by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

"There is no Plan B."

Well, Denver team prexy John Elway told us as much all year in regard to his Broncos, who were going to ride QB Peyton Manning for as long as they could this season. Which took Denver to its first Super Bowl in fifteen years, but no further, as the Broncos' humbling 43-8 loss administered by the rampant Seahawks amounted to one of the most complete and thorough beatdowns in "Supe" history.

It was also the first lopsided Super Bowl in over a decade, specifically in 11 years, or since the Bucs trounced the Raiders in SB XXXVII in San Diego, 48-21. Indeed, it reminded more of the mid-to-late '80s into the mid '90s, when Super Bowl blowouts were almost the rule. We've been fortunate to have been treated to some outstanding "Supes" in the last 18 or so years...though Denver and Seattle will not be counted among those. (At the end of this piece we will slot SB XLVIII into our much-discussed all-time rankings).

For longtime Broncos fans, the loss opened old wounds that dated to the 1960s, when Denver was the laughingstock of the old AFL, failing to record a winning mark in the 10-year history of the "other" league. (The Broncos' high-water mark in the decade was a 7-7 record under HC Jack Faulkner in 1962, the season after the Broncos burned their old brown and gold uniforms with the vertically-striped socks; even '62 was a bit of a bummer as the Broncos had flown from the gate at 7-2, only to collapse down the stretch). There were a lot more valleys than peaks for the AFL Broncos, who among other ignominies were on the short end of a 59-7 scoreline in the 1963 opener against the newly-christened Kansas City Chiefs, who had campaigned as the Dallas Texans the previous three years. There were plenty of other ugly defeats in the decade, such as a 45-7 loss in the 1966 opener at Houston when Denver did not generate a first down (really!) and gained all of 26 yards of offense (really...again!), scoring only on an 88-yard kickoff return by DB Goldie Sellers. In the second game of the 1967 season, at the outset of the Lou Saban era, Denver would notch three first downs but be held to -5 yards (yes, -5 yards!) of offense by the rampant Raiders, who scored a 51-0 win at the Coliseum (upper right, that's Raider RB Hewritt Dixon running away from Bronco defenders Lonnie Wright and Dave Costa), as Oakland sacked beleaguered Bronco QBs Steve Tensi and Scotty Glacken seven times for 70 yards worth of losses.

(We're trying anything we can, even mentioning all-time worst franchise defeats, although we're not sure it makes the Denver fans feel any better.)

Mention of Tensi (left), who endured unspeakable beatings in the pocket for the Saban's Denver teams, recalled the Sunday performance of Manning, who remarkably was sacked just once (for a one-yard loss) but was harassed by Seattle pass rushers the way the immobile Tensi was by late 1960s AFL defenses.

Of course, Super Bowl defeats are nothing new to longtime Denver fans, either, many of the older ones forced to relive the nightmares of four previous Super Bowl losses spanning January of 1978 thru January of 1990. Few were expecting Denver's Super Bowl performance vs. the Seahawks to be invited into comparisons with some of the past "Supe" shellackings having been endured by Broncos teams, but the crushing administered by the Seahawks had elements of almost all of the previous Denver Super Bowl defeats (the last of which, it should be mentioned, occurring 24 years ago against the 49ers). The rampant and costly turnovers reminded of Super Bowl XII vs. Dallas, when the Broncos hampered themselves with five turnovers in the first half alone, lucky to get out of that first thirty minutes down by only a 13-0 count. That Denver made things mildly interesting in the second half of that long-ago Super Bowl in New Orleans, however, is a departure from Sunday's loss that more reminded of those lopsided losses to the Redskins in Super Bowl XXII, and the 49ers in SB XXIV.

In that humiliating loss to the Redskins, however, Denver at least jumped to a 10-0 lead and looked on the verge of its own knockout early in that game. Thus, the 55-10 loss to the 49ers remains probably the best comparison of Sunday's debacle to past Bronco Super Bowl defeats, although San Francisco was a prohibitive 12-point favorite in that game of 24 years ago. Denver was favored, albeit slightly, on Sunday vs. the Seahawks.

