Super Bowl MVP: Seahawks' Malcolm Smith a fitting choice

Super Bowl MVP is Malcolm Smith of the Seahawks, a fitting representative for a Seattle defense which combined to make a fearsome whole. The Super Bowl MVP also received a new pickup truck.

Bill Kostroun/AP
Super Bowl MVP: Seattle Seahawks' Malcolm Smith celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Seahawks won 43-8.
Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
A Seattle Seahawks fan cheers at the start of the game in MetLife Stadium at the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
Seattle Seahawks fans pose for photos outside of the at MetLife Stadium at NFL Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
Seattle Seahawks fans, Todd Gibson and his son Carsten Gibson cheer their team near the field at NFL Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
The Denver Broncos wait to enter the field at MetLife Stadium at the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Julio Cortez/AP
Bruno Mars performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, in East Rutherford, N.J.

11:00 p.m. Eastern: Searches for the word “rout” are currently spiking on Merriam-Webster’s website. That’s really all you need to know about tonight’s Super Bowl.

The perfect ending to Peyton Manning’s historic season proved doomed from the first bad snap, which resulted in a safety for the Seahawks. Somehow, his day only got worse from there. The Seattle defense held Manning to 280 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions, pedestrian numbers for a guy who has been anything but. Malcolm Smith, the Seattle linebacker who grabbed Manning’s first interception and recovered a fumble, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, but it could have just as easily been any number of players on Seattle’s defense. Richard Sherman had an uncharacteristically quiet game before his injury, but that’s because Denver mostly avoided throwing the ball anywhere near him.

Seattle’s defense did pretty much what they’ve done all season. The Seahawks offense, though, didn’t, and that was a good thing. Russell Wilson had 206 yards for two touchdowns and zero interceptions. That doesn’t seem like much, but it didn’t matter because the Seahawks used several players like they were number one weapons. Four different Seahawks were credited with at least one touchdown. Eight different players had receiving yards.

Smith as MVP, though, is a fitting representative for the rest of the Seahawks, a group of roundly overlooked individuals who combined to make a fearsome whole. He was drafted in the seventh round in the 2011 draft and didn’t even start for the Seahawks until Week 15. Seattle is full of similar stories: Richard Sherman was a fifth rounder ; Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round, after a punter. But developing that underrated talent has allowed Seattle the freedom to spend elsewhere in free agency, ultimately giving them a team that was too well-rounded for anyone to stop. Wilson and Sherman both made under $1 million in salary this season; under the terms of the most recent CBA, Wilson has to go at least another before the Seahawks can even think about paying him more. The real MVP of Seattle’s Super Bowl then, was a front office willing to take risks and some really good accounting. 

-Schuyler Velasco

10:15 p.m. Eastern time  Billed as one of the best matchups ever, the clash between the record-setting offense of the Denver Broncos and the top-ranked defense of the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII was a total wash. 

In the end, the Seahawks, one of the leauge's youngest teams and without any Super Bowl experience, dominated both sides of the ball, winning 43-8. The Bronco's, led by their 37-year-old quarterback Payton Manning, who was coming off the most remarkable single-season passing performance the NFL has ever seen, could not match the Seahawks intensity and speed.

The Seattle D redefined the "swarming" cliche. They were physical; they were fast; they dominated a Denver offense that scored nearly 39 points a game this year, shutting them out until the end of the 3rd quarter when Manning finally connected with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown. 

It was only the seventh time in Super Bowl history that the #1 offense played the #1 defense, and for the sixth time, the defense prevailed. 

The first play from scrimmage set the tone and, it turned out, told the story of the game in the first twelve seconds. Manning, as he began his familiar pointing and yelling as he surveyed the defense before him, saw the game's first snap sail over his head and into the endzone, giving Seattle an odd 2-0 lead -- the fastest score in Super Bowl history. Seattle scored a field goal on their first possession to lead 5-0 -- the first time the Super Bowl had ever seen such a score, and the third straight to feature the otherwise rare two-point safety. 

Everything went according to plan for the Seahawks -- and more. They kept the Manning juggernaut off the field for 12 of 15 minutes in the first quarter, and then intercepted the certain hall of famer twice to lead 22-0 at halftime.At the start of the second half, Seattle wide receiver Percy Harvin scampered 87 yards for a touchdown after the kickoff to put Seattle up 29-0. In the third quarter, Russell Wilson threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to push their lead to 36-0. By then, the game was already over.

