NEW YORK – The seeds of Denver’s stunning Super Bowl self-destruction were planted during last Wednesday’s practice when coach John Fox decided to turn down the speakers that simulate crowd noise because “it’s not an away game.”
A silent snap count would have been so much better because Seattle’s famed 12th Man showed up on Denver’s first play from scrimmage and helped ruin whatever great game plan offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Peyton Manning had come up with.
MetLife Stadium might not have been as loud as CenturyLink Field, but it was plenty spirited as the start of all Super Bowls are and when Manning lined up in the shotgun and called for the ball from his 14-yard line, his center couldn’t hear the cadence.
Manny Ramirez crouched still and just as Manning stepped up to reset the play, Ramirez’s snap sailed into the north end zone, where running back Knowshon Moreno smothered it for a safety.
“Nobody’s fault,” Manning said. “It was just a noise issue.”
Twelve seconds in, the Broncos trailed and never recovered on their way to a humbling 43-8 blowout by the swarming Seahawks.
“That’s the way the start of any Super Bowl, it’s going to be loud,” said Wes Welker, now 0-3 in Super Bowls. “The fans are going to be yelling. They don’t really know why they’re yelling. It’s just the start of the Super Bowl. We didn’t prepare very well for that and it showed.”
At the Jets’ practice facility Wednesday, head coach John Fox had his team run several live drills with eight speakers on one side of the field blaring crowd noise to help with concentration, but he didn’t turn them on full blast.
“Normally, it’s about five times louder than that,” explained Fox, who had coached in the Super Bowl as the Giants’ defensive coordinator and the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. “It’s not an away game. The ones I’ve been to haven’t been too loud. So we just kind of practice with what we think we’re going to get.”
The Broncos’ self-inflicted mistakes were only just beginning.
Pressured relentlessly, Manning would lose a fumble and throw two interceptions, including one that game MVP Malcolm Smith returned for a 69-yard touchdown.
“This was our worst execution all year,” said tight end Julius Thomas, one of a record five Broncos who had scored double-digit touchdowns during a record-shattering 606-point season.
“We just never found a rhythm offensively,” added wide receiver Eric Decker. “We got behind and we had to cut down on what our game plan was and couldn’t do certain things.”