By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Defense wins championships, and the NFL has not seen a defense like Seattle’s in a long time.
The Seahawks won their first Super Bowl title Sunday night in overpowering fashion, punishing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 43-8. That relentless defense, the NFL’s stingiest, never let the five-time MVP get going, disarming the highest-scoring offense in league history.
Seattle (16-3) was too quick, too physical and just too good for Denver, and that was true in all areas. What was hyped as a classic matchup between an unstoppable offense and a miserly defense turned into a rout.
Punctuating Seattle’s dominance were a 69-yard interception return touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Smith to make it 22-0, and Percy Harvin’s sensational 87-yard kickoff runback to open the second half.
Smith was the game’s MVP.
When the Seahawks, up by 29 points, forced a Denver punt early in the third quarter, the 12th Man — and there were legions of them in MetLife Stadium — began chanting “L-O-B, L-O-B.”
As in Legion of Boom, the Seahawks hard-hitting secondary, part of young team with an average age of 26 years, 138 days.
“This is an amazing team. Took us four years to get to this point but they never have taken a step sideways,” coach Pete Carroll said. “These guys would not take anything but winning this ballgame.”
The loss by the Broncos again raised questions about Manning’s ability to win the biggest games. He is 11-12 in the postseason, 1-2 in Super Bowls. He never looked comfortable against a defense some will begin comparing to the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens — other NFL champions who had runaway Super Bowl victories.
Seattle forced four turnovers; Denver had 26 all season.
The Seahawks looked comfortable and at ease, and not just their defense, which lost All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman to a high ankle sprain in the fourth quarter.
Russell Wilson, who has an NFL-record 28 wins in his first two pro seasons, including playoffs, had a 23-yard TD pass to Jermaine Kearse late in the third quarter to make it 36-0.
Wilson also hit Doug Baldwin for a 10-yard score in the final period in what had become one of the most lopsided Super Bowls. For the fifth time in six meetings between the NFL’s No. 1 offense and defense, the D dominated.
“We been relentless all season,” Wilson said. “Having that mentality of having a championship day every day. At the end of the day, you want to play your best football and that is what we did today.”
Denver fell to 2-5 in Super Bowls, and by the end many of Manning’s passes resembled the “ducks” Sherman said the All-Pro quarterback sometimes threw.
The victory was particularly sweet for Carroll, who was fired in 1994 by the Jets, led the Patriots for three seasons and again was canned. After a short stint out of coaching, he took over at Southern California and won two national titles.
But he always felt there was unfinished business in the NFL. Carroll finished that business by lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, four years after taking charge in Seattle and eight years after the Seahawks lost in their only previous Super Bowl to Pittsburgh.
No Super Bowl had been played outdoors in a cold-weather city before — not that the Big Apple was anything close to frozen Sunday, with a 49-degree temperature at kickoff. And no Super Bowl has started more bizarrely.
Things went sour for Manning and the Broncos from the very first scrimmage play, and by halftime they were down 22-0 — their biggest deficit of the season and the only time they didn’t score in a half.
On that first play for the Broncos, Manning stepped up toward the line just as center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball. It flew past his incredulous quarterback into the end zone, where Knowshon Moreno dived on it for 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 one was a fiasco throughout.
Denver008 0— 8
Sea—Avril safety, 14:48.
Sea—FG Hauschka 31, 10:21.
Sea—FG Hauschka 33, 2:16.
Sea—Lynch 1 run (Hauschka kick), 12:00.
Sea—Smith 69 interception return (Hauschka kick), 3:21.
Sea—Harvin 87 kickoff return (Hauschka kick), 14:48.
Sea—Kearse 23 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick), 2:58.
Den—D.Thomas 14 pass from Manning (Welker pass from Manning), :00.
Sea—Baldwin 10 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick), 11:45.
Total Net Yards341306
Time of Possession31:5328:07
RUSHING—Seattle, Harvin 2-45, Lynch 15-39, Wilson 3-26, Turbin 9-25. Denver, Moreno 5-17, Anderson 2-9, Ball 6-1, Manning 1-0.
PASSING—Seattle, Wilson 18-25-0-206, Jackson 0-1-0-0. Denver, Manning 34-49-2-280.
RECEIVING—Seattle, Baldwin 5-66, Kearse 4-65, Tate 3-17, Willson 2-17, Lockette 1-19, Miller 1-10, Robinson 1-7, Harvin 1-5. Denver, D.Thomas 13-118, Welker 8-84, J.Thomas 4-27, Moreno 3-20, Tamme 2-9, Ball 2-2, Anderson 1-14, Decker 1-6.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.