As the Seattle Seahawks celebrated a dominating Super Bowl XLVIII win over the Denver Broncos Sunday night, cameras in the locker room caught long snapper Clint Gresham leading the team in prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank you that you made us champions. Thank you so much, Lord, for where you have brought us, God. We ask that you receive all the glory today. We thank you, Father, for this moment. Amen.”
The Seahawks gained that moment—their first Super Bowl title—by punishing Peyton Manning and the Broncos 43-8 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Seattle’s masterful defense never let the five-time MVP quarterback get going, disarming the highest-scoring offense in National Football League history. “All the people who say defense wins championships, they can go ahead and gloat a little bit today,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said after the game.
Seattle (16-3) was too quick, too physical, and just too good for Denver. “It’s a true blessing. God is so good,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said after the game. “We believed that we would get here.” Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor similarly gave “all the glory to God” on ESPN as he praised the team’s preparation: “Practice carries over to the game. … This had to be the best week of practice I’ve seen all season—the best.”
Things went sour for the Broncos (15-4), who turned the ball over four times and trailed 36-0 at one point, on the very first play from scrimmage. Manning, lined up in the shotgun formation, stepped up toward the line just as center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball past him and into the end zone for a safety. A mere 12 seconds in and Seattle led 2-0 with the quickest score in Super Bowl history. “We weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be,” said Manning, who threw for a record 55 touchdowns during the season.
Seattle’s dominance Sunday night was punctuated by a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Smith, the game’s Most Valuable Player, which gave the Seahawks a dominating 22-0 lead in the second quarter, and a 87-yard kickoff return by Percy Harvin to open the second half and practically put the game away.
Back in Seattle, green fireworks blasted from the Space Needle in celebration, as a spotlight shone on a 12th Man flag, a symbol for Seattle’s fans, who have been credited for much of the team’s success. Those who traveled cross-country for the Super Bowl made MetLife Stadium a hostile environment for the Broncos.
But a lot of credit goes to coach Carroll, who after two failed NFL coaching stints in the 1990s, didn’t give up on his coaching style that was successful at the University of Southern California. “We try to take care of the whole person, and love these guys up, and figure out what they could possibly become and help them get there,” Carroll said on ESPN. “You don’t even have to worry about the games.”
And then there’s Wilson, who now has an NFL-record 28 wins in his first two seasons as a pro quarterback. At just 5 feet 11 inches tall, Wilson often heard he was too short to play in the NFL. The memory of his father Harry, who died in 2010, has driven the young Wilson. He wrote “Dad” on his arm for NFC championship game two weeks ago, and it was his father’s words that created the Seahawks’ theme ever since a players-only meeting before the season: “Why not us?”
“He used to always tell me, ‘Russ, why not you?’” Wilson explained after the game. “And what that kind of meant was, believe in yourself, believe in the talent God’s given you. You know, even though you’re 5-11, you can go a long ways.”