All 22 Breakdown of Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVIII Win Over the Broncos Part 1

All 22 Breakdown of Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVIII Win Over the Broncos Part 1

On paper, Super Bowl XLVIII was a perfect match up, the NFL’s best offense against its best defense. In reality, it was far from an even match up as the Seahawks and their bruising defense mauled the Broncos and turned a promising affair into the most lop sided Super Bowl since 1989. Simply put, the Broncos couldn’t match the Seahawks physicality and they were beaten soundly in every phase of the game. Using All 22 film, we breakdown exactly how Richard Sherman and the Seattle defense man handled Peyton Manning en route to the Seahawks’ first Lombardi Trophy.

After years of debate we finally have an answer of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immoveable object, well in football at least . With Peyton Manning at the helm, the Broncos figured were thought to be one of the few offenses capable of challenging the Seahawks defense, countering Seattle’s physical punishing style with surgical precision and potentially turning Super Bowl XLVIII into a classic .

Instead we got a beat down. Literally, from the first snap, Denver seemed out of sorts and with blood in the water Seattle pounced. Playing their aggressive style of defense the Seahawks suffocated the Broncos offense with their lethal pass rush and Cover 3 coverage.

After embarrassing, yes Peyton that was embarrassing for you and your Broncos, the NFL’s best offense of all time, the Seahawks defense has become firmly entrenched in the argument for of the greatest defenses of all time. It’s no surprise then that the coach’s tape from Sunday’s Super Bowl is a clinic on how to impose your will defensively through a fierce pass rush, dominating secondary and physicality across the field.

First let’s look at how Seattle controlled the line of scrimmage and consistently created pressure with 4 or 5 rushers forcing Manning to do what all quarterbacks hate, operate under duress.

Game Situation: 1st Quarter, 1:21, 3rd and 7 at the DEN 23, Seahawks 8, Broncos 0

Offensive Personnel: 3 WR (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker) 1 TE (Julius Thomas) 1 RB (Knowshon Moreno)

Formation: 4 Wide Tight Stack

Offensive Concept: Deep Cross

Defensive Scheme: Man 1






Summary: Despite being arguably the best quarterback of all time, Peyton Manning still struggles when he is under pressure. On this play one of Seattle’s impact free agents, Cliff Avril, was able to create quick pressure forcing Manning to throw off balance and miss one of the few open targets he had all game. Fittingly, Chancellor was right there for the interception and somehow this play felt like the deathblow despite coming in the 1st quarter.

While the “Legion of Boom “and Seattle’s secondary gets the majority of the praise, Pete Carroll might have the best pass rush in the NFL as his disposal with the combination of Avril, Clemons, Irvin and Bennett. Most teams attempt to limit this fearsome pass rush by running the ball, throwing screen passes and chipping the defensive ends with their backs or tight ends, but Denver consistently spread the field relying on 5 or 6 man protections and paid dearly for it.

With the Seahawks front 4 creating havoc in the Broncos backfield, the Legion of Boom’s job was made easier, which seems down right unfair given how dominant they are. Let’s look at how they completely snuffed out the Broncos lethal passing attack using their basic Cover 3 defense.

Game Situation: 3rd Quarter, 11:38, 2nd and 10 at the SEA 38, Seahawks 29, Broncos 0

Offensive Personnel: 3 WR (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker) 1 TE (Julius Thomas) 1 RB (Knowshon Moreno)

Formation: 3 Wide Shotgun Open

Offensive Concept: Deep Cross

Defensive Scheme: Cover 3




Summary: This is a special play from Kam Chancellor and his ability to make plays in between the underneath zones and deep shell is a major reason why Seattle’s basic Cover 3 is so difficult to beat. First, he stays deep and runs with Julius Thomas’s post route to provide a fourth deep defender as the Broncos look to overload the Seahawks 3 deep defenders. Then, when the Broncos receivers break their into their routes, a double post with a deep cross underneath, he not only recognizes it but successfully changes directions and breaks up the pass. Simply put, it doesn’t get any better than this for a SS in a Cover 3 coverage.

With the duo of Chancellor and Thomas controlling the deep middle and the score continuing to get out of hand, the Broncos were forced to throw deep down the sidelines. Let’s look at how the Seahawks cornerbacks were more than ready for Manning testing them down the field.

Game Situation: 3rd Quarter, 11:47, 2nd and 7 at the SEA 38, Seahawks 29, Broncos 0

Offensive Personnel: 3 WR (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker) 1 TE (Julius Thomas) 1 RB (Knowshon Moreno)

Formation: Trips Closed Shotgun

Offensive Concept: Go

Defensive Scheme: Cover 3





Summary: This play went about as well as expected. Attempting to beat Richard Sherman with a simple Go route is an exercise in futility and knowing he had underneath help, Sherman simply continued to drop and was in better position to catch this throw than Demaryius Thomas was.

Click here for Part 2


  1. Don Reed

    Kevin Maguire Actually, Harvin did clearly step out of bounds. On one angle, you could clearly see his foot clearly in the white on the angle over his right shoulder so it was a good call. On Wilson's scramble, it looked to me that they got the spot wrong as well.

  2. Kevin Maguire

    Darin Pike I thought he had it. I also don't think Harvin stepped out of bounds. They never showed a close angle of that one. Even with those, we still destroyed them, so yay!

  3. Darin Pike

    Yep. Or for them to actually show where they spotted the ball on Wilson's scramble on their first possession. They said he was short, but as memory serves, they only showed an angle from behind the offense so you couldn't see where they spotted the ball. Seemed suspect…

  4. Darin Pike

    They might have, but they couldn't get anyone open with four receivers running routes. Cutting that to 3 would have made life even harder. Denver ran some routes in the flat and they got snuffed. Remember Mebane making the tackle on the outside on the bubble screen? Seattle's defense is just that good.

  5. Patrick Snider

    I think they fell to far behind to not keep a lot of WRs out there. If Denver scores first, this game doesn't get so far out of control and they can do stuff like you suggest. That's how SF made the NFC champ game so competitive. SEA just kept pulling away so Den kept it floored. The only way they had a chance to win was if Peyton went bonkers. They need 3 to 5 out for him to do that.

  6. Mark D Johnson

    Great job of film study, adjustments, and recognition Seahawks. As a defensive coach, it is good to see the Hawks use their brain power to prepare for such a big game, which of course resulted in a big score. Many fans didn't understand why the Broncos got beat so bad, but me knowing the mental preparation and extra time the Seahawks took to prepare really paid big dividends. (awesome job)

    1. Anonymous

      The Sound FX replay of the Super Bowl captures the classic exchange between Carroll and that official who was retiring after that game anyway.
      Same official who chatted briefly with Champ Bailey just before the game informing him of same.
      Another PI that was not called was when the Seahawk defender had his arms around Thomas as he caught Denver’s only touchdown pass.

  7. Tim Gilbert

    I was surprised they didn't play more with two backs to aid in the pass rush, with an option to the flat for one of the backs. To me it seemed that the Seahawks were playing that cross/deep cross well. At the very least, having that option would have forced tighter coverage for the short pass. What do you think?

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