Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll gets gatorade dump on him by quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during the second half against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. (Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - The NFL has done its best to create an offensive league in recent years, tweaking rules and protecting quarterbacks with an eye towards more high-scoring games.
But the Seattle Seahawks, with their "Legion of Boom" secondary and the deepest defense in the league, proved one old axiom true Sunday: Defense still wins championships in the NFL.
The Seahawks took advantage of four turnovers Sunday and former Lions defensive end Cliff Avril forced a Peyton Manning interception that was returned for a touchdown as Seattle routed the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, 43-8.
It was the sixth time in Super Bowl history the top offense in the league (Denver) played the top defense (Seattle), and the fifth time the top defense won.
Avril, who signed with the Seahawks last off-season after five years in Detroit, made the biggest play of the game late in Sunday's second quarter.
With the Broncos trailing 15-0 and showing signs of life on offense for the first time all game, Avril hit Manning's right forearm as he floated a pass in running back Knowshon Moreno's direction.
Malcolm Smith stepped in front of Moreno for the interception and raced untouched down the Denver sideline for a 69-yard score.
Smith also recovered a Demaryius Thomas fumble in the second half, and Avril played a role in Manning's other interception, beating right tackle Orlando Franklin off the edge with a good speed rush that forced Manning to step up in the pocket and overshoot his intended receiver.
The Broncos, who scored an NFL-record 606 points in the regular season, were shut out in the first half for the first time all year and at one point late in the first quarter had as many totals yards (eight) as the Seahawks did points.
Avril was credited with a safety on the first play of the game, when another former Lion, Manny Ramirez, snapped the ball prematurely as Manning took a step forward to shout out a play call to his receivers.
The ball sailed over Manning's head and Moreno fell on it in the end zone, where Avril touched him down to give Seattle a 2-0 lead 12 seconds into the game - the quickest score in Super Bowl history.
The Seahawks tacked on field goals each of the next two possessions, the first after a short Britton Colquitt punt and the second after Manning's first interception.
Marshawn Lynch scored Seattle's only offensive touchdown of the first half on a 1-yard run two plays after Tony Carter was called for pass interference in the end zone.
Denver picked and chopped its way downfield on the ensuing drive, marching to the Seahawks' 35-yard line before Avril's rush on third-and-13 sent the game spiraling out of control.
Lynch finished with just 39 yards rushing on 15 carries, Russell Wilson completed 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, and Percy Harvin sparked the Seahawks' offense in his most meaningful action of the season after missing most of the year with a hip injury.
Harvin, who caught one pass in one regular-season game and was knocked out of his only playoff game with a concussion, broke a 30-yard run on an end-around on Seattle's second offensive play and scored on an 87-yard kick return to open the second half.
For the Broncos, Manning completed 34 of 49 passes for 280 yards and set a new Super Bowl record for completions, but failed in his chance to bolster a legacy that had been a topic of discussion all week.
Manning, who won his record fifth MVP award Saturday and set NFL records for most passing yards and touchdowns this year, is now 11-12 in the postseason and 1-2 in Super Bowls.
Thomas set a Super Bowl record with 13 catches for 118 yards, and accounted for Denver's only touchdown with a 14-yard catch on the final play of the third quarter, but his third quarter fumble also set up a Seahawks touchdown.
Doug Baldwin (five catches, 66 yards) and Jermaine Kearse (4-66) caught second-half touchdown passes for the Seahawks, whose victory tied for the third most lopsided in Super Bowl history.
The Broncos lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 55-10, in Super Bowl XXIV. Ironically, that game marked the only time the NFL's top offense has beaten the league's top defense in a Super Bowl.
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.