-Harry Bruinius

9:30 p.m. Eastern time  | More commercials that stood out from the pack during Super Bowl 2014

There were a couple more commercials that stood out during the rest of the game.

Microsoft had a nice spot showing the benefits of technology, including providing mechanical legs for a handicapped child and an elderly man able to paint on his computer despite problems with his eyesight. Two extremely sweet scenes showed the benefits of video-chatting, one with a member of the military witnessing the birth of his child via the service and another where a toddler crowed and hopped up and down when she spotted a relative she knew on the screen.

A Jaguar commercial had Ben Kingsley (the supervillain Mandarin in "Iron Man 3"),  Mark Strong (the antagonist in the Robert Downey Jr. film "Sherlock Holmes") and Tom Hiddleston (villainous Loki in "The Avengers") poking fun at the fact that the big bads in film are often British. "We are more focused," Hiddleston said while managing to sip a cup of tea in a moving airplane. 

9:30 p.m. Eastern time  | Bud Light and Cheerios were fun, but Seinfeld emerged at the front of the pack for best Super Bowl commercials

So what ads have stood out? There have been a few commercials that have been creative or just fun. The Bud Light series of ads, in which what the company said was a man off the street agreed to drink a Bud Light and be "up for whatever" (whatever equaled Don Cheadle, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a llama), was fun but wasn't quite as memorable as these others.

A spot for Doritos had a clever kid requesting the bag of Doritos from a man walking by -- the little boy's excuse was he needed fuel for his "time machine" made out of a cardboard box. The gullible guy was totally fooled when the little boy started pushing the box to simulate a shaking machine, then the boy's scheme went even better when his grandfather shouted to scare him away just as the guy emerged from the box. The easily-fooled Doritos consumer assumed the grandfather was the kid with several decades added to his age, maintaining the time travel illusion.

There was a cute spot for Beats Music, a service which lets you select your location, who you're with, and what genre you want, among other factors, to get the best possible music. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres becomes involved in a Goldilocks-like tale when she finds herself dissatisfied by the music players of Papa, Mama, and Teenager Bear until she uses Beats Music and ends up dancing with the bear family. Later on, a commercial for Cheerios showed a dad breaking the news -- via individual Cheerios representing each family member -- to his daughter that she's about to get a new sibling.

She turns the tables by requesting, and getting, a new puppy.All the above commercials were fun, but the one that will have viewers buzzing tomorrow was the piece that reunited "Seinfeld" stars Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, and Wayne Knight.If you recall, Seinfeld and Alexander were spotted entering the show's famous restaurant together and Seinfeld was grilled on what exactly it meant. He called it a "secret project" and gave various hints about it, including that it was probably a one-time piece, it was longer than one minute, and that people would see it "very, very soon."

Well, we did. A spot that aired right before halftime had Seinfeld as Jerry and Alexander as George hang in the restaurant and discuss Super Bowl plans. It turned out Jerry hadn't gone to "the Wassersteins'" party because George had committed various faux pas, such as "over-cheering," previously at their house and he was no longer welcome.

Longtime Jerry nemesis Newman was, though; he passed by the duo and gloated that he was picking up Danishes on his way to the party.What happens next? Apparently it will be part of Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee online series, which usually has Seinfeld as himself and has included him chatting over java with such comedians as Louis C.K., Alec Baldwin, and David Letterman.

-Molly Driscoll

9:00 p.m. Eastern time  | Janet Jackson, 10 years later

Ten years later, when people hear the phrase "Super Bowl halftime show," they still think of the 2004 incident which occurred at the show starring Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. The show was condemned at the time by FCC chairman Michael Powell, who called it "a new low from primetime TV."

But what would the reaction be to a similar incident happening today? In comparison, when Miley Cyrus performed at this year's VMA Awards and provoked controversy over her twerking, the FCC received 161 complaints, according to ESPN, much different from the outcry that resulted from Jackson's performance. 

Powell himself told ESPN he thinks things have changed. "It might have been essentially the last gasp," he said of all the complaints that arose.

"Maybe that was why there was so much energy around it. The Internet was coming into being, it was intensifying. People wanted one last stand at the wall [referring to the ability to police what children saw]. It was going to break anyway. I think it broke."

