NFL: Peyton Manning sets up shot at Super Bowl redemption as Denver Broncos face Seattle Seahawks
For Seattle, defeated in their lone Super Bowl appearance eight years ago, it will be another chance to win the biggest prize
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Monday 20 January 2014
In the end, the formbook nailed it. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, top seeds in the AFC and the NFC, have duly won their conference championships, setting up Super Bowl XLVIII on 2 February as a strategists’ dream: the National Football League’s best defense against its most potent offense.
For Seattle, defeated in their lone Super Bowl appearance eight years ago, it will be another chance to win the biggest prize. For Denver, participants already six times and winners on the last two occasions, in 1998 and 1999, the novelty will be smaller. As for Peyton Manning, it will be an opportunity to quell the doubters, once and for all.
Manning has already had a regular season for the ages, shattering NFL records for touchdown passes and yards thrown – and this after missing the entire 2011 season on account of a string of surgeries to correct spine problems that seemed to spell the end of his career. But steering the Broncos to a 26-16 win on Sunday over the New England Patriots and Tom Brady may have been the sweetest moment of all.
The only shadow on Manning’s claim to be the pre-eminent quarterback of his generation has been a supposed failure to deliver in the post-season when it mattered most – as evidenced by a sole Super Bowl Ring compared to Brady’s three. But this time – with 400 yards thrown, a 74 per cent completion rate and two touchdown passes, after drives that devoured seven minutes apiece – he delivered with a vengeance.
“You have to savour the moment,” the 37-year-old said afterwards. “It’s hard to win [the Super Bowl], but I’m telling you it’s hard to get there.” In fact, the scoreline flattered New England. By the time Brady made an impression it was too late, midway into the fourth quarter when the Broncos already held a 23-3 lead.
The Seahawks’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers came, as expected, after a grinding, drag-down confrontation between two stifling defenses. It also proved again how Seattle are all but unbeatable on home turf, in the cauldron of CenturyLink Field. But this time things were far closer than the 29-3 drubbing the Seahawks handed out in the regular season.
San Francisco were ahead through the first three quarters, only to fall behind to a Seattle touchdown and field goal. But on the game’s very last drive, trailing 23-17, Colin Kaepernick moved the football to Seattle’s 18-yard line. Alas his throw, aimed at star receiver Michael Crabtree, was thwarted by a leaping interception by the Seahawks corner Richard Sherman.
“I was making sure everyone knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver,” said Sherman with the swaggering self-belief that marks this Seahawks side. “When you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that’s what happens.” Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers coach, saw it differently. “If that goes an inch or two higher, Crabtree catches it for a touchdown and we win.” By such tiny margins are berths in the Super Bowl decided.
Latest in Sport
David De Gea to Real Madrid: Manchester United goalkeeper spotted arriving at Madrid airport
Angel Di Maria to Bayern Munich: Manchester United to make £24m loss as club want '£35m' for Argentina flop
Wimbledon 2015: Dustin Brown knocks Rafael Nadal out of the championship
Football kits 2015/16: The good, the bad and the downright worst new shirts from around the world for next season
Chelsea 2015/16 home shirt leaked again as new picture appears online
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Russell Brand condemns moment of silence for Tunisia attack victims as a 'minute of bulls**t'
- 4 'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
- 5 Right to die: Belgian doctors rule depressed 24-year-old woman has right to end her life
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...
£14500 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are contractors to...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of packag...