The Seattle Seahawks got off to a fast start — and kept going.
Malcolm Smith returned Peyton Manning's second interception of the Super Bowl 69 yards with 3:21 left in the opening half Sunday night to give the Seahawks a stunning 22-0 lead over Denver, the Broncos' biggest deficit of the season.
On third-and-13 from the Seahawks 35, Manning's arm was hit by Cliff Avril as he attempted to throw a pass to Knowshon Moreno. The ball fluttered in the air to Smith, who took off down the left sideline and into the end zone untouched for the fourth-longest interception return for a score in Super Bowl history.
Smith had the victory-sealing interception in the NFC championship against the San Francisco 49ers on a tipped pass in the end zone by Richard Sherman.
Marshawn Lynch's 1-yard touchdown run 3 minutes into the second quarter gave the Seahawks a 15-0 lead over the Broncos to cap a drive that came after Manning's first interception. Kam Chancellor picked him off on a pass that was too high and intended for Julius Thomas.
The key play for Seattle came on the first play of the drive, a 15-yard run by wide receiver Percy Harvin, who has 45 yards rushing for Seattle.
Manning and Denver's record-setting offense looked uncharacteristically sloppy and unproductive, with no first downs in the first 19 minutes.
The first play from scrimmage made for a strange start as Broncos center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball by Manning, who was walking up to the line and didn't have his hands ready. The ball was recovered by running back Knowshon Moreno in the end zone for a safety.
The Seahawks led 2-0 after 12 seconds, the fastest score in Super Bowl history. It was 2 seconds faster than Devin Hester's kickoff return for a score in 2007.
Seattle made it 5-0 on the ensuing possession when Steven Hauschka kicked a 31-yard field goal following a false start penalty on a drive helped by a 30-yard run by Harvin, who missed almost the entire season with injuries.
After Manning and the Broncos went three-and-out, Russell Wilson led an impressive 13-play drive, capped by Hauschka's 33-yard field goal that made it 8-0 with 2:16 left in the opening quarter. Seattle nearly had more as Doug Baldwin caught a pass from Wilson in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 14, but Nate Irving slapped it out of the wide receiver's hands.
The first Super Bowl played outdoors at a cold-weather site was an abnormally warm 49 degrees at kickoff at MetLife Stadium and hardly the winter wonderland many expected for the NFL's biggest game.
Manning and the Broncos' top-ranked offense opened with the ball after the Seahawks won the coin toss but deferred — with a pair of former New York-area Super Bowl stars at midfield in the Jets' Joe Namath and the Giants' Phil Simms.
Namath flipped the coin too soon, before Seattle had made its choice, so referee Terry McAulay intercepted the coin in midair. Then, Namath tossed it again after the Seahawks called “tails.”
It all kicked off after a stirring rendition of “America The Beautiful” by Queen Latifah, and a rousing performance of the national anthem by opera singer Renee Fleming — followed by a flyover and fireworks.
Many fans in the jam-packed stands were able to shed their heavy winter coats, sporting their orange Manning jerseys and blue and green Wilson and Richard Sherman jerseys.
While the New York-New Jersey area was expected to get hit with snow Monday morning, the record for coldest Super Bowl remained the 1972 game in New Orleans, where it was 39.
After a week of interviews and plenty of hype, the Broncos (15-3) and Seahawks (15-3) kicked off in a matchup of the NFL's top-rated offense — Denver — and the league's stingiest defense — Seattle. It's the sixth time that has happened, and the team with the top defense has won four of the previous five, with the only exception being Denver falling to San Francisco 55-10 in 1990.
Carolina's John Fox, who missed a month during the season to have open-heart surgery, is the sixth head coach in NFL history to lead two franchises to the Super Bowl and is looking for his first win. Seattle's Pete Carroll is in his first Super Bowl as a head coach, and it's the Seahawks second time in the big game.
These franchises go way back, having been AFC West rivals for years until the Seahawks moved to the NFC West in 2002.