EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll beamed the smile of Super Bowl-winning validation half an hour after his top-ranked defense's 43-8 demolition of Peyton Manning and his record-breaking Denver offense.
"That's the way we play football,'' Carroll said. "I'm proud that that is the way we put our stamp on this world championship.
"Mostly, we played football the way we like to play. We got pressure up front and guys got great plays on the ball.''
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No one did that better than Super Bowl MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith, who returned a second-quarter interception 69 yards for a touchdown to become the first defensive player to earn Super Bowl MVP honors since Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson in Super Bowl XXXVII.
The suffocating Seahawks defense intercepted Manning twice, forced two Denver fumbles and ran into some good fortune when center Manny Ramirez couldn't hear Manning's cadence and sailed the snap over his head, resulting in a first-play safety.
"It's unbelievable,'' Smith said. "I'm in shock. We expected a great fight from them. We kind of just dominated the game.
"To be in the Super Bowl and dominate the game says a lot about our group. We spend a lot of time together.
"We kind of have a chip on our shoulder, a lot of guys got overlooked, a bunch of misfits, a bunch of guys who it was said wouldn't be anything.''
Now they hoisted the first Lombardi Trophy in the 38-year history of the Seahawks.
"Obviously, Peyton is a great quarterback who gets the ball out fast,'' Smith said. "But we play with a speed they haven't seen before.''
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So it was a Smith, the versatile, third-year linebacker who played at the University of Southern California, where Carroll won two national titles, who is going to Disneyworld instead of quarterback Russell Wilson or Manning, the league's five-time MVP.
"I'll definitely be able to handle the attention, not much will change,'' Smith said. "I've been to Disneyland. But I've never been to Disneyworld. It'll be fun.''
VIDEO: Malcolm Smith on his interception
Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith returned an interception of Peyton Manning 69 yards for a touchdown and later recovered a fumble, earning Super Bowl MVP honors in the Seahawks' 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday night. (Feb. 3) AP
In Manning's third Super Bowl appearance on the roman numeral stage, the Broncos record-setting quarterback's dream of winning a second Super Bowl got ambushed in a Seahawks "duck'' blind.
A suffocating defense one-upped Manning and his record-setting attack that had scored a regular-season record 606 points.
"It's very disappointing,'' Manning said. "It's not an easy to pill to swallow, but eventually we have to.
"We knew they were a good defense. We knew they were fast. They just played a lot better than we did.''
It was Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman who playfully described Manning's passes this week as "ducks.'' Though Manning acknowledged Sherman's description, most of his ducks had been of the laser-guided variety during an historic, 55-touchdown season. Not Sunday night against a Seattle defense that led the league with 39 regular-season takeaways and pressured Manning with ruthless speed and aggressiveness.
Few saw this blowout coming.
MANNING: Early miscues dig too big a hole
When Smith returned that Manning pass intended for tailback Knowshon Moreno 69 yards for a 22-0 lead with 3:21 left in the first half, Seattle's vaunted secondary had reinforced its "Legion of Boom'' identity.
Manning finally snapped Seattle's shutout bid when he hit receiver Demarius Thomas for a 14-yard scoring strike. He followed with a two-point conversion completion to Wes Welker as the third quarter expired.
Nonetheless, it was too late to make up for so many mistakes.
On third-and-13 from the Denver 35, defensive end Cliff Avril got quick pressure, forcing Manning to throw up an ugly floater that Smith picked off and returned for Seattle's fifth defensive touchdown.
Seattle's stingy defense that had surrendered a league-low 14.4 points per game during a 13-3 regular season, outscored the Broncos 16-0 on those two interceptions and safety.
When Manning overthrew tight end Julius Thomas with an off-balance, first-quarter duck, safety Kam Chancellor returned the pickoff to the Denver 37.
Seven plays later, power back Marshawn Lynch scored from one yard out as Seattle jumped ahead, 15-0 en route to the first Super Bowl title.
"It feels unbelievable,'' Sherman said. "We're going to hit you and hit you.
"We played pedal to the medal defense, kept getting our offense the ball.''
Carroll's team of opportunistic playmakers did just that. And now a rising young team is looking to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl winners since the 2004 New England Patriots.
"The Legion of Boom', baby," said cornerback Richard Sherman, the topic of much pregame hype but virtually invisible all game thanks largely to his teammates' seamless effort.
"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."
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