EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – All those records, all for naught.
Peyton Manning couldn’t cap the greatest season any NFL quarterback ever had or secure his legacy as the best QB in history because his Denver Broncos came down with a case of the yips Sunday night.
They lost to Seattle in the Super Bowl 43-8 by falling behind right from the start and never recovering.
The bumbling Broncos trailed before Manning ever got his hands on the ball because Manny Ramirez’s bad snap went for a safety 12 seconds into the game.
“It was a crazy start,” Manning said, “not the way you expect to start the game.”
It only got worse for the league’s most prolific point producers who scored 606 of ’em 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.
“We couldn’t get it to swing, man,” left tackle Chris Clark said. “We tried, but they just played better than we did today.”
Dominated in every way, the Broncos (15-4) trudged through the tunnel trailing 22-0 at halftime, then watched Percy Harvin return the second-half kickoff for a TD.
“You’ve got to play well in this game to win it,” said Broncos boss John Elway, who lost Super Bowls by scores of 39-20, 42-10 and 55-10 during his Hall of Fame playing career before winning his last two.
Elway returned to rescue his beloved Broncos in 2011 after the franchise foundered and his biggest coup was luring Manning to Denver.
This was easily Manning’s worst day since leaving the Indianapolis Colts for the Broncos. He was sacked for the first time in the playoffs, threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, lost a fumble and turned it over on downs.
The Broncos finally found the end zone when Thomas made a leaping, twisting grab of Manning’s 14-yard pass – his 100th TD toss for Denver. But he needed a lot more of those to keep up with the efficient Russell Wilson, who didn’t commit any turnovers and kept plays alive with his legs and pinpoint passes.
“They outplayed us in every facet,” tight end Jacob Tamme said.
Thomas caught 13 passes for 118 yards but he also had a fumble as Denver was driving in the third quarter.
“We just didn’t play like we’re capable of,” Elway said. “It’s disappointing. … We had a tremendous year and we’ll hopefully learn from this and we’re going to go at it again next year.”
Terrance Knighton, who helped hold Marshawn Lynch to 2.6 yards a carry, was already looking forward to that.
“It’ll be the 2014 season before you know it,” he said. “It’ll sting for a little bit tonight and maybe for a few more days but we’ll have to bounce back.”