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First Snap Tells the Tale

Posted Feb 2, 2014

Independent Analyst Andrew Mason breaks down the Super Bowl XLVIII loss.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rarely does the first snap tell the story of the entire game. 

But that's what the wayward shotgun snap did at MetLife Stadium for the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. It was off-target, destroyed the intended play and foretold the out-of-synch play to follow in a 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. 

The most prolific offense in league history, owner of the league's single-season scoring record and multiple other standards, was dismantled by a defense that was a perfect storm of pressure from the front four and alert, fast defensive backs that read the Broncos' routes and intent better than anyone else has in the last two seasons.

That is the equation for defusing even the best of timing-based passing offenses. But it seemed as if the only time that resulted in any extended issues was when these factors were combined with nasty weather: extreme cold in the 2012 playoffs and gale-force winds in New England last Nov. 24.

But the unraveling began with that snap, uncharacteristic from an offense that rampaged through the previous 18 games with laser precision, then was barely a candlelight as the Seahawks built an insurmountable lead. 

Seattle's fans roared at the opening snap, and Peyton Manning stepped forward while the football whipped over and past him, not stopping until it hit the end zone.

"It was real loud," said Ramirez. "None of us heard the snap count. I thought I did, and then I snapped it. I guess Peyton was trying to walk up to me at the time; I'm not 100 percent sure."

Added Manning: "(The snap) was a cadence issue. We were using the snap count on the play and due to the noise, no one could hear me. So really, I was walking up to the line of scrimmage to sort of make a change and get us on the same page. And then the ball was snapped."

And by the time Knowshon Moreno fell on the football, the Broncos and their fans were stunned, and just 12 seconds into the game, behind for good. 

"Really, just an overall (mistake)," Manning said. "Nobody’s fault, not Manny’s fault. Just a noise issue that really caused that play to happen."

"There's no explanation," Ramirez added.

Those comments could have applied for to the assessment of the entire game. There are explanations, but none are really adequate. And the blame doesn't just rest at the feet of one player; a 35-point loss belongs not to one, but to all.

"We just didn't match their intensity," said cornerback Champ Bailey

"Everybody was hyped (at the start, but throughout the game, that killed all that joy, because of the way we were playing, and the way things were going," he added. "There just wasn't that excitement."

And then, when there was one final chance after hitting the reset button at halftime, Percy Harvin's dash through the kickoff-coverage team effectively ended any realistic hopes the Broncos had, and sunk their energy further.

"It was very deflating," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "We had led 24-0 on New England. We knew it was possible to come back." 

But then it was 29-0, and the second half was a series of drives back and forth that merely were a bridge between the decisive first half and the eventual outcome. But the tone had been set with the first snap. It knocked the Broncos off-course, and they never found their way back.