Thursday, January 30, 2014

Seattle vs. Denver in the Postseason

Super Bowl XLVIII should be fantastic as the Broncos and Seahawks will meet in the fifth post-merger Super Bowl between the league's top scoring offense and top scoring defense.

SB (Year) #1 Offense #1 Defense Result
1978 (XIII) Cowboys Steelers Steelers 35-31
1984 (XIX) Dolphins 49ers 49ers 38-16
1989 (XXIV) 49ers Broncos 49ers 55-10
1990 (XXV) Bills Giants Giants 20-19
2013 (XLVIII) Broncos Seahawks ???

It's worth noting that the first Super Bowl featured the NFL's top defense (Packers) and the AFL's top offense (Chiefs). Super Bowl IV saw the AFL's top defense (Chiefs) take on the NFL's best offense and defense (Vikings).

This will be the second Super Bowl between the top offense and top defense in yards allowed. The Bucs (top D) rocked the Raiders (top O) in Super Bowl XXXVII. 

This year's Super Bowl participants were longtime division rivals. The expansion Seahawks joined the AFC West in 1976, but switched to the NFC after the 2001 season. We've had one Seattle-Denver meeting in the NFL postseason, and when we look at other sports there are also three meetings from the NBA.

Year Round Seattle Denver Result
1983 Wild Card Seahawks Broncos 31-7 Seahawks
Year Round Seattle Denver Result
1978 West Finals SuperSonics Nuggets 4-2 SuperSonics
1988 First Round SuperSonics Nuggets 3-2 Nuggets
1994 First Round SuperSonics Nuggets 3-2 Nuggets

1983 Wild Card

With new head coach Chuck Knox, the Seahawks went 9-7 to reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The team was buoyed by a midseason quarterback switch from Jim Zorn to Dave Krieg. The Broncos, with rookie QB John Elway, also went 9-7 to sneak into the postseason as well. The AFC Wild Card game would be on Christmas Eve at the Kingdome.

Seattle got on the board first in the opening quarter with Krieg's 17-yard touchdown pass to Steve Largent. Running back Curt Warner (not to be confused with Kurt Warner) carried the load though, running the ball on six of the drive's eight plays. Denver started Steve DeBerg at quarterback, and he tied the game with a 13-yard strike to Jesse Myles.

In the second quarter, DeBerg threw a pick deep in Seattle territory. Cornerback Kerry Justin's long return led to the period's only score, Norm Johnson's 37-yard field goal. Down 10-7 right before halftime, Denver missed another chance to take the lead when Gerald Willhite fumbled at the 5-yard line. The second half was all Seahawks.

On Seattle's first drive after the break, two deep passes by Krieg set up his 5-yard touchdown throw to Pete Metzelaars that made it 17-7. The host's next drive resulted in another score, this one on Krieg's 18-yard pass to Paul Johns on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Elway relieved DeBerg in the final stanza and played well, (10-for-15, 123 yards) but it was too late. David Hughes wrapped up the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run to close out a 31-7 Seahawks victory.

Krieg was 12-for-13 for 200 yards passing. Excluding those that threw only one pass, he is one of four players to achieve a perfect 158.3 passer rating in a postseason game.

Player Age Date ▴ Tm Opp Result Round Day Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A
Don Meredith 29-258 1967-12-24 DAL CLE W 52-14 Divisional Sun 11 13 84.62% 212 2 0 158.3 16.31 19.38
Terry Bradshaw* 28-108 1976-12-19 PIT @ BAL W 40-14 Divisional Sun 14 18 77.78% 264 3 0 158.3 14.67 18.00
Dave Krieg 25-065 1983-12-24 SEA DEN W 31-7 Wild Card Sat 12 13 92.31% 200 3 0 158.3 15.38 20.00
Peyton Manning 27-286 2004-01-04 IND DEN W 41-10 Wild Card Sun 22 26 84.62% 377 5 0 158.3 14.50 18.35
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/20/2014.

In the divisional round, the Seahawks traveled to Miami and pulled out a fourth-quarter comeback against rookie Dan Marino and the Dolphins. Seattle reached the AFC title game, but they were blitzed by the eventual champion Raiders in Los Angeles, 30-14.

