown was the longest in a Super Bowl since Manning was intercepted by New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracy Porter for a 74-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV. ... Denver's Peyton Manning became the third starting quarterback in Super Bowl history to lead two different teams to the game, joining Craig Morton (Broncos and Dallas Cowboys) and Kurt Warner (St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals). Manning reached two Super Bowls with the Indianapolis Colts. ... Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Joe Namath (New York Jets) and Phil Simms (New York Giants) served as honorary game captains. Namath was outfitted in a full-length fur coat. ... Officially, the temperature at game time was 49 degrees. Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans -- the site was changed with Superdome construction behind schedule -- remains the coldest kickoff temperature for a Super Bowl. It was 39 degrees for that game in 1972. Super Bowl XLIX will be played in February 2015 in Glendale, Ariz., where the temperature was 65 at 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday.