EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Let’s be honest, Peyton Manning didn’t have enough time in the pocket Sunday to even spell the word “legacy.’’
Eleven years after the Buccaneers dismantled the Raiders, the NFL’s No. 1 defense once again throttled the league’s most prolific attack in a Super Bowl.
“All those people that say defense wins championships can gloat for a while,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Seattle’s 43-8 rout of the outclassed Broncos.
Manning didn’t help his own cause with a pair of first-half interceptions, but the Seahawks were simply dominant in every category en route to the most lopsided Super Bowl since the Cowboys trounced the Bills 52-17 in 1993.
The weather at MetLife Stadium seemed to favor Manning in the finale of his record-setting season. It was 49 degrees with only a slight wind at the opening kickoff, which was basically the last time Denver didn’t trail Seattle.
The NFC champions were more physical and Carroll’s marauders also appeared better prepared.
Whenever Manning managed one of his Super Bowl-record 34 completions, a secondary that placed three players in the Pro Bowl routinely closed fast and punished Denver’s receivers.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to remember one dynamic hit by a Broncos defense that was exposed as Seattle converted on 7 of 12 third-down situations.
Manning will take most of the heat for this debacle, of course, and he deserves his fair share of the criticism.
But let’s put the bulk of the blame where it belongs — except for stud wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos didn’t show up.
If the game wasn’t decided in the opening two quarters, the dagger materialized shortly after intermission.
Following a halftime show starring Bruno Mars, Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin promptly returned the second-half kickoff to Jupiter.
At warp speed.
By the time the former Florida Gators standout reached the end zone with an 87-yard kickoff return, the Seahawks owned a 29-0 advantage, making you wonder why Denver was ever established as a slight favorite.
I picked Seattle to win because I thought the Seahawks played in a more competitive conference and had already beaten the second-best team in the league, San Francisco.
But I never envisioned a beatdown like this.
The Seahawks didn’t have a single player with Super Bowl experience, yet they schooled the Broncos in the fundamentals — blocking, tackling, special teams, accurate snaps.
Manning dropped to 11-12 in postseason play and this might have been his last tango on America’s biggest sports stage. His disappointing night came approximately 24 hours after learning he had won the league’s MVP award for the fifth time.
No one else has more than three.
For the past two weeks, it seemed writers and broadcasters couldn’t mention Manning’s name without bringing up the legacy question.
To me, it’s still a contrived story line that kept gathering momentum.
When Sunday night’s game ended, Manning still owned the No. 2 career passer rating in NFL history. He still boasted a record 51 game-winning drives.
Let’s not forget he was terrific against New England in the AFC championship game, a week after the Patriots made Andrew Luck look like Chad Henne.
Manning was off ... Denver was way off.
It’s time to shift the focus off Manning and give the Seahawks their due.
“They’re an excellent team, they played great and they deserved to win,’’ Manning said. “It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but eventually we have to.’’
With 25-year-old Russell Wilson under center, Seattle figures to be good for quite a while. None of the Pro Bowl defensive backs — corner Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor — are older than 25. Marshawn Lynch is 27.
You still hung up on this legacy thing? That’s OK.
The Seahawks just took a big step in establishing theirs.