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The Seattle Seahawks' 2013 Championship Season
By The News Tribune & The Olympian, Joe Funk
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2014 The News Tribune and The Olympian
All rights reserved.
Super Bowl XLVIII
Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
February 2, 2014
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Hawks by a Mile
Top-ranked defense throttles Denver's mighty offense
By Todd Dybas
The Seattle Seahawks won America's biggest sports event by never giving Denver a chance.
Not a sniff. Not a drive that brought fear or a hint of a challenge from the Broncos. Seattle's brash, top-ranked defense showed a superiority even they wouldn't have predicted.
The Broncos were throttled, bottled by a simple, efficient and fierce Seattle defense.
The Seahawks tore up a Denver offense that had scored the most points in league history. At the end, blue and green confetti shot into the air. Coach Pete Carroll was drenched with Gatorade. A season-long journey while under scrutiny to be the best ended with the Seahawks as just that.
Seahawks 43, Broncos 8. The Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl XLVIII champions, delivering the downtrodden sports region its first professional men's title in 35 years and the organization its first since its inception in 1976 in its second Super Bowl appearance.
"It's been a long year," Carroll said. "But the team was really dedicated to getting this done and now we can say we're world champions."
Icon Peyton Manning finished with a misleading Super Bowl-record 34 completions. He joked last week he had not asked brother Eli — who threw five interceptions in the same stadium against Seattle in mid-December — for advice about the Seahawks. Eli won't be asking him now, the Seahawks likely a taboo subject in that household now. A befuddled Manning finished with two interceptions and a fumble.
Seattle was able to pressure Manning with just four rushers. Menacing strong safety Kam Chancellor walloped Demaryius Thomas early and had an interception. Cliff Avril, a master of the strip-sack, clipped a piece of Manning's arm when he was throwing. Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith intercepted the resulting duck throw and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown.
Denver wasn't permitted any easy inch while the game was still competitive, which it wasn't for long. The Seahawks scored 12 seconds into each half. They picked up a safety on the first play from scrimmage when Manning's famous audibling backfired. When he stepped to the line to make an adjustment, the ball was snapped. It flew into the end zone. He said it was a cadence issue.
In hindsight, the Seahawks' 2-0 lead appears it would have been sufficient. That's how smothering the defense was.
The discussion is open now. Seattle's season-long assault of offenses was finished off by forcing the Broncos to succumb. The 2013-14 Seahawks have elbowed their way into conversations that will include the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 1985 Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s, or any other defensive juggernaut professed to be the best.
"I told you we're the best defense ever," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "We could have played anyone today and did the same thing."
Led by a top-down approach with the league's best secondary, the Seahawks allowed teams to throw shallow. That was Denver's approach all season. It's an ill-advised style against a fast-closing, hard-hitting Seahawks defense.
Denver stuck with it regardless. After Chancellor delivered his shot, the tone was set.
"They started dropping like flies," linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
At media day during Super Bowl week, the NFL set up five high-profile positions. The coach and quarterback were naturals for two. The other three spots were occupied by members of the Seahawks' vaunted secondary: Chancellor, free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman, a rarity to have such fame in the secondary.
Blessed with salary cap flexibility by the emergence of stars such as Russell Wilson and Sherman still on rookie contracts, the Seahawks were able to bolster the defensive line in the offseason.
In came Bennett and Avril from free agency. They boosted a stifling and rotating defensive line. Pushing into Manning's space all game during an unseasonably warm February evening in the Northeast, the Seahawks' defense left no doubt if the cliché "defense wins championships" was still viable.
The Seahawks' 36 consecutive points to start the game were a Super Bowl record. It was the first time Manning had trailed in a game by 29-plus points since 2002. It was the first game in which Manning's club was held to fewer than 17 points since he joined Denver in 2012.
The blue-and-green celebratory confetti was blown off the field within a couple hours of the game's conclusion. That was a fleeting celebration.
Not the title. For the rest of their lives, each Seahawk will have a hand-worn gleaming reminder of Super Bowl XLVIII. When they look at those rings, they'll remember one of the best defenses in NFL history.
That can be a debate. What's unequivocal is that the Seahawks are world champions.CHAPTER 2
Malcolm Smith Named Super Bowl MVP
Linebacker part of dominating performance
By John McGrath
Malcolm Smith didn't mind the notoriety that eluded him after his end-zone interception in the NFC Championship Game assured the Seattle Seahawks of a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Smith figured — in the words of the late Frank Sinatra, the New Jersey native associated with a more famous song that blared over the sound system of MetLife Stadium — the best is yet to come.