Singers Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson are seen during their performance prior to a wardrobe malfunction during the half time performance at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston. The Supreme Court decided Friday not to consider reinstating the government's $550,000 fine on CBS for Janet Jackson's infamous breast-bearing "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl. David Phillip/AP/File

8:45 p.m. Eastern time  | Bruno Mars, Red Hot Chili Peppers rock the halftime show

The combination of Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers made for a Super Bowl halftime show at which everyone seemed to be having fun, particularly the performers themselves.

Mars, looking retro in a gold lamé suit jacket and skinny tie that matched those of his band, kicked the performance off with a drum solo before he and his band launched into "Locked Out of Heaven." Mars and the band's impressive dancing enhanced the performances of "Treasure" and "Runaway Baby."

When Mars, his group, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers teamed up for "Give It Away," the entire crowd onstage seemed to be having fun jamming together, culminating in the performers all jumping up and down together, until Mars brought in a serious mood with a performance of "Just The Way You Are" that was preceded by servicemen and -women dedicating the song to loved ones back home.

While Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers may have seemed like an odd combination to some at first, the halftime show performers kept things moving and made the show a fun, high-energy break from the football. 

-Molly Driscoll

7:45 p.m. Eastern time  | The Seattle Seahawks defense has turned the first half into a blowout 

We knew the first half would be all about the Broncos offense or the Seattle defense. It was the latter. Richard Sherman and company started things off with a forced fumble that led to a safety against the Broncos (a weirdly common event in the Super Bowl). Cam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith have both intercepted Manning; Smith’ s was a deflection from Sherman that he ran back for a touchdown, giving the Seahawks a 22-0 lead to close out the half.

In addition to the deflection; Sherman has had a marked effect on the game in other ways. Manning has barely thrown the ball in Sherman’s direction. He’s made Eric Decker and whoever else he covers a non-issue.

Things keep getting worse for Denver. 

Denver Broncos' Britton Colquitt (4) talks with Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman (25) before the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, in East Rutherford, N.J. Jeff Roberson/AP

-Schuyler Velasco

7:20 p.m. Eastern time  | Broncos contain Seahawks’ Lynch. But oh yeah, Percy Harvin.

Hey, remember Percy Harvin? The multi-faceted wide receiver that the Seahawks signed as a free agent last year and has been absent for most of the season? Well, he’s back, and he’s suddenly helping the Seahawks passing attack look a lot scarier.

Harvin has been the big question on the Seahawks offense all season. When he’s healthy, he gives the Seahawks a lot of options in the passing game and doubles as a potent kick off returner (case in point: his 30-yard run to start things off, the longest by a wide receiver in Super Bowl history). The passing game of the Seahawks is suddenly looking a lot more interesting, and Harvin has to be a part of that.

Meanwhile, the Broncos defense seems to have Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks running game figured out so far. No one has figured out how to stop fumbling, despite the weather. Manning was just intercepted, so the Seattle secondary is doing as advertised.

-Schuyler Velasco

7:00 p.m. Eastern time  | Renee Fleming makes the National Anthem look easy. That's hard. 

If past Super Bowls have taught us anything, it’s that the National Anthem is a notoriously difficult song. Its wide range (an octave and a half) and deceptively difficult lyrics make it the spectator sport within the spectator sport and a litmus test for a pop star’s vocal ability. Some, like Whitney Houston, pass with flying colors. Too many others to count fail by misjudging their range or not thinking to have the lyrics on lockdown before they get in front of 90,000 people.

That makes what Renee Fleming did so remarkable: She made the National Anthem seem easy. And it was, for her: Her vocal range is three octaves and change, and she memorizes operas in multiple languages as part of her day job. She gave the National Anthem all of the pomp and grandeur that was originally intended for it without even breaking a sweat (and why should she? on a normal shift Fleming has to keep that up for another four hours or so).

So why don’t we have opera singers do the National Anthem more often? It’s partially their anonymity: If you can name even two opera singers, one of them is Renee Fleming, but most of America didn’t know who she was before this week.

But also, perhaps, maybe we like the Anthem as a spectator sport. We like not knowing whether Alicia Keys or James Taylor will make it to that final high note on “land of the freee,” or whether Kelly Clarkson will go for the octave jump on that same line and nail it. When they do, it’s exhilarating as a figure skater landing a jump. When they don’t…well….

Opera singer Renée Fleming sings the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos Sunday, in East Rutherford, N.J. Matt Slocum/AP

That’s all to say, I love Renee Fleming. She killed it, as expected. But I’m not ready to give the anthem over to the opera world just yet.

