|Pete Carroll hoists the Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium after winning Superbowl XLVIII|
As he trudged off the field at MetLife Stadium last night having seen his Denver Broncos defeated handily by a score of 43-8, Peyton Manning must have wondered if the chance to win a second Superbowl title had passed him by. At 37 years-old and coming off of the best season of his or any quarterback’s career Superbowl XLVIII represented the perfect opportunity for Manning and the Broncos to win their first ring together, the leagues number one offense complimented by a stout defense with the legendary Manning leading the way. Yet from the first play last night, a safety following an airmailed snap from centre Manny Ramirez, the writing was on the wall for Manning and his teammates. While Manning has 11 post-season victories during his storied career last night’s loss was the twelfth defeat to stain his play-off resume, while head coach John Fox has an equally unimpressive play-off track record after the defeat dropped his Superbowl record to 0-2 following his first defeat ten years ago while in charge of the Carolina Panthers.
With age working against him and both the Chiefs and Chargers on the rise in the AFC west it’s no certainty that Manning will get another chance to play in the biggest game the sport has to offer, especially after the boisterous Seattle defense showed the rest of the league exactly how to stifle Manning and the high octane Denver offense. His arm devoid of the strength it once possessed, the Broncos QB no longer is able to burn defenses deep and that enabled Seahawks safety’s Earl Thomas III and Kam Chancellor to squat on underneath routes, punishing receivers for even thinking about catching the ball and conceding just a few yards upon each rare completion. After Denver found themselves in an early 15-0 hole offensive coordinator Adam Gase changed tac and ditched crossing routes for screen plays, often to wide receivers on the perimeter, and although the tactic reaped initial reward the Seattle defense soon adjusted and their speed to the ball and ability to shed blocks soon stifled that plan. Former Patriot wideout Wes Welker is another whose bad luck in Superbowl’s continued, the diminutive pass catcher losing his third title game after two defeats with New England. Eight catches for 84 yards represented a respectable haul for Welker, however with Denver chasing the game from the outset there was little he could do to turn the monumental tide.
While one of the games greats may be seeing his chances of success diminish another star may have already emerged. Russell Wilson didn’t have an outstanding game last night, thanks to the work of his defense he didn’t have to, yet he performed efficiently and by completing 18 of 25 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions he helped his team turn the screw and not let a dangerous Broncos offense back into the game. In many ways Wilson is reminiscent of a young Tom Brady, an unheralded prospect chosen relatively late in the draft who has almost immediately burst onto the scene as a fully fledged superstar. His coolness under pressure also mimics Brady’s and with the pieces in place around him it would be no surprise were he to match the Patriot gunslinger’s tally of three Superbowl rings by the end of his career.
Wilson’s coach, former USC head honcho Pete Carroll, is another man who has enhanced his legacy with this win. After winning a national title with Southern California in 2005 yesterday’s victory made Carroll just the third head coach to win a title at both collegiate and professional level, joining former Cowboy’s coaches Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer. Much like Wilson, perhaps even because of him, Carroll has every chance of adding to his success with the strong core of players and staff he has built in the Pacific north west. Throughout the history of football many great coaches have been partnered by great signal callers, from Joe Montana and Bill Walsh through to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. It may be early days but Wilson and Carroll are good enough and are certainly on the right path to belonging in that esteemed company.
Back in 2001 when a young Brady led the New England Patriots to a famous upset of the St. Louis Rams, then the greatest show on turf, many people anticipated Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and company would be back on the biggest stage of all in the not to distant future. Faulk never returned, while Warner had to change organisations and wait eight years before he got another opportunity with the Arizona Cardinals in 2009. Unfortunately Peyton Manning he doesn’t have that kind of time, and rightly or wrongly when discussing his career it’ll be difficult not to mention his puzzling post-season record. Yet as one icon exits the stage, another has appeared. Enter Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, the golden boy and golden team of football’s new age.