With playoff games against fellow AFC West teams Denver and L.A., those Seahawks are one of four teams to play two division rivals in one postseason. The full list:

1982 Dolphins - beat Patriots in Wild Card, beat Jets in AFC Championship
1983 Seahawks - beat Broncos in Wild Card, lost to Raiders in AFC Championship
1985 Patriots - beat Jets in Wild Card, beat Dolphins in AFC Championship
1997 Buccaneers - beat Lions in Wild Card, lost to Packers in Divisional


1978 West Finals

With stars David Thompson and Dan Issel, Larry Brown guided the Nuggets to 48 wins and the Midwest Division crown. The SuperSonics got off to a 5-17 start, axed coach Bob Hopkins, replaced him with Lenny Wilkens and went 42-18 the rest of the way. Denver edged the Bucks in seven games to reach the West Finals. Their opponent would be the Sonics, who beat the Lakers in the first round before upsetting top-seeded defending-champion Portland.

Denver opened the series with a home victory, but Seattle took Game Two on the road to even the set. The Sonics took control on home court, using fourth-quarter surges to earn wins in the next two games and hold a 3-1 advantage. They missed an opportunity to clinch in Denver in the fifth game when Thompson scored 35 points and Issel added 27 to keep the Nuggets alive. But Game Six back in Seattle was a blowout, with Downtown Freddie Brown scoring 26 and Gus Williams scoring 24 in the Sonics' 123-108 win.

It was on to the NBA Finals, where they played another upstart squad, Wes Unseld's Washington Bullets. The two sides traded wins through the first six contests, setting up a winner-take-all seventh game in Seattle. The Bullets held off a late Sonics comeback and won 105-99. It's the last time a road team won Game Seven of the NBA Finals. The Sonics would get their revenge a year later, winning an NBA Finals rematch, 4-1.

1988 First Round

Alex English led the league's highest-scoring offense as the Nuggets won 54 games and earned the two seed in the West. The Sonics reached the playoffs as the seven seed, but despite being ten games worse in the standings, they gave Denver a scare in the first round.

Denver used a 42-point fourth quarter to earn a narrow victory in the opener, but Seattle took back home-court advantage with a blowout win two nights later. Tom Chambers scored a game-high 34 points in Game Three, but his Sonics fell by 11 at home. All-Star Xavier McDaniel scored 27 for Seattle in Game Four to tie up the series.

Game Five belonged to the Nuggets. English, Fat Lever, Danny Schayes and Michael Adams all scored more than 20 points in Denver's 115-96 win.

In the next round against third-seeded Dallas, the Nuggets were tied 2-2 after four games, but the Mavericks won the next two to reach the West Finals for the first time in franchise history.

1994 First Round

This was the first time in NBA history that an eight seed knocked off a one seed in the first round of the playoffs. The Gary Payton-Shawn Kemp-Detlef Schrempf SuperSonics went 63-19 and became the 15th team to win 63 games in a season (it's been done 12 times since). The Nuggets barely tallied a winning record, going 42-40.

It looked as if Seattle would make quick work of the Nuggets, blowing out Denver by 24 in the first game and winning by double digits again in the second. The Nuggets avoided a sweep with an easy win in Game Three, thanks in part to 31 points from Reggie Williams and Dikembe Mutombo's 19-point, 13-rebound effort. LaPhonso Ellis posted a 27-17 line in Game Four as the Nuggets outscored the Sonics 12-3 in overtime force a deciding fifth game back in Seattle. Denver showed heart in hanging with the league's best, but they were going back to Key Arena, where the Sonics went 37-4 during the regular season, plus the two easy wins to start this series.

Behold, NBC's open for Game Five, featuring Dick Enberg and Roundball Rock.

After more than 47 minutes, the Nuggets and Sonics were all even. In the final moments, LaPhonso Ellis pushed visiting Denver into the lead.

The Sonics needed some last-second heroics to force overtime. Kendall Gill grabbed Gary Payton's air ball and tied the game at 88 with 0.5 left. Dikembe Mutombo's final shot was too late and five more minutes were required.

That seemed to be Denver's best chance. Seattle looked in control in the extra period, forcing 24-second violations on the first two Nuggets possessions and leading 92-90 two minutes in. 

After Shawn Kemp set up Payton for a go-ahead bucket, Reggie Williams gave Denver the lead with a three-pointer, only for Kemp to score to put Seattle in front again, 94-93. But despite committing yet another shot-clock violation, the Nuggets recovered on defense, shutting out the Sonics for the rest of the game.

Ellis' three-point play made it 96-94 Nuggets. Mutombo followed with a block of Detlef Schrempf and Williams stole it from Payton on the next Seattle set. Still, a fourth 24-second violation gave the Sonics the ball back with 32 seconds left.

Mutombo made his eighth block of the game, this one of Kemp, to preserve the two-point lead. Two Robert Pack free throws later, it was 98-94 and the Nuggets closed out the shocking upset.

The image of an ecstatic Mutombo laying on the court with the ball is the indelible image of this series. It surely is the biggest Denver-Seattle sports moment, at least until Sunday night.

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