-Schuyler Velasco

6:30 p.m. Eastern time  | Richard Sherman vs Peyton Manning: Who has the best team... of pitchmen?

Yes, there’s a Super Bowl ring up for grabs tonight. But there’s something else at stake for the players: endorsement dollars. So just for fun, let’s briefly break down the rosters in terms of their commercial viability.

In advertising as in football, Peyton Manning is the best guy on the field, and he might be one of the best ever. He brings surprising comic timing and a gawky commitment to his ad spots that have helped make him one of the most recognizable faces in American sports and earned him upwards of $12 million in endorsement deals as of June 2013, according to Forbes. You’ve probably seen him lately in spots for Papa John’s, and he owns several Papa John’s franchises in Colorado.

The Seahawks, though, may have a more well-rounded pitchman team. Quarterback Russell Wilson will supplement his tiny (for a starting QB) six-figure salary with a commercial for American Family Insurance, to air during the game. He’s also inked deals with Alaska Airlines and Levi’s. Richard Sherman has parlayed a mercurial on-the-field image into deals with Century link and Beats headphones, as well as one of the top-selling jerseys in the NFL (which is crazy for a defensive player.) and Marshawn Lynch? He doesn’t say much, but he may have cornered the candy market. He just signed a deal with Skittles, and based on this incredible segment he did with NFL Japan, he could become an influential voice in the candy marketing world.

But none of them can match Manning’s longevity or consistency in the commercial game. He’s the greatest.

-Schuyler Velasco

6:10 p.m. Eastern time  |  Pre-game thoughts

A lot has been said about the epic clash between Denver's record-smashing offense and Seattle's immovable defense. Like the eye-popping 23.5-point difference between Denver's scoring average (37.9) and Seattle's points-allowed average (14.4) -- the widest in Super Bowl history.

But what about when the Broncos' defense faces the Seahawks' offense? Will Denver's 7th-ranked defense against the run be able to stop Seattle's 4th-best ground game this year, and its featured running back Marshon Lynch, one of the best in the game? Or will the Seahawk's dynamic young QB Russel Wilson and his 26th-ranked passing attack be able to pick apart Denver's 27th-best passing coverage?

I wouldn't sleep on the Denver defense, however. Part of Seattle's game plan is to keep Payton Manning off the field. But over the last four games, including the playoffs, Denver's D has allowed about 15 points a contest -- and no more than 17 in any of those games. They had been surrending almost 27 points a game before, so they've found their groove lately against some powerful offenses. 

Seattle's O, by contrast, has had five of their eight worst scoring games over the last two months. If the Broncos can shut down the Seahawk's running game and make Wilson beat them, it might be tough to keep Manning off the field. Still, of the six #1 offenses versus #1 defenses in Super Bowl history, the defense has won five of these. So history is on Seattle's side. 

-Harry Bruinius

5:50 p.m. Eastern time  | The ads to stick around for

There are those who stay glued to the TV to see every part of the football game... and then there are those who only emerge from the kitchen to see what commercials are being aired this year.

What ads should you stick around for? With the increasingly common practice of posting commercials online beforehand (or at the very least a short preview), we've had the chance to sneak a peek at some of the spots. Here are four commercials that should bring you back to the living room.

--Budweiser, "Coming Home"

Budweiser shares a heartwarming story about a soldier returning home in this ad. Upon returning home, Lt. Chuck Nadd is surprised with a parade thrown by his hometown of Winter Park, Fla. and Budweiser, and the celebration comes complete with Clydesdales and a reunion with his mother. 

--Duracell, "Trust Your Power"

This spot highlights deaf Seattle Seahawks player Derrick Coleman, showing his determination as he pursued his dream of playing football. When Coleman wasn't drafted in 2012, people "told me it was over," he says in the ad. "But I've been deaf since I was three, so I didn't listen."

--Stephen Colbert for Wonderful Pistachios

The preview for Colbert's ad isn't even 30 seconds long, but the "Colbert Report" host is always worth checking out, and the blowhard personality he adopts for the program is much in evidence in the preview -- "Apparently, two professional football teams will be playing a game in honor of my first Wonderful Pistachos commercial," Colbert informs the audience. And will he actually appear with an eagle as it seems to hint?