"Hopefully," Smith told me during a pre-Super Bowl media session that found him all but ignored, "we'll get another that trumps it in this game. I'll focus on that. I'd rather have a Super Bowl ring than the greatest interception in the NFC Championship Game."
Along with his teammates, Smith earned a ring on Feb. 2, thanks to the Seahawks' 43-8 obliteration of the Denver Broncos. But the former seventh-round draft choice from USC also was given the keys to a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado as Super Bowl XLVIII's Most Valuable Player.
Two weeks after his interception in the NFC Championship Game was overshadowed by events that immediately preceded and followed it, Smith picked off a Peyton Manning pass in Seahawks territory and never looked back during a 69-yard return for a touchdown. Smith also participated in 10 tackles, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble.
"Man, it's incredible," Smith said. "It's the way our defense is set up. We just run to the ball. ... I'm just the one today. It happens all the time like this."
Reflective of Seattle's domination of the No. 1 single-season offense in NFL history is the fact strong MVP cases could have been for several Seahawks on both sides of the ball.
Kam Chancellor's interception of a first-quarter pass — it floated into his hands — was among the difference-making plays the strong safety contributed on a night that included five unassisted tackles and two passes defensed.
Defensive end Cliff Avril, who at 6 feet 3 and 260 pounds should've been overmatched by the Broncos' 6-7, 320-pound Orlando Franklin, put a bull-rush on the tackle and arrived in time to impede Manning's delivery on the throw Smith intercepted.
Wide receiver Percy Harvin touched the ball only twice during the regular season while recovering from hip surgery. After he spent most of the NFC divisional playoff against New Orleans on the sideline with a concussion, it was reasonable to presume anything he contributed during the ultimate playoff game would be a bonus.
But on a night that the Broncos' record-setting offense appeared overmatched and, ultimately, overwhelmed by a Seahawks defense that turned Super Bowl XLVIII into the equivalent of a first-round knockout, Harvin also made a compelling case as an MVP.
After a bad snap resulted in a Broncos safety to open the game, Harvin's 30-yard gain on an end around came on the Seahawks' second snap, and put the Seahawks in position to kick the field goal that gave them the distinction of earning the first 5-0 lead in Super Bowl history.
Harvin added 15 yards on a similar play near the end of the first quarter, then he put the game out of reach by fielding the second-half kickoff.
A Denver comeback wouldn't have been unfathomable. Baltimore owned a 28-6 third-quarter advantage last year in the Super Bowl, and ended up having to hold on to win 34-31 against San Francisco in a thriller. But Harvin's 87-yard return served as emphatic proof that only one team — the team in the white jerseys — would be in position to return home with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"Those guys had so much belief in me," said Harvin. "Even when I wasn't practicing, those guys were saying, 'You're going to score on this,' and I'm like, 'I'm not even on the field practicing yet.'"
Quarterbacks are typically the most obvious MVP selections, and Russell Wilson's performance — 18-for-25 passing for 206 yards and two touchdowns — was worthy of consideration, if for no other reason than his spectacular passing rating of 123.1. (For perspective on that number, Manning set a Super Bowl record of 34 completions — and finished with a 73.5 rating.)
But by the time the passing game with Wilson achieved a second-half rhythm that kept the Broncos on their heels, the blowout was on the brink of historic.
In 47 previous Super Bowls, no team had been shut out, and yet the Seahawks had a 36-0 lead until the final play of the third quarter, when Manning finally managed a touchdown pass that did little to alleviate the humiliation.
"Watching the film coming into the week," Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said, "we'd seen that they hadn't played a defense like ours. They hadn't played a defense that flies around like we do, that hits like we do, and we just do it every single play.
"We're a part of history. A hundred years from now, y'all are going to remember this team."
Wagner's prediction might be a bit optimistic, as I'm not sure many of us will be in shape, 100 years from now, to talk about the night the Hawks conquered four decades of franchise frustration.
But I understand the spirit of his words: the Seahawks put on a show so balanced, so inspired and so comprehensively impressive that it was difficult to determine who deserved an individual award.
Smith was given the title to the vehicle, but the title of Super Bowl MVP could have gone to any of several teammates.
It's something the president might keep in mind when the world champion Seattle Seahawks visit the White House.CHAPTER 3
24 | Running Back
Actions matter, words don't
By Eric D. Williams September 5, 2013
In the hills near his waterfront home in Richmond, Calif., near Oakland, most mornings during the offseason you can find Marshawn Lynch climbing makeshift stairs he had built for his daily training regimen.
