By Scott Malone
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Seattle Seahawks' aggressive defense, mostly made up of overlooked and unwanted players, dominated the Denver Broncos on Sunday, setting the stage for a blowout 43-8 Super Bowl victory.
The quick-handed defenders snagged two interceptions, including one in the second quarter that linebacker Malcolm Smith returned 69 yards for a game-breaking touchdown and earned him Most Valuable Player honors.
As the players passed the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the winning team around their locker room, kissing it and posing for pictures with the silver football, they rejoiced in having shown up their critics.
"A bunch of misfits, that's what they called us," said defensive end Red Bryant. "A bunch of nobodies. Inexperienced. Ain't never been there. You see what misfits get you. You see what overachievers get you."
Defensive end Chris Clemons, who also bristled at the "misfits and overachievers" label, was ebullient.
"Nobody gave us a chance," Clemons said. "We was a bunch of guys nobody wanted, we were a bunch of late-round draft picks."
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said he had advised his players to focus on harrying veteran Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who already holds a Super Bowl ring and numerous passing records.
"That was one of the things we knew, that when you face a quarterback like him, you better be able to affect him," Quinn said. "We didn't talk about the size of hits, we talked about, 'Can we get him off the spot?'"
While Denver's offense had been the top-rated in the National Football League heading into Sunday's championship, Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said he had been confident he would be able to surprise them.
"We've seen that they haven't played a defense like ours," Wagner said. "We figured that the longer and longer the game went, they were going to fall eventually."
Denver's Manning tipped his hat to Seattle's coverage.
"They have an excellent defense," Manning said. "We got behind early and never could make a run to catch up."
(Reporting by Scott Malone, editing by Gene Cherry)