EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Denver Broncos were outmanned from the start.
Seattle’s famed 12th Man crossed up the highest-scoring team in history when they caused the Broncos to fall behind just 12 seconds into the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
Peyton Manning stepped up toward the line just as center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball. It flew past his incredulous quarterback and into the end zone, where Knowshon Moreno dived on it for a safety.
“That wasn’t a great start, but we’ve overcome much more than that,” tight end Jacob Tamme said. “That wasn’t anything that hurt us that bad. I mean, we felt fine coming out of that. But you’ve got to give their crowd here credit. They forced us out of our cadence on our first play and forced a safety.”
A mere 12 seconds in, Seattle led 2-0 with the quickest score in Super Bowl history, beating Chicago’s Devin Hester’s kickoff return to open the 2007 game — against Manning’s Colts.
That one ended much better for Manning as Indianapolis won the championship.
This time, Manning couldn’t bring the bumbling Broncos back and they were walloped 43-8 at MetLife Stadium, his worst beating since moving to Denver two years ago.
“It was a crazy start,” Manning said.
And a crushing end to the greatest season by a quarterback in NFL history, one in which Manning shattered several records, most notably throwing for 55 TD passes and 5,547 yards.
Manning has thrown 100 TD passes since trading the blue and white horseshoe for the orange-mane mustang on his helmet, but just one of them came on this night.
To go with two interceptions, a fumble, a sack and a turnover on downs.
After the safety, Denver’s defense forced Seattle to settle for 31- and 33-yard field goals by Steven Hauschka to make it 8-0. Then, the Seahawks began scoring touchdowns.
Manning’s third-down pass to Julius Thomas sailed way too high and directly to safety Kam Chancellor, giving the Seahawks the ball at Denver’s 37. A third-down pass interference call on Tony Carter brought Seattle to the 1, and Marshawn Lynch scored to make it 15-0.
Then MVP Malcom Smith picked off a fluttering pass after Cliff Avril hit Manning’s arm, returning it 69 yards to make it 22-0 with 3:21 left in the half.
Percy Harvin took the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and that was that.
It only got worse for the league’s most prolific point producers, who scored 606 points in the regular season, then dominated the AFC in the playoffs but mustered only Demaryius Thomas’ 14-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter at MetLife Stadium.
Dominated in every way, the Broncos (15-4) couldn’t get momentum back.
“We couldn’t get it to swing, man,” left tackle Chris Clark said. “We tried, but they just played better than we did today. It didn’t shift. We didn’t play Broncos football today. When you got a good thing going, you want to finish it off and we didn’t do that today.”
It was reminiscent of the blowouts John Elway’s teams endured in the big game before he finally won his last two trips to the Super Bowl to cap his Hall of Fame career.
Elway returned to rescue his beloved Broncos in 2011 after the franchise foundered and his biggest coup was luring Manning to Denver.
Over his two seasons in Colorado, Manning engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history: recovering from neck fusion surgery that weakened his throwing arm to win his fifth MVP award this season.
But he couldn’t match that with the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history after falling behind 36-0. Manning hadn’t trailed by that much since 2002.
“I will tell you this: it’s hard to get things turned around against a great defense like that,” Elway said. “They are a great defense. So, that’s why you can’t afford to lose the momentum because to try to flip it on a great defense is always hard.”
Denver was missing five defensive starters who are on IR that might have made this a fairer fight — Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe and Chris Harris Jr.
“A lot of ups and downs, a lot of things we overcame,” Champ Bailey said after his first taste of the Super Bowl in his 15th season. “What’s going to stick out the most is we lost the last game and that’s the problem.”