Manning, Broncos begin Super Bowl with ball
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The Super Bowl got off to its strangest start ever as Denver Broncos center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball by Peyton Manning on the first play from scrimmage. The ball was recovered by 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.
The first Super Bowl played outdoors at a cold-weather site was an abnormally warm 49 degrees and hardly the winter wonderland many expected for the NFL's biggest game at MetLife Stadium.
Manning and the Denver Broncos' top-ranked, record-breaking offense opened with the ball after the Seattle 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 caught 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 as the game began.
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) were ready to go 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.
Sherman and Seattle's defense are stuck with the tough task of trying to make Manning uncomfortable by forcing him outside the passing pocket. Manning has had a record-setting season, throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards while winning The Associated Press NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards Saturday night.
It's Manning's third Super Bowl after splitting his first two, both with the Indianapolis Colts.
Denver's defense will try to contain the quick-footed Wilson by keeping him in the pocket and prevent him from making plays by scrambling. Wilson has 27 wins in his first two seasons, including the playoffs, which ties him with Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger for the most in the Super Bowl era. He could also join Roethlisberger, New England's Tom Brady and St. Louis' Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl within his first two seasons.
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. His Carolina Panthers lost 32-29 to New England Patriots in 2004, but he could help lead Denver to its third Super Bowl title - and first since John Elway quarterbacked the franchise to consecutive wins in 1998 and `99.
Elway is at this Super Bowl, too, now as Denver's executive vice president.
Seattle's Pete Carroll is in his first Super Bowl as a head coach, and it's also the Seahawks second time in the big game. They lost to Pittsburgh in their only other appearance.
These franchises also go way back, having been AFC West rivals for years until the Seahawks moved to the NFC West at the start of the 2002 season.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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