Super Bowl XVIII aftermath
Demoralized. Heartbroken. Just downright gloomy. The state of the Broncos after getting stomped to the tune of 43-8 against the Seahawks, you assume? Incorrect. Rather, it's how I'm feeling knowing this is the last NFL column I'll write for The Daily Campus.
If I had a dollar for every time an old-timer warned me that four years in college moved at Godspeed, I would probably have the cash to pull a Floyd Mayweather and put up a couple million on various sporting events. (The old-timers were right, by the way.) And if these four great years at UConn have flown by quickly, the last two seasons covering the NFL for the school paper have seemingly ensued in the blink of an eye - also known as a Percy Harvin kickoff return to the house.
I want to thank everyone who has made this tenure possible for me, including: my two loving parents, who also happen to be my biggest supporters; my great group of friends both back in Jersey and here on campus, never hesitating to lay on the constructive criticism and disagree with my opinions; and guys like Tim Tebow, Chad Ochocinco and Mark Sanchez, who have provided me with more than enough material to use them as punch-lines and cause my devoted fan base to double over with laughter (not double over in the Sanchez "Butt Fumble" way).
For my sendoff, I will share with you five things I am absolutely positive of after watching the bloodbath that was Super Bowl XLVIII. As always, feedback is recommended and appreciated. It's been a helluva ride serving as your NFL columnist but, as we're all aware of, contracts do eventually run out. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Tebow?
Referring to Russell Wilson as "just another Alex Smith" is an unforgivable sin...This is not a knock on Smith as much as it is an endorsement of Wilson. Smith, who set a career-high in yards and touchdowns this season en route to his first Pro Bowl selection, constantly gets labeled as nothing more than a "game manager"- someone that plays fundamentally sound football, doesn't turn the ball over and mostly defers to an elite running back. While Wilson has a top-tier running back in Marshawn Lynch and has thrown only 19 interceptions in 32 regular-season starts, his carving up of the Broncos in the Super Bowl served as the latest example that he is entering the realm of top-10 quarterbacks league wide. Wilson has a cannon for an arm (that's the MLB draftee in him), and his heart is the size of the lines of people hanging around outside MetLife Stadium waiting for New Jersey Transit on Sunday night. It may be premature to throw Wilson into the Rodgers-Brady-Manning category, but keep in mind that neither the Packers, Patriots nor Broncos have anyone close to Lynch as a backfield option. Besides, the Seahawks are often leading by so much in the second half of games that Wilson needn't do anything more than hand the rock off and attempt to kill clock (he ranked No. 22 among NFL quarterbacks in attempts, but No. 4 in yards per attempt). Against Denver, Wilson completed 72% of his throws, accumulating 206 yards and two touchdowns. Not only is Wilson a franchise quarterback, at age 25, he's already a Super Bowl champion.
The Seahawks acquisition of Percy Harvin was officially validated on Sunday...
In March, the Seahawks surrendered three draft picks, one of which was a 2013 first-rounder, to acquire dynamic wide receiver Percy Harvin from the Vikings. Seattle had to wait nearly a full year for their transaction to pay off but, under the brightest of lights versus the Broncos, Harvin shone like the closest thing to a diamond. Undeniably, I told everyone that Harvin would have zero impact in the Super Bowl, seeing that the guy is prone to suffering a brutal migraine, concussion and broken bone in his lower body every time he gets touched - that, plus the fact he totaled one catch all season after coming back late from hip surgery. Well, it turns out that Denver ignored him to the extent that I did. Because as much as Harvin seriously does seem to get significantly injured whenever a defender touches him, the Broncos barely laid a finger on him all evening. On the Seahawks' second play from scrimmage, they ran an end-around for Harvin that went for 30 yards and put Seattle deep in Denver territory. Harvin would add another 15-yard scamper before the first quarter came to a close (those 45 rushing yards were a game-high for either team). Then, to open up the second half, Harvin provided the dagger that knocked out any remaining wind that was left in Denver's' sails: an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, one that was fielded off of one hop and put Harvin's tantalizing combination of breakneck speed and explosiveness on full display. It gave Seattle a 29-0 lead, but more than that it gave Seahawks fans a dreamy picture of what to expect if Harvin were to stay healthy for an extended period of time. Even with a young receiving core, the offense would be virtually impossible to stop.
Seattle's WR's are vastly underrated, but that's not even the most underappreciated unit on their roster...
A wide receiver core of Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Golden Tate deserves to get more respect around the NFL, but it's actually the Seahawks' defensive line that most merits a love-fest. I think the main reason that the D-line flies under the radar is due to the insanely ferocious secondary. In reality, though, as much as I am enamored by Seattle's defensive backs, they are allowed to be premier ball hawks and ultra aggressive due to the guys that do the dirty work in the trenches. The Seahawks' number one offseason priority should be to resign Michael Bennett, their defensive end who totaled eight-and-a-half sacks this year and anchored a unit that allowed under four yards per carry to opposing running backs. But Bennett isn't the only stud in those D-line meetings; Chris Clemons (four-and-a-half sacks) - whom Seattle acquired on the cheap from Philadelphia - and Cliff Avril (eight sacks), who came over from Detroit, also represent the group that quietly ranks among the NFL's best. Going up against an impenetrable Denver offensive line that normally gives Peyton Manning Pope-like protection, Avril and his boys were the unsung heroes of the 43-8 rout. Manning was under duress the entire game, and his two interceptions were both a result of being hassled and on the verge of being sacked. Additionally, the Seahawks yielded a laughable 27 Broncos rushing yards. Now, that front office must figure out how to hang on to Clemons, Avril and Bennett.
It's not a debate: Peyton Manning's legacy did get tarnished a bit in the Seattle massacre...
Peyton Manning has now lost two Super Bowls, and his only Super Bowl victory has come against a Rex Grossman-led Bears squad. Brother Eli has more rings than him, and it's impossible to argue against the notion that Eli is a superior big-game quarterback. And honestly, who puts up more ducks: Peyton Manning, or a bird adoption? True, he has tossed a lot of wobbly pigskins in his record-setting campaign, but no two were as ugly as the two interceptions he accounted for versus Seattle-one even went for a pick-six by eventual MVP Malcolm Smith. If we're talking regular-season, Peyton has to be in the conversation for greatest gunslinger of all-time. Postseason-wise, though, LeBron James' resume blows away that of Peyton's. The elder Manning is currently 11-12 in 23 career playoff appearances, and I loathe that too many fans tend to ignore this based on him being such a likable character in interviews. Peyton's forehead is massive, but the elephant in the room is bigger: he is not at an all-time level when it comes to playoff greatness.
Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno didn't exactly put on an encore presentation for future suitors...
Like the Seahawks, Denver has some serious numbers to crunch in between today and the start of next season. Broncos' players whose contracts have or may expire include cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive end Shaun Phillips, offensive guard Zane Beadles, wideout Eric Decker and running back Knowshon Moreno. The latter two, Decker and Moreno, couldn't have posted worse performances in what is likely to be their last game in a Broncos uniform. Decker, who for the second consecutive year eclipsed 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns, was baffled by the Legion of Boom and had one catch for six yards. Moreno, meanwhile, quieted those who had considered him a bust (he was the No. 12 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft) by running for 1,038 yards and finding pay dirt 13 times (10 rushing touchdowns, three receiving touchdowns) this season. Still, in the Super Bowl he tallied just 17 yards on the ground. Hopefully, whichever NFL team scoops these guys up will pay them based on their entire year's production rather than just the Super Bowl.
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