Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Derp That Ate Denver

We were schooled in a Great Life Lesson on Super Bowl Sunday.

They embarrassed themselves to death.

To think I had worried for the Seattle Seahawks. I figured they’d be ignored in the pre-game and throughout in favor of fawning coverage on the Great Legacy Team—and, for the most part, it looked like history was repeating itself. It was a very bitter thing that happened to them in their 2005 Super Bowl XL match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers, with even the officials on the field obviously paid off to rule against them. I lost a lot of respect for John Madden that day, as he and everyone else announcing the game treated Seattle as if they served no other purpose than to fall before the Mighty Tradition that is the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Naturally, I’ve despised the Steelers ever since. Likewise, although I’m in Colorado, where every square micrometer is the “heart” of Broncos Country, I wasn’t thrilled with what was looking to be the Super Peyton Manning Bowl Starring Peyton Manning, with Special Guest Stars: the Denver Broncos. The Big Story was all about the Broncos third Super Bowl, Peyton Manning and his Family Legacy, playing in the House of His Brother, etc.

Well, all those worries were over and done with within the first 12 seconds, whence occurred the Derp That Ate Denver: 

Center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball prematurely and it went sailing past a mortified Peyton Manning’s head. Of all the crazy ways to start the first play of the biggest game in pro football!

It could have been worse. Imagine if that thing had bounced off Manning’s helmet and over into the defensive backfield. Or maybe just bounced, Manning catches it, and gets slammed backwards to make the safety himself.

What happened, though, was enough. At first, with all the flags flying, I thought maybe the refs had it out for Seattle like they did in 2005. No, it was legit for the most part; Denver was getting their share, too. What I soon realized I was watching was how a well-coached defensive squad wins a football game. Seattle made interceptions. They refused Manning his precious “pocket” from which he could pick his receiver and throw. 

The pundits like to talk about about the sad irony of Peyton Manning’s making record completions in this Super Bowl, but they leave out the truly gruesome new record stat that was blowing my mind after that first hour: Denver struggled for an entire first quarter and never once made a first down. No one’s ever done this in 47 Super Bowls. Even back in the bad old days when it was a foregone conclusion that the NFC team always beat the AFC team like a red-headed stepchild for a ridiculously lopsided score, this never happened.

Seattle’s defense played so aggressively their defense was an offense. (They certainly scored better than Denver’s offense.) Although I doubt there are many left on the team who were there for the debacle in 2005, they played like this was a grudge match. Except you’d notice one important thing when the cameras took shots of the Seattle bench: they were smiling. Laughing. Having a good time. 

This wasn’t revenge. This was a team playing to its strengths, and profiting handsomely for their efforts. Why not smile and laugh it up? I’m not the first armchair coach to point that the real MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII was at least ten men, and all of them played defense. 

[For the life of me I still can’t remember the name of Seattle’s quarterback. I’m not into the Quarterback as Auteur theory of football—it helps to be good, but you need the rest of your team to win—but it was certainly weird watching this guy get interviewed post-game and all I could think was, “Never saw this guy before in my life.”]

There was one more factor in Seattle’s win, and it was the one that left the bad taste in everyone’s mouths after the game. Just as Seattle was primed to lose on their own in 2005 without all the crooked calls, Denver might not have lost by such a horrific spread if not for one factor.

Manning and his crew never got over that derp.

You could see it on the faces of the Broncos when the cameras showed their bench. From that first minute out Peyton Manning never once looked like he was happy to be at the Super Bowl.

Okay, so you guys did something stupid and you’re embarrassed. But the narrative could just as easily continued with, “Yet after a sputtering start, the Broncos asserted themselves against the Seahawk defense and fought their way furiously down the field to victory.”

But that didn’t happen. Nor did the more familiar narrative of the post-halftime turnaround. Denver choked on a kickoff return, and for all intents and purposes the game should have been called at the end of the third quarter. Denver was beaten. It was only a matter of how badly.

It was a cascading series of disasters that could have been avoided altogether if Manning (or somebody, anyone) had rallied the team, said, Enough with the sad faces. Let’s pay attention to what’s going on the field here and we can make this safety the one and only time these fools score!

They didn’t. They moped their way from choke to choke to final failure. The narrative here in Colorado Springs this week is, “Why didn’t the Broncos show up to play?” 

They did. But they derped in the first 12 seconds and refused to get over it to play the rest of the game as they should.

Great Life Lesson: Get over your mistakes. No matter how dumb. Yes, you should have seen it coming, but you let it happen anyway. So boo-hoo-hoo, what are we doing for an encore?

Hey, here’s an idea. Why not give them something they don’t expect after a monumentally stupid error like that? As every good drunk knows, the trick is to get up one more time than you fall down. Everyone loves the Comeback Kid. Come on back, already!

Just a thought. 

Don't miss the sweet, simmering sequel to this post: Super Bowl Leftovers! I have pictures of food!