The Denver Broncos were outmanned from the start.
Seattle's famed 12th Man crossed up the highest-scoring team in history when they caused the Broncos to fall behind just 12 seconds into the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
Peyton Manning stepped up toward the line just as center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball. It flew past his incredulous quarterback and into the end zone, where Knowshon Moreno dived on it for a safety.
"That wasn't a great start, but we've overcome much more than that," tight end Jacob Tamme said. "That wasn't anything that hurt us that bad. I mean, we felt fine coming out of that. But you've got to give their crowd here credit. They forced us out of our cadence on our first play and forced a safety."
A mere 12 seconds in, Seattle led 2-0 with the quickest score in Super Bowl history, beating Chicago's Devin Hester's kickoff return to open the 2007 game -- against Manning's Colts.
That one ended much better for Manning as Indianapolis won the championship.
This time, Manning couldn't bring the bumbling Broncos back and they were walloped 43-8 at MetLife Stadium, his worst beating since moving to Denver two years ago.
"It was a crazy start," Manning said.
And a crushing end to the greatest season by a quarterback in NFL history, one in which Manning shattered several records, most notably throwing for 55 TD passes and 5,547 yards.
Manning has thrown 100 TD passes since trading the blue and white horseshoe for the orange-mane mustang on his helmet, but just one of them came on this night.
To go with two interceptions, a fumble, a sack and a turnover on downs.
After the safety, Denver's defense forced Seattle to settle for 31- and 33-yard field goals by Steven Hauschka to make it 8-0. Then, the Seahawks began scoring touchdowns.
Manning's third-down pass to Julius Thomas sailed way too high and directly to safety Kam Chancellor, giving the Seahawks the ball at Denver's 37. A third-down pass interference call on Tony Carter brought Seattle to the 1, and Marshawn Lynch scored to make it 15-0.
Then MVP Malcom Smith picked off a fluttering pass after Cliff Avril hit Manning's arm, returning it 69 yards to make it 22-0 with 3:21 left in the half.
Percy Harvin took the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and that was that.
It only got worse for the league's most prolific point producers, who scored 606 points 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.
Dominated in every way, the Broncos (15-4) couldn't get momentum back.
"We couldn't get it to swing, man," left tackle Chris Clark said. "We tried, but they just played better than we did today. It didn't shift. We didn't play Broncos football today. When you got a good thing going, you want to finish it off and we didn't do that today."
It was reminiscent of the blowouts John Elway's teams endured in the big game before he finally won his last two trips to the Super Bowl to cap his Hall of Fame career.
Elway returned to rescue his beloved Broncos in 2011 after the franchise foundered and his biggest coup was luring Manning to Denver.
Over his two seasons in Colorado, Manning engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history: recovering from neck fusion surgery that weakened his throwing arm to win his fifth MVP award this season.
But he couldn't match that with the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history after falling behind 36-0. Manning hadn't trailed by that much since 2002.
"I will tell you this: it's hard to get things turned around against a great defense like that," Elway said. "They are a great defense. So, that's why you can't afford to lose the momentum because to try to flip it on a great defense is always hard."
Denver was missing five defensive starters who are on IR that might have made this a fairer fight -- Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe and Chris Harris Jr.
"A lot of ups and downs, a lot of things we overcame," Champ Bailey said after his first taste of the Super Bowl in his 15th season. "What's going to stick out the most is we lost the last game and that's the problem."
IN THE AFTERMATH, 5 THINGS TO KNOW
Team owner Pete Carroll stood in the center of the locker room and gathered his Seahawks around him.
They were Super Bowl champions, and they had the Lombardi Trophy after routing the Broncos 43-8 on Sunday night.
After a rah-rah speech and Carroll shouting out some players' names, the entire team joined in a chant: "We all we got! We all we need! We all we got! We all we need!"
And that could be the case for a while for these Seahawks, who could be a force to be reckoned with next season and beyond.