--"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" trailer

Yes, it's still kind of odd that the "Spider-Man" movies were remade five years after the last film about the webslinger starring Tobey Maguire was released. But star Andrew Garfield was so good as the hero, embracing the snarky side of Spidey, and the movie followed a new enough plot line that we're very curious about the sequel. "Amazing 2" seems to be packing in a lot of villains -- please don't repeat the mistakes of Maguire's "Spider-Man 3"! -- but Jamie Foxx as Electro looks promising. 

-Molly Driscoll

5:30 p.m. Eastern time  | Peyton Manning’s “best season ever” on the line. It shouldn’t be.

Peyton Manning has been penciled in for having the best season ever by an NFL quarterback. He broke the single season passing yards record (5,477 years). He broke the single season touchdown record (55). And last night, the Associated Press awarded him both Offensive Player of the Year and his fifth ever MVP award, when no other player has won more than three.

But that will by mostly forgotten unless he beats the Seahawks tonight. This, unfortunately, is what happens to freakish accomplishments in the NFL that fall short of a ring: we almost never here of them again. Take, for instance, the Patriots’ near-perfect season in 2007, chucked from history by an unlikely Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Or the permanent qualifying phrase, “never won a Super Bowl,” next to Dan Marino’s name.  That pencil won’t become ink unless Manning completes that last step.

So before he takes the field, just in case, let’s appreciate Peyton Manning’s 2013 one last time, without the possible qualifying phrase. Let’s appreciate that he had it at age 37, when it looked like injury might force him into retirement two years ago, proving that the quarterback position is as much about the mind as it is anything else. Let’s appreciate how hard it was to win a fantasy football league this season without him on your team. 

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning answers questions as smart phones and other cameras capture the scene during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game, Jan. 28, in Newark, N.J. AP Photo/Doug Benc

And while we’re at it, let’s appreciate the Seahawks defense, one of the best in the pass-happy NFL’s modern era. Because all of the above applies to them if Manning solidifies his “best season ever.”

-Schuyler Velasco

5:15 p.m. Eastern time  | Do Super Bowl commercials really need their own previews?

Super Bowl commercials have become an art form in themselves, with some companies managing to spin truly funny, heartwarming, or fascinating spots for the big game.It is, however, a little odd that commercials -- you know, the ads that air during a game -- are now getting their own previews.

Two of the ones I'm excited about, Stephen Colbert's Magnificent Pistachios spot and the trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," have released previews for their commercials. I know that it drums up excitement for the actual spots and gets the ads on viewers' radar.But apart from the absurdity of a commercial getting a preview like a TV show or film, since commercials are only minutes long themselves, sometimes it's fun to be surprised by a great ad.

Chrysler famously kept their Super Bowl commercial plans under wraps last year, then debuted the "Farmer" ad featuring narration by Paul Harvey. So future Super Bowl advertisers -- remember that the commercial that viewers are talking about Monday morning is usually the one that emerged out of nowhere.

-Molly Driscoll

5 p.m. Eastern time  | Live from MetLife Stadium

It's 50 degrees right now at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey -- so no blizzard in sight for the first open-air cold-weather Super Bowl in nearly a half century. Darn! I have to admit, I was rooting for at least a windy winter squall today. Wasn't that the point?

And here's another old-school football ritural missing at the stadium today: tailgating. Security concerns kept away the lounge chairs and charcoal grills since 2001, of course -- though the NFL said fans can have food or drink in their cars. I didn't seen anyone scarfing down a brat and beer over their steering wheel on the way in, however. 

And poor East Rutherford -- the borough of with 8,978 residents with a giant sports complex in its backyard. They're having their own tailgaiting party, blocking off their version of Park Avenue so local restaurants and muscians can celebrate the annual super Sunday ritual playing out in their own back yard. But they can't even mention the word "Super Bowl," or use any logos or anything NFL-related for their revelries. So they're calling it "The Meadowlands Tailgate Party Live from East Rutherford.” 

“I think it's an absolute disgrace,” said Michael Hildebrandt, 34, a lifelong resident of the borough told “It’s a total smack in the face of the borough of East Rutherford and their citizens.”

New Jerseyians have been touchy this week, too, fighting for their equal billing as this Super Bowl's co-host. But after a week of Manhattan-focused events, today it's all about New Jersey -- well, at least those parts of the Garden State officially sanctioned by the NFL. 

-Harry Bruinius

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