Seattle's win was complete and emphatic, with the beatdown starting on the first play from scrimmage when an errant snap went over Manning's head and rolled into the end zone, where Knowshon Moreno did well to fall on the ball for a safety and prevent a Seattle touchdown. Some have wondered if Denver might have been a bit distracted at the outset by the much louder-than-expected crowd noise at MetLife Stadium; of course, Denver played half of its regular-season games on the road, but it is interesting to point out that home games in Sports Authority Field are perhaps the only time when a football home crowd is urged to be quiet, as Manning would prefer a lower-noise level to call his audibles and adjustments at the line of scrimmage. The scoreboard, on every Bronco play, posts a "Shhhh! Quiet please, offense at work!" on all of the video boards on display at Sports Authority. Which might partially explain, but in no way excuse, the premature snap from center Manny Ramirez that sailed past Manning.

Things did not get much better thereafter for the Broncos, as it became apparent in the early going that Manning was not going to have much time to throw downfield in the face of Seattle pass rush pressure, and wasn't going to find many receivers open, either. Seattle's pass rushers, all faster than the Bronco offensive linemen and definitely faster than Manning, had the Denver offense out of sorts all evening at MetLife. In the end, Manning had to resort to mostly short passes, contributing to one of the most-hollow Super Bowl records in history with a Supe-record 34 completions.

Pete Carroll's defense is so voracious that it almost a prerequisite to have a mobile QB to combat it, and that is definitely not Manning. About the only hints of Denver life came in the second quarter, when Manning fired up a couple of drives into Seattle territory. Trailing 15-0, the first drive showed promise before Manning was hit by DE Cliff Avril and tossed a deflected lame duck that LB Malcolm Smith snared in front of the aforementioned Moreno and proceeded 69 yards to a TD to make the score 22-0. Manning would get the Broncos as far as the Seahawk 22 on the subsequent drive late in the half, but Denver was stopped there on 4th down. The game, already one-sided, would officially cease to become a competitive affair on the second half kickoff when Percy Harvin fielded a short kick (which wasn't a bad idea by Denver) and took it 87 yards to the house. At 29-0, it was game, set, and match with a full half to play, and we can only imagine what must have happened to the TV ratings on Fox thereafter.

Denver's defense also needed to play better to give it a chance. And while it generally contained Marshawn Lynch, it did little to make QB Russell Wilson uncomfortable, and Wilson looked confident and poised for most of the night after a few errant throws in the 1st Q. Seattle was also able to spot the previously-injured Harvin effectively, including an early reverse that netted 30 yards. With Harvin carrying the ball on the first Seattle series, it made a winner out of one of the "mover" prop bets in Las Vegas, that Harvin would carry the ball in the game. Priced in plus territory at the outset, the odds had dipped to -220 or thereabouts on that particular prop that ended an easy winner.

Events of the game and the day were great for Seahawks backers, but in the context of championship football and past Super Bowls, XLVIII was a downer. There was mediocrity on display in the surrounding events, too, including the commercials (more on those in a moment). The game itself might have been best summed up by Joe Namath's errant toss of the pre-game coin, which he flipped before the Seahawks could call heads or tails. Indeed, one of the best moves of the day was made by head referee Terry McAulay, who intercepted Namath's coin toss in mid-flight before it could land, and made sure that Seattle called the flip before Namath's next attempt.

Fox's TV coverage groped along, although in defense of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the game did not make for exciting viewing, and each was forced to search for ways to keep the audience involved. The best fireworks all afternoon on Fox came in the pre-game interview of President Obama by Bill O'Reilly, which in its ten minutes provided more excitement than the entire game.

As for those well-publicized commercials, they were a lot more tame than many recent Super Bowl Sundays. For the most part, innuendo was out and "soft" was in for the TV spots, perhaps in response to controversies from recent seasons (such as the GoDaddy spot featuring model Bar Rafaeli a year ago). Few if any of the ad spots went over the top, instead offering a handful of more touching ads from the likes of Chevrolet and Microsoft. Budweiser, as usual, featured a nice storyline with the lab puppy wanting to join up with the famous Clydesdales. On the clever side, the old "Full House" cast would reunite for a Dannon Oikos yogurt spot. There was also an Arnold Schwarzenegger sighting, although we thought the most clever bit was the RadioShack ad in which "The 80s called and wanted the store back." Next thing we knew, the likes of Alf, Chucky, and Hulk Hogan were rampaging through the store. (We must be getting old; we remember all of those just like it was yesterday). The RadioShack ad was clever stuff, which was in short supply for most of this year's "Supe" commercials.

