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A Super Implosion: What Happened To The Denver Broncos?

By Connor Fulton - Posted: 02/04/14 12:07PM UTC

Follow Connor Fulton on Twitter @Fulton_Connor

How did John Fox's mighty Broncos fall so easily in Super Bowl XLVIII? (Photo: Denver Broncos Facebook)
How did John Fox's mighty Broncos fall so easily in Super Bowl XLVIII? (Photo: Denver Broncos Facebook)

Peyton Manning insists that the Broncos' stunning 43-8 loss to the Seahawks on the game's biggest stage wasn't embarrassing, saying "that word embarrassing is an insulting word to tell the truth."

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Considering that the Cleveland Browns would have put up a better fight, it is actually pretty embarrassing. Even one of Manning's favorite receiving targets, Wes Welker, thinks so. 

Just like it takes a team effort to win a Super Bowl, it takes a team effort to implode in one too. So don't blame the Broncos' nightmare solely on center Manny Ramirez. It is just as likely that the Seahawks would have botched the first snap if they had started with the ball. The crowd noise in MetLife stadium in the beginning of the game was deafening, more so than a typical Super Bowl. 

Then what exactly caused the 2013 Denver Broncos, featuring the best offense in NFL history, to be the victim of one of the most colossal collapses in American sports history? A trip in the time machine back to February 2008 might help shed some light.

The 2007 New England Patriots were arguably the best team that didn't win the Super Bowl. They rode Tom Brady's arm and a staff of talented receivers to an 18-0 record, and threatened the 1973 Miami Dolphins' perfect season. Their defense, while not spectacular, was serviceable, and knew how to protect a lead. The 2013 Broncos mirror the '07 Pats in these categories, and even trump them in some areas--Manning's touchdown passes and yards bested Brady's then-record-setting numbers.

And just like the '07 Patriots, the '13 Broncos reached the ultimate destination, and lost. While the final score of these two games were very different, the root cause for each disappointment was the same: the fear of not winning. Both the 2007 New York Giants and the 2013 Seattle Seahawks took advantage of pass-heavy teams that were more preoccupied with not messing up than going all-in for the victory. 

The '07 Giants and the '13 Seahawks have a lot in common. Both teams drew energy from fierce pass rushing units and aggressive secondaries, and had offenses that knew how to keep the opposing quarterback off the field. When playing Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, your best bet is to maximize their time on the sideline, and both of these championship teams accomplished that in their respective Super Bowl wins.

Denver's fear of not winning was evidenced by displays of hesitation throughout the game. Manning's "happy feet", the offensive line on its collective heels, and Demaryius Thomas's indecision on a particular 3rd & inches play come to mind. Thomas's hesitation was a microcosm of the Broncos' performance throughout the game--the team as whole looked as if they were always a step behind Seattle. There was no doubt that the Seahawks controlled the pace of the game from the opening kickoff. 

Contrast these examples of holding back with Seattle's aggressive, fast, and confident style of play in all phases of the game. The Seahawks simply wanted to win, and went after it. Yes, Denver also wanted to win, but they were dragged down by their fear of screwing up a dream season. 

Follow Connor Fulton on Twitter @Fulton_Connor

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