As Peyton Manning took two steps forward to yell out the play call, after he likely saw something in the defense he thought he could exploit, something he’s done thousands of times before, Denver center Manny Ramirez flung the ball in the air, whizzing past Manning’s head, much to his surprise and dismay. The ball hit the ground and continued to roll into the Denver end zone until running back Knowshon Moreno ultimately fell on it, giving the Seattle Seahawks two points and a lead they would not relinquish.
For 18 games this season, the Denver Broncos galloped up and down the field. A record setting offense led by a now five-time most-valuable player could not be stopped; opposing defenses could only hope to contain them. But in their 19th game of the season, on the biggest stage of all, the Broncos pulled up lame, as the offense that dominated every team put in front of them, finally met their match.
After 18 phenomenal weeks of football, it took just one play for Denver’s entire season to unravel; one play to stop the seemingly unstoppable Broncos dead in their tracks; and one play to turn the dream of a Super Bowl into a 60 minute long living nightmare. After an 18-game buildup that began in spectacular fashion and included several NFL records, making us believe there was no challenge the Broncos couldn’t rise up against and defeat, it only took one play for the Broncos to fall flat on their face; and once down, the Seahawks made sure they were never able to get back up.
The Broncos literally took offense to another level in 2013, breaking the NFL record for points scored. They had a set of skill players that couldn’t be covered and one of the most brilliant minds in football history pulling the strings at quarterback. Denver’s running backs and receivers out-performed opponents with their talent, while Peyton Manning out-smarted opponents with his intellectual mastery of football. But in the end, the Broncos failed at the most fundamental part of football, the snap of the ball, and it became their downfall.
Once down 2-0, the Broncos might as well have packed up and headed home. They would trail 5-0 before Manning would touched the ball for the first time, and it would eventually take them three full quarters until their first and only touchdown of the game, a meaningless consolation prize. While all of their snaps were practically flawless the rest of the game, one bad snap dashed their confidence and took them completely out of rhythm against a Seattle defense that was fast and physical, and ready to strike.
One bad snap threw the Broncos completely off their game, while Seattle’s ferocious pass rush and physical secondary made sure there was no getting back on track. Had the first snap of the game landed perfectly in Manning’s hands, would the Broncos have struggled to move the ball and score points against the Seattle defense? Absolutely, but the bad snap changed the complexion of the game before Manning could get his hands on the ball, and it crushed the confidence that was built up by 18 weeks of brilliance. That one play, the very first play of the game, turned Denver’s Super Bowl into a super bust.