BY MARK TYE TURNER
Usually when teams face off in the Super Bowl, they don’t have a lot of history against each other because they are in different conferences. In the case of the Seahawks, however, that is not true. The Hawks resided in the AFC for a quarter of a century before switching to the NFC in 2002.
In last year’s Super Bowl, Seattle was pitted against their old AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos. This year, the Seahawks are battling another old familiar foe, the New England Patriots. During one stretch in the 1980s and 1990s, the teams played each other 12 times in 14 seasons.
The series started on a foul note on a rainy Foxborough field in 1977. The Seahawks were shut out for the first time in team history. Steve Myer, subbing for an injured Jim Zorn, was 5 of 23 for only 71 yards and four interceptions. Yes, he had only one more completion than interceptions.
Three years later the two teams met for the first time in Seattle. To an objective observer, it was an entertaining game. Five lead changes and a total of 68 points scored. But Seahawk fans won’t remember it as being entertaining. Matt Hasselbeck’s dad, Don, scored the winning touchdown for the Pats who won 37-31.
In 1982, the Patriots accomplished two significant (but not entertaining) feats in their 16-0 victory against the Hawks in Seattle. They became the first team to shut out the Seahawks twice in team history (only the Steelers would ever join this club in the future). There were also the third of only five teams to ever hold the Hawks scoreless in Seattle (an occurrence that has not happened in the past 22 years).
The following year they faced each other again. It was the final game of the regular season, and Chuck Knox’ Hawks were in a historic position: Beat the Pats at the Kingdome and they would go to the playoffs for the first time in Hawk history. In their most complete game of the regular season, the Seahawks cruised to a 24-6 victory. After going to the locker room at the end of the game, many of the players returned to the field for a curtain call from the 12th Man.
The Hawks and Pats squared off in both 1984 and 1985, each a horrifying loss in its own way. In the ’84 game, the Seahawks jumped to a 23-0 second quarter lead in Foxborough, Mass., only to see Tony Eason come in and rally the Patriots to 38 unanswered points.
The next year saw the teams tied at 13 late in the game with Dave Krieg driving the Hawks to the winning score. But Krieg tried to force a pass that was tipped at the New England 2-yard line, and Patriot safety Fred Marion snagged the ball and returned it 83 yards to the Seattle 15. Two plays later, the Pats scored a touchdown and the Hawks were doomed to miss the playoffs.
Before last Sunday’s game against the Pack, possibly the most inexplicable comeback in Hawk history occurred in Foxborough in 1986. The Seahawks were down 31-21 late in the fourth quarter.
A Norm Johnson field goal cut the deficit to seven with just under three to play. Then, a third down sack by Jeff Bryant with 2:20 remaining forced New England (and former Husky) Rich Camarillo to punt from the back of the Patriot end zone. Camarillo had a punt blocked earlier the game he was trying to boot it as soon as possible. But he didn’t see Seahawk Patrick Hunter elude everyone and block the punt. The ball bounced around the end zone before it skipped fortuitously into the waiting hands of fellow Paul Moyer for a Seattle touchdown.
After New England went three-and–out on their next possession, Seattle got the ball back with about a minute and half to play. On second down from their 33, Krieg spotted receiver Ray Butler beating two defenders and lofted a perfect pass to him at the New England 24. Butler sprinted to the end zone for the winning touchdown. The Hawks scored 17 points in 1:39 of play to send the Patriot fans down Despair Drive.
The Seahawks would go on to win five of the next six battles. One particular victory was more relevant than the others.
That was in 1992, the nadir in Hawks history: a 2-14 record under coach Tom Flores and owner Ken Behring. Fifty percent of the Seahawks’ victories that season came on a September afternoon in Foxborough.
I was at that ‘’92 game in the old Foxboro Stadium. Funny thing about Foxboro Stadium (other than it being spelled different than the city it was in) is how much its “Erector Set” design of four single grandstands made it look like a glorified high-school stadium. This was also when the Patriots were the fourth out of four pro teams in Boston in terms of popularity. On the other side of the country, Tom Brady was playing high-school football.
While the Seahawks’ historically inept offense could only manage 10 points, the defense was playing some inspiring football, especially Cortez Kennedy, who would be named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his work. Tez registered three sacks, four and a half tackles for a loss and forced two fumbles.
After he sacked Patriot QB Hugh Millen and caused the former Husky to fumble, the New England faithful began to groan. At this point I stood up and exclaimed “I thought everybody in Massachusetts loves a Kennedy!” Various scowls and screams of “SIT DOWN, SEATTLE!” were soon directed at me.
With the 10-6 victory, the Seahawks finished ahead of the Patriots, thereby giving New England (which also finished the season 2-14) the No. 1 overall draft pick. The Pats took Drew Bledsoe. Seattle chose Rick Mirer. The Hawks couldn’t win for losing.
A scheduling quirk and a shift of the Hawks over to the NFC caused the two teams to go 11 years without facing each other. Brady’s only appearance in Seattle occurred two years ago, and as we all know, that game ended with a Russell Wilson TD bomb to Sidney Rice and Richard Sherman Twitter bombing Brady with “U MAD BRO.”
The Seahawks and Patriots have played a regular-season’s worth of games against each other with both teams winning eight. This means Sunday’s Super Bowl will be the ultimate rubber match. A match not decided in the Northwest nor the Northeast but in the Southwest, in a stadium named after a university that doesn’t have a football team. That is goofier than spelling your stadium differently than the town it’s located.
Mark Tye Turner is the author of “Notes From a 12th Man: A Truly Biased History of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Seahawks Super Season” available on Amazon. You can follow Turner on Twitter @mtthawk
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