FOURTH QUARTER: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
The Seahawks spent the final period in coronation mode.
The crowning moment came when undrafted wideout Doug Baldwin — a man even San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who coached Baldwin at Stanford, passed on in 2011 — bobbed and weaved his way through the Denver D for a 10-yard TD which gave Seattle its final points.
Seahawks CB Richard Sherman watched the end of the game in street clothes after leaving with an injured foot but wore a broad smile on the sideline and didn't have to tell anyone that his team was the best.
Champagne corks proceeded to pop in the Pacific Northwest, which had never experienced the joy of supporting a Super Bowl or World Series winner. The region spent the end of the Super Bowl comfortably in debate mode. How far will Russell Wilson go after winning 28 games in his first two seasons to break Ben Roethlisberger's record? Will this defense etch its name next to the great units in league history, or will it be a fleeting comet across the NFL sky?
Most importantly, will a team constructed craftily by GM John Schneider be able to add more rings even as it faces the prospect of big-money contracts for Wilson, CB Richard Sherman, S Earl Thomas and LT Russell Okung, among others, in the near future? Those questions will be answered later, but it will be difficult for other organizations to copy the unique and ultra-competitive DNA Schneider and Pete Carroll have infused into this championship squad.
THIRD QUARTER: Seahawks 36, Broncos 8
It took Percy Harvin 12 seconds to put this game on ice by fielding Matt Prater's pop-up kickoff return to start the second half and take it 87 yards to the house for a 29-0 advantage. The Broncos' kickoff coverage unit was the NFL's worst in the regular season, but it didn't have to stop a single return at Sports Authority Field's Mile High air during the first two rounds as Prater constantly boomed touchbacks through the end zone. But the special teams were again exposed as Harvin scored his first TD in a Seahawks uniform since his acquisition last March.
The teams proceeded to trade punts before Seattle landed another haymaker. Seahawks CB Byron Maxwell, who became a starter late in the season when Brandon Browner was first injured then suspended, punched the ball loose from Demaryius Thomas for another turnover.
Six players later, Russell Wilson hit WR Jermaine Kearse on a short completion, but Kearse pinballed off a series of Broncos defenders before gliding into the end zone for a 23-yard TD and a 36-0 bulge.
Denver's record-setting regular-season offense at least spared itself the ignominy of being the first team to suffer a Super Bowl shutout as Manning took it 80 yards in six plays, ending the drive with a 14-yard TD pass to Thomas.
SECOND QUARTER: Seahawks 22, Broncos 0
Seattle parlayed SS Kam Chancellor's first-quarter pick into its first touchdown of the night as struggling RB Marshawn Lynch bulled his way into the end zone from 1 yard out to cap a seven-play drive. CB Tony Carter's mugging of WR Golden Tate in the end zone drew a pass interference flag to set up Lynch's score.
Denver began fresh at its own 15 after another poor return from Holliday, but Manning finally got his record-setting offense out of first gear with five first downs. Spreading the ball around was key with Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball, Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas each getting key touches. Manning missed Thomas on a deep route down the middle but seemed to send a message to an overplaying Seattle secondary on the play.
BOX SCORE: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
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But it was all for naught as the Seattle pressure broke though Denver's line, which had allowed one hit on Manning in its first two playoff games. Manning lofted a duck he won't be proud of while taking a blow from DE Cliff Avril. LB Malcolm Smith, whose interception off CB Richard Sherman's deflection sealed the NFC Championship Game win over the San Francisco 49ers, snared the floater and raced 69 yards for a touchdown and a 22-0 lead for a Seattle squad that had allowed 22 points only three times in its first 18 games.
Holliday caught a break on his next return, bolting to his own 33 and eventually being ruled down there after officials overturned what was originally ruled a fumble when the diminutive returner was tackled.
Manning proceeded to move the Broncos 48 yards on nine plays, but Denver gave the ball back after his pass was tipped on fourth-and-2 from the Seattle 19.
The first-half shutout Seattle pitched was the first in the Super Bowl in 13 years, when a similarly vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense blanked the New York Giants on its way to a 34-7 rout in Super Bowl XXXV.
FIRST QUARTER: Seahawks 8, Broncos 0
Super Bowl XLVIII could not have started much better for the Seahawks or worse for the Broncos.
Denver KR Trindon Holliday made a poor decision returning the opening kickoff to his own 14. C Manny Ramirez then snapped the ball before QB Peyton Manning was ready on the first play from scrimmage, and the ball ended up in the end zone. Denver was fortunate to trail 2-0 at that point rather than setting up a Seattle TD.
Golden Tate's 20-yard return off the ensuing free kick preceded a nine-play, 51-yard drive that culminated with Steven Hauschka's 31-yard field goal and a 5-0 lead. Percy Harvin's number was called early, and he responded with a 30-yard run on an end around in just his third game of the season. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll tried to extend the drive by challenging a spot in hopes of a first down but was denied and lost a timeout.
After going one-and-out on its first drive, Denver went three-and-out on its second as WR Demaryius Thomas took a big lick from Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor on one of the Broncos' patented crossing routes.
Russell Wilson converted three third-down passes on the next march, including a 37-yarder to Doug Baldwin (who got behind CB Champ Bailey). Jermaine Kearse couldn't hang onto the ball in the end zone on the drive's final third-down play -- LB Nate Irving punched it out while in coverage -- so the Seahawks settled for a 33-yard field goal from Hauschka and an 8-0 lead. Denver coach John Fox lost a timeout himself in the process after his challenge that one of Wilson's passes was a lateral failed.
Denver completed a miserable opening period when Manning, while under duress from DE Cliff Avril, fluttered a ball to TE Julius Thomas that was intercepted by Chancellor. About the best thing the Broncos did was limit Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch to 6 yards on five carries.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
PHOTOS: Super Bowl XLVIII