By Sam McPherson
Once upon a time in the National Football League, the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks were West Coast rivals in the AFC West division, and the two teams played each other in the postseason twice during the 1984 calendar year.
As the Raiders and the Seahawks prepare to renew their old rivalry this weekend in Seattle for a Week Nine, regular-season contest, it’s fun to take a time machine back 30 years ago and re-visit an interesting time for these two NFL clubs that are on very different paths today.
January 8, 1984
An expansion team in 1976, the Seattle Seahawks first made the postseason in 1983, finishing with a 9-7 regular-season record—behind the division-winning Los Angeles Raiders who finished 12-4.
This was the legendary Chuck Knox’s first season in Seattle as head coach, and the Seahawks had a rookie sensation in former Penn State running back Curt Warner. Seattle actually swept the Raiders in the regular season, beating them twice in three weeks midseason.
The other prominent rookie in the AFC West that season? Denver quarterback John Elway. The Broncos also went 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wild-card team, setting up an all-AFC West contest in the first round of the playoffs.
The Seahawks trounced Elway in the wild-card game, 31-7, although to be fair, the future Hall of Fame quarterback split time with the not-so-legendary Steve DeBerg in that game. Next, Seattle did the Raiders a favor by beating rookie QB Dan Marino and the 12-4 Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoff round, 27-20—scoring the last ten points of the game in the fourth quarter on the road.
Meanwhile, the Silver & Black crushed the Pittsburgh Steelers, 38-10, setting up a grudge match of the season series between the two AFC West teams, this time in the AFC Championship Game for a trip to the Super Bowl.
The old adage held true: It’s hard to beat an NFL team three times in the same season, as the Raiders rolled the Seahawks, 30-14, to get to their third Super Bowl in eight years. It was 27-0 at one point in the third quarter as the Silver & Black defense was focused, holding Seattle to just 167 total yards—and Warner to just 26 yards on 11 carries.
Of course, the Raiders went on to beat the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl for the team’s third and most recent NFL championship.
December 22, 1984
Almost a year later, the Seahawks finished with a 12-4 record, while the defending champs finished with an 11-5 record. Both teams qualified for the playoffs as wild cards, because the Broncos and Elway finished 13-3 to win the AFC West.
Of course, the Raiders had won the Super Bowl as a wild-card team in 1980, so they weren’t fazed by the situation—or so we all thought. Seattle and L.A. split the regular-season series, each team winning on their home field, but the Seahawks had won a squeaker in Seattle by just three points; the defending champs felt confident.
The Silver & Black were favored by 1.5 points, and it was expected to be a defensive battle—the game lived up to that hype, mostly. The Raiders gained just 240 yards, while the Seahawks totaled just 251 yards.
But Seattle ran hog wild over the L.A. run defense, posting a whopping 205 rushing yards on 51 rushing attempts. The Seahawks held the ball for over 34 minutes of game time and built a 13-0 lead behind someone named Dan Doornink—and his 126 rushing yards.
(Warner was out with a knee injury suffered in Week One of the regular season; his career probably was never the same afterward. Now, he’s just the second most-famous NFL player with that name.)
Seattle QB Dave Krieg threw just 10 passes as Knox took a page from the early 1970s Miami Dolphins’ playbook and just ran the ball down the Raiders’ throats. Marcus Allen scored a late TD for L.A., but the Seahawks won the game, 13-7.
The title defense was over.
Meanwhile, Marino and the Dolphins got their revenge on Seattle the following week, beating them, 31-10.
Chuck Knox would coach the Seahawks for seven more seasons, but Seattle never made it back to the AFC title game. After leaving Seattle after the 1991 season, Knox coached the Los Angeles Rams for three years before retiring at age 62 after the 1994 season. He won seven division titles in his impressive career—but he never coached in the Super Bowl.
As for the Raiders, well … they made the postseason four more times in Los Angeles before moving back to Oakland in 1995. And you know how that’s turned out for the Silver & Black.
Perhaps this Sunday’s contest will add to the lore of the two franchises’ rivalry, but 30 years ago, that rivalry was as intense as it ever would be between the old AFC West rivals.
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Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.