In Las Vegas, the consensus seems to be that the books had a good day, thanks to more exposure on Denver and the "under" as well. The latter made Seattle's last TD, otherwise insignificant, hugely important to the books. Props-wise, once again the "safety" money (at prices around 6-1) cashed for the third straight season, and for the second time in three years it proved the first score of the game, hitting the books with a few 50-1 payouts. (Interestingly, that's the third Super Bowl in which a safety was the first score; also Giants-Patriots SB XLVI two years ago, and SB IX featured a 2-0 halftime score in favor of the Steelers over the Vikings). There were both defensive and special teams TDs, making the "yes" a winner on both of those props. It also marked the sixth time in the last eight "Supers" that a defense or special teams TD was scored; those are also always offered in combo for a prop and paid out in the +160 range on Sunday. The first TD of the game was scored by Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, who was the favorite among all such options but still netted a +550 or thereabouts payoff.

Interestingly, the total Nevada handle on the game is expected to exceed last year's $99 million wagered on Ravens-49ers.

In conclusion, after our exhaustive ranking of all of the past Super Bowls in our most recent football edition, we have to make room for Denver-Seattle. We're putting it somewhere in the bottom five...read below to see exactly where we are rating Sunday's not-so-super Super Bowl.

44-XV, Oakland 27 - Philadelphia 10 (at New Orleans)...A disappointing showing by the Eagles, who were down 14-0 before the 1st Q ended, contributed heavily to an absolute lack of drama in XV. Three TD passes by Jim Plunkett and 3 picks by Raider LB Rod Martin highlighted the surprisingly one-sided proceedings.

45-XXVI, Washington 37 - Buffalo 24 (at Minneapolis)...More one-sided than the final might indicate, as the Redskins enjoyed 24-0 & 37-10 leads before a couple of garbage-time Buffalo TDs made the final more respectable. Thurman Thomas forgetting about his helmet at the start of the game summed up a dispirited effort by the Bills, who lost contact early and were never in the game.

46-XXVII, Dallas 52 - Buffalo 17 (at Pasadena)...The Bills' capitulation was particularly appalling because they simply didn't seem so overmatched in this game. But their almost-comical nine turnovers precluded this from becoming the competitive affair most envisioned. Buffalo's only highlight was WR Don Beebe streaking downfield to slap the ball out of Leon Lett's hand before the latter would have scored one last TD for the rampant Cowboys.

47-XXXV, Baltimore 34 - N.Y. Giants 7 (at Tampa)...An exceedingly drab game with little or no drama, dominated by the Ravens defense, which rendered the Giants' offense helpless while holding it without a score. Indeed, the only fireworks in XXXV came in bang-bang-bang succession in the 3rd Q, with TDs on successive plays by Baltimore's Duane Starks (interception), New York's Ron Dixon (kickoff return), and the Ravens' Jermaine Lewis (yet another kickoff return). Otherwise, XXXV threatened to put Sominex out of business.

48-XLVIII, Seattle 43 - Denver 8 (at East Rutherford, NJ)...A feeble effort from the Broncos commenced on the first play from scrimmage when an errant snap sailed past QB Peyton Manning for a safety and a 2-0 Seattle lead. Things got progressively worse from there for Denver and its record-setting offense that was kept off balance all afternoon by the hard-charging Seattle stop unit. The game officially ceased to become a competitive affair when the Seahawks' Percy Harvin returned the second-half kickoff for a TD and a 29-0 lead. Seattle scored via safety, field goal, run, pass, interception, and kick return (is there anything else?) in perhaps the most drama-less of many disappointing Super Bowls.

There you go...a new bottom-ranked Super Bowl. Not quite what we were expecting on Sunday!

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