During his introductory news conference, Pete Carroll uttered a line on that January afternoon in 2010 that sounded audacious at the time but proved to be prophetic.
“We’re going to do it better than it’s ever been done before,” Carroll proclaimed on his first day as coach of the Seahawks.
During the 2013 season, Carroll’s fourth with a franchise that had captured one conference championship and played in a title game just twice in its first 37 seasons, the Seahawks went out and did just that. They not only won Super Bowl XLVIII, they did it in emphatic fashion by throttling the productivity out of the most-productive offense in NFL history during a 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos and QB Peyton Manning at MetLife Stadium.
The Seahawks not only made it look that easy, it was — even if they were the only ones who could see it coming against a Broncos offense that had done so much so right all season.
“I knew we’d play well, just because the guys had prepared so well,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said in the locker room after the game. “We’ve all heard about, ‘That guy, he’s got a chip on his shoulder.’ We’ve got a bunch of them. Big chips.”
In a game that was over long before it was finished, linebacker Malcolm Smith returned a first-half interception 69 yards for a touchdown, a pick-six that paved the way to Smith being named Super Bowl MVP, Percy Harvin returned the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a TD that made it 29-0, Russell Wilson threw second-half TD passes to Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, Marshawn Lynch also scored, and the defense made life miserable for Manning and any other Bronco who dared cross their determined and dominating path.
“I told the guys before, when we were watching film, I was like, ‘We’re going to come out and dominate these guys,’” linebacker K.J. Wright said of how the Seahawks’ confidence had grown despite a week of everyone telling them they had no chance to keep pace with the Broncos.
In the end, the Seahawks became the first team in Super Bowl history to score via a safety (on the first play of the game), kickoff return and interception return — as well as passing and rushing on offense.
What followed three days later was almost as mind boggling as the Super Bowl outcome: a victory celebration of a parade through downtown Seattle and an estimated crowd of 700,000 delirious 12s.
Obviously, that long-awaited first Super Bowl victory was well worth the wait.
“My mind is blown. My body is cold,” All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said as he was climbing out of the 29th — and final — vehicle that carried the players and coaches along the parade route on the chilly afternoon.
“But we’ve got the best fans in the world.”
And those fans — the 12s, as they have become known — had plenty to cheer about even before the Seahawks’ impressive run to the Super Bowl that included victories over the New Orleans Saints in the playoff opener and a dramatic six-point victory over the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers in a game that wasn’t decided until Sherman made what has been dubbed the “Immaculate Deflection” in the end zone that Smith intercepted with 22 seconds left in the NFC Championship matchup.
The Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense was paced by Sherman, whose eight interceptions led the league, the All-Pro safety tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, who finished second and third on the team in tackles and combined for eight interceptions, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, the team’s leading tackler, and linemen Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, who combined for 16.5 of the team’s 44 sacks.
“We put together a couple of seasons — back-to-back really big-time seasons in scoring and playing good, solid defense in a similar fashion,” Carroll said of the defense following an impressive 2012 season with an even better one in 2013. “And that’s pretty cool.”
The defense also led the NFL in interceptions (28) and takeaways (39), two big reasons why the Seahawks were a league-best plus-20 in turnover differential during the regular season and a playoff-best plus-7 in the postseason as well as average points (14.4), yards (273.6) and passing yards (172.0) allowed.
On offense, Wilson and Lynch provided a 1-2 punch that KO’d opponent after opponent, especially while shoving the zone-read option into a ridiculously productive gear. Wilson’s ability to escape pressure and Lynch’s knack for breaking tackles played off another, and into one another.
Wilson twice set the franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback, first with 77 in a Week 4 overtime win against the Texans in Houston and later with 102 in a Week 5 loss to the Colts in Indianapolis. But Wilson’s best plays were those he did not allow the defense to make because his mobility — no, escapability — made it impossible to catch him.
“He’s Houdini,” Sherman said of Wilson’s ability to not only escape from pressure situations but put the pressure on the defense because of it. “There’s some Houdini in there somewhere. I don’t know if he’s a relation.”
Lynch, meanwhile, produced 14 touchdowns during the regular season while rushing for 1,257 yards and catching 36 passes for another 316 yards. In the postseason, the team’s Beast Mode back added a playoff-leading 288 rushing yards and four more scores. As with Wilson, some of Lynch’s best plays were those he should not have been able to make after being hit at or behind the line of scrimmage.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to block for a back that creates yards like that,” Pro Bowl center Max Unger said. “When he does that and he’s throwing piles, and he’s carrying people before he goes down, it just makes you want to do your job that much better.”
On special teams, kicker Steven Hauschka scored 143 points — second in franchise history to the 168 that Shaun Alexander put up during his league MVP season in 2005 — and punter Jon Ryan had 28 of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
In the end, the sum of all this was obvious: The Seahawks had a chance to go where so few teams have by winning back-to-back Super Bowls, because they finally won their first.
Preposterous? Definitely not, as Carroll put it when he met the media one last time following the victory celebration, which also attracted 50,000 fans to CenturyLink Field and another 27,000 12s to Safeco Field across the street.
“It’s an extraordinary opportunity, because it’s so difficult for teams to come back and play well after winning the Super Bowl,” Carroll said. “We take that challenge on now, nose to nose. We’re going to go after it and see what we can do about it.”