EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Confetti cannons boomed around Peyton Manning following Seattle's 43-8 dismantling of Denver and the five-time MVP sought out Russell Wilson to congratulate the Seahawks' second-year scrambler on his stunningly lopsided Super Bowl triumph.
At 37, Manning had failed to cap off the greatest season by a quarterback in NFL history. Wilson had just become the first champion from the new guard of athletic, mobile QBs that includes Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
A passing of the torch from the classic pocket passer to the fleet-footed quarterback?
No way, insisted Broncos boss John Elway.
"Well, Joe Flacco's a pocket guy and he won it last year, right? And Colin Kaepernick was the guy that ran around last year. So, last year, the pocket guy won it. This year, the run-around guy won it. So, to me, that's your answer," Elway said. "The bottom line was the way Seattle played."
Joe Theismann couldn't agree more.
"We certainly have some young, athletic quarterbacks in this league, but if you look at the guys who have won it — Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning — they're not move-around guys. Even Aaron Rodgers, who has tremendous athletic skills when it comes to moving around, throws out of the pocket," said Theismann, who quarterbacked the Redskins to the 1983 NFL title.
"To have any longevity as a professional quarterback, you must develop your skills to be able to throw out of the pocket. Otherwise, you take too many hits. Now, if you have athleticism like Russell Wilson, that's a bonus."
Wilson doesn't tuck the ball looking to run but to find passing lanes because at 5-foot-11, he can't always see over his hulking linemen.
"To me, this game boiled down to two facts: turnovers and Denver's five guys up front could not block Seattle's four guys up front," Theismann said. "You have to give Seattle defensively all the credit in the world to be able to rush four and move Peyton and drop seven and cover their routes.
"Other than that, I think to make a general statement of the quarterback position being a non-dropback position or a passing of the torch, I just don't see it. You have to be able to throw the ball effectively from the pocket to be able to capitalize on all the rules that exist."
What the Seahawks provided the league more than a changing of the guard was a blueprint on how defenses can finally turn the tide on the pass happiness that has engulfed the NFL for so long.
Denver scored a record 606 points in 2013 and Manning set a slew of records, including 55 touchdown throws. Yet, the most prolific scoring machine in NFL history sputtered against Seattle's stifling defense.
It wasn't like Wilson beat them.
Sure, he made some third-down conversions, but his two TD throws came when the game was already a runaway. Seattle also scored on a safety, two field goals, a pick-6 and, a kickoff return and a run by Marshawn Lynch.
That's the point: the Seahawks never intended for Russell to be the fulcrum of their team. They're built around their defense and ground game. His Super Bowl line was perfect: 18 of 25 for 206 yards, two TDs, no interceptions.
"Russell is not a stats guy," Seahawks GM John Schneider said. "It's all about winning games. Russell is a guy that tilts the field. So it was pretty evident the way the field was tilted and he's just a guy who is in command all the time."
The Seahawks' strategy was to contain the Broncos' vaunted short passing game predicated on their trademark pick plays that allowed them to gain so many yards after the catch.
They gladly let Manning set a Super Bowl record with 34 completions but they held his bevy of highly productive receivers to just 8.24 yards per catch, the third-worst mark in Super Bowl history, according to STATS LLC.
What Richard Sherman and the rest of Seattle's cornerbacks did was backpedal whenever they saw Denver's receivers bunched up, thus preventing the Broncos from executing their patented picks in which one receiver runs interference for another by taking out a cornerback to turn short passes into long gains. When the play unfolded, the cornerbacks would rush up to make the tackle.
"When I step back and I look at this football game, No. 1, the officials did what I thought they were going to let them do and that was let them play football," Theismann said of the defensive backs being allowed to play aggressively. "No. 2, I didn't think Denver's offensive line was capable of blocking Seattle's front four. That's why I picked Seattle in the game.
"And that's really not a reflection on Peyton Manning. It's not a reflection on the drop-back skills. What Peyton Manning did all year was mask the problems and the injuries that Denver had on its football team. That's what he did. That's how great he is."
Expect other teams to try to emulate the Seahawks in 2014, but it won't be easy, Theismann said, because "you can count on one hand the teams that can put pressure on somebody the way Seattle can."
Cincinnati, St. Louis, Arizona, San Francisco, New Orleans and Carolina could. And most are in the NFC and all of Seattle's divisional opponents are in that group, which will make the Seahawks' title defense especially difficult.
The Broncos also were built to punish passers, but five defensive starters were in street clothes for the Super Bowl, including Von Miller.
They'll count themselves a championship contender again if they regain their health and pair a dominant defense with Manning's offense. They have tweaks to make but certainly no makeover.
"This team scored 606 points," Elway said. "There are a lot of good things about this offense. Obviously, there's some things we can do. We'll learn from this."
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