"It's just putting in the time," he said. "That's it. It ain't nothing too special to it, just putting in the time and the effort."
Reports of Lynch not showing up for part of the Seattle Seahawks' off-season program made news back in Washington. However, Lynch diligently trained at home, reporting to training camp in the best shape of his life.
"He's really worked," Seahawks running backs coach Sherman Smith said. "And we've just talked about him getting better this year, so in the fourth quarter when we go into our four-minute offense, he stays on the field. I told him that's your job — to win the game for us in the end.
"So when we have to run the ball 10 times, 12 times — whatever it is — that he's not on the sideline eating Skittles and drinking water."
While other Seahawks generate more headlines — think Richard Sherman — and national attention — Russell Wilson — it is Lynch who is the engine that makes Seattle's run-first attack go.
Lynch set a career high for rushing yards (1,590) and attempts (315) in 2012. His 2,531 rushing yards between Week 9 of the 2011 season and the end of 2012 is the most over that time frame.
He rushed for 100 yards or more in 16 of his previous 25 games heading into 2013. He was voted to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons and has earned the nickname Beast Mode because of his physical, relentless running style.
But you won't hear him talk about it, because Lynch evades reporters like the would-be tacklers he dodges and plows through on the field.
"I just feel it's crazy how much time people put into this media stuff," he said. "If they put as much time into the media as they put into something else in life, they'd be great at doing something.
"I mean, what am I going to talk about?"
It's not the spotlight Lynch avoids as much as it is who he is.
"He was always a real quiet kid," Lynch's mother, DeLisa Lynch said. "But if he set his mind toward it, then that's what was going to happen. He's been like that."
The Birth of Beast Mode
DeLisa Lynch didn't want her son playing varsity football at Oakland Tech. She watched him excel as a running back in youth football. But the boys were much bigger and rougher tackling her son during his freshman year.
"It was different than Pop Warner," she said. "They were crunching and hitting, and I was like, 'No, my baby ain't playing no varsity. That's out.' But for some reason over the summer, he just grew. He just got real big and real strong."
By the time he was a sophomore, Lynch was starting at running back. According to Larkins, Lynch was more a scat back then, known more for making people miss than running over them.
But the transformation from a Barry Sanders-type runner to what NFL observers see now on Sundays took years of work in the weight room, along with daily work out on the field with Larkins, cousin Josh Johnson, who now serves as the backup quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Larkins' son, Virdell Larkins Jr., now a defensive backs coach at New Mexico Highlands University.
"Once he came and started running with power, that was Beast Mode," he said. "I was his strength coach. They would lift weights every day, until 9 o'clock at night. Six days a week we trained. The seventh day was Sunday, and they watched film. So it was non-stop."
When Lynch returns home, part of his workout includes bag drills with Larkins back at his old high school field, which he considers getting back to the basics of what established his power and balance as a runner.
The drill is simple — a runner has to maintain his balance while keeping his knees high running over bags on the ground while trainers on either side of him try to knock him off balance or strip the ball out.
"Being able to get back to those bag drills, that's just automatic — that's consistency," Lynch said. "That's something I've been doing, and I'll continue to. I think I'll keep doing the bags even when I'm done.
"Those are defenders. I know they're just bags, but to a running back it teaches them to never stop their feet from moving and keep their legs high."
Larkins also kept it simple on game days — one defender should never tackle you.
"We started counting the YAC yards — yards after contact," Larkins said. "And when we would come in and watch film, I'd ask him, 'So one person can tackle you?'"
He said that if Lynch got tackled by just one person, he'd have up-downs to do the following practice on Monday.
"He was a kid that was always going to persevere regardless, and I think that's how he runs," he said. "He lives for today, knowing that tomorrow is coming. But he has to make what's happening right now."
No story about Lynch would be complete without mentioning his affection for Skittles.
His mother first introduced him to the candy during youth football games. But the story is a little different than how it's been recycled on TV.
"I would always have candy in my purse — just something to kind of calm him down," DeLisa Lynch said. "So I would give him the Skittles before the game, and tell him, 'Here baby, you eat these. These are you power pellets.' ... It was just a joke for me and him."
Get Some Square in You
Ask Lynch about personal goals for the 2013 season and you likely won't get a peep. But a number he does care about is the 21 kids under the age of 18 that have been shot and killed in Oakland since 2011.
Excerpted from Super Hawks by The News Tribune & The Olympian, Joe Funk. Copyright © 2014 The News Tribune and The Olympian. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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