"Obviously, we feel like we have a very strong foundation and we're very excited about our future," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. "We talk about being a consistent championship-caliber football team and for our fans, that means you have hope every year that your team is going to be in it."
The Seahawks (16-3) have their first Super Bowl victory, and there's reason to think they might at least contend for a few more. They're young and built around a dynamic quarterback in Russell Wilson, who has a ring in his second season, and a stingy defense that ranks as the league's best.
Wide receivers Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are free agents this offseason, but Seattle has most of its main playmakers on both sides of the ball under contract through at least next season.
"Once I get success like this, I want more success," safety Earl Thomas said. "It's just a great feeling. When you're at the top, you just want to stay at the top because everybody is gunning for you."
Peyton Manning and the Broncos certainly know the feeling. After the high-scoring offense set records this season, it fizzled against the Seahawks.
"We needed to play really well in order to win, and we didn't come anywhere close to that," Manning said. "We weren't sharp offensively from the very get-go."
Manning, who turns 38 next month, won't have many more opportunities to win a second Super Bowl. The Broncos also have several key players scheduled to be free agents, such as Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker, so the window for Denver as a franchise might be closing quickly.
"We just didn't play like we're capable of," said John Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations. "I was disappointed. Hopefully we'll learn from this. It started tough. We just couldn't seem to get it going."
Here five other things to know from the Seahawks' Super Bowl victory over the Broncos:
1. MISERABLE MANNING
This was easily Manning's worst day of the season.
“The turnover on the first play of the game to give them a safety is not the way you want to start a game.”Peyton Manning
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. There was talk all week about how Manning threw "ducks" -- and he had a few more of those wobbly passes in this game despite setting a Super Bowl record with 34 completions.
It was an ominous sign when Manny Ramirez's snap sailed over his head on the first play from scrimmage -- that turned into a safety and a 2-0 lead for Seattle just 12 seconds in for the fastest score in Super Bowl history.
"The turnover on the first play of the game to give them a safety is not the way you want to start a game," Manning said. "For whatever reason, we couldn't get much going after that."
2. LEGION OF BOOM
Seattle's stingy defense played as advertised.
Richard Sherman & Co. controlled this game from the start, causing four turnovers and making the Broncos' record-setting offense look uncomfortable and merely ordinary.
Malcolm Smith was selected the game's MVP after he returned an interception of Manning 69 yards for a touchdown in the first half, then recovered a fumble in the second half.
"You can never expect it, but I wasn't really shocked. I expected us to stand up," Sherman said. "I didn't expect us to give up a whole lot of points. It's not our standard to give up a whole lot of points. We haven't done it all year. We knew we would play sound football."
3. SUDDEN IMPACT
It took until the Super Bowl, but Percy Harvin finally played a full game healthy.
And, boy, did he make up for lost time.
“I finally was able to give my team something for four quarters.”Percy Harvin
After missing most of the season with injuries and the NFC championship game with a concussion, Harvin had two runs for 45 yards, and opened the second half with an 87-yard kickoff return for a score to give Seattle a 29-0 lead 12 seconds into the third quarter.
"It's just a big horse off my back," a smiling Harvin said. "I finally was able to give my team something for four quarters."
4. WINNING WILSON
Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Kurt Warner have some company.
Wilson joined them as the only quarterbacks to win Super Bowl titles within their first two seasons. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another 26 yards.
"He's a baller," Tate said.
Wilson had three offensive possessions in the first half and led Seattle to points on all three. Seattle punted only one time in the game and did all that with Marshawn Lynch running for only 39 yards.
5. WHAT WEATHER WORRIES
The first outdoor Super Bowl at a cold-weather site turned out to be unseasonably warm.
The National Weather Service said that temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees above normal, and the 49-degree temperature at kickoff made it only the third-coldest Super Bowl. Many feared that snow, ice and frigid temperatures would detract from the game usually held in either warm-weather cities or in a domed stadium.
It all proved to be unfounded -- at least by a day. Snow was forecast for Monday morning.