EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.— The Seattle Seahawks got off to a fast start in the Super Bowl — and kept going.
Malcolm Smith returned Peyton Manning’s second interception of the game 69 yards with 3:21 left in the opening half Sunday night to give the Seahawks a stunning 22-0 halftime lead over Denver, the Broncos’ biggest deficit of the season.
No Super Bowl winner has ever trailed by more than 10 points in the game.
Seattle’s top-ranked defense made things miserable for Manning & Co., becoming the first team to hold the Broncos’ record-setting offense to no points in any half this season. Denver gained 123 yards on 31 plays — averaging less than 4 yards a play.
On third-and-13 from the Seahawks 35, Manning’s arm was hit by Cliff Avril as he attempted to throw a pass to Knowshon Moreno. The ball fluttered in the air to Smith, who took off down the left sideline and into the end zone untouched.
Smith had the victory-sealing interception in the NFC championship against the San Francisco 49ers on a tipped pass in the end zone by Richard Sherman.
Marshawn Lynch’s 1-yard touchdown run 3 minutes into the second quarter gave the Seahawks (15-3) a 15-0 lead over the Broncos (15-3) to cap a drive that came after Manning’s first interception. Kam Chancellor picked off a pass that was too high and intended for Julius Thomas.
The key play for Seattle came on the first play of the drive, a 15-yard run by wide receiver Percy Harvin, who has 45 yards rushing for Seattle.
Manning and Denver’s top-ranked offense looked uncharacteristically sloppy and unproductive, with no first downs in the first 19 minutes.
On the first play from scrimmage, Broncos center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball by Manning, who was walking up to the line and didn’t have his hands ready. The ball was recovered by running back Knowshon Moreno in the end zone for a safety.
The Seahawks led 2-0 after 12 seconds, the fastest score in Super Bowl history. It was 2 seconds faster than Devin Hester’s kickoff return for a score in 2007.
Seattle made it 5-0 on the ensuing possession when Steven Hauschka kicked a 31-yard field goal following a false start penalty on a drive helped by a 30-yard run by Harvin, who missed almost the entire season with injuries.
After Manning and the Broncos went three-and-out, Russell Wilson led an impressive 13-play drive, capped by Hauschka’s 33-yard field goal that made it 8-0 with 2:16 left in the opening quarter. Seattle nearly had more as Doug Baldwin caught a pass from Wilson in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 14, but Nate Irving slapped it out of the wide receiver’s hands.
The first Super Bowl played outdoors at a cold-weather site was an abnormally warm 49 degrees at kickoff at MetLife Stadium and hardly the winter wonderland many expected for the NFL’s biggest game.
Many fans in the jam-packed stands were able to shed their heavy winter coats, sporting their orange Manning jerseys and blue and green Wilson and Richard Sherman jerseys.
While the New York-New Jersey area was expected to get hit with snow Monday morning, the record for coldest Super Bowl remained the 1972 game in New Orleans, where it was 39.
Carolina’s John Fox, who missed a month during the season to have open-heart surgery, is the sixth head coach in NFL history to lead two franchises to the Super Bowl and is looking for his first win. Seattle’s Pete Carroll is in his first Super Bowl as a head coach, and it’s the Seahawks second time in the big game.
These franchises go way back, having been AFC West rivals for years until the Seahawks moved to the NFC West in 2002.