The 1984 Seattle Seahawks overcame some unexpected adversity on their way to a big year. Coming off a trip to the AFC Championship Game in 1983, the first under head coach Chuck Knox, Seattle had established itself as a run-first team. Then running back Curt Warner hurt his knee in the season’s opening game, the Seahawks recast themselves on the fly and still won 12 games.
Warner was a second-year back and his arrival, along with that of Knox, had produced Seattle’s first playoff season the prior year. When he was knocked out for the year, the burden fell on quarterback Dave Krieg.
Krieg responded with a Pro Bowl year, completing 58% of his passes, throwing for over 3,600 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also threw 24 interceptions. Even in an era when quarterbacks threw more picks, this was a lot, but the good more than outweighed the bad.
And doing good at the quarterback position is a lot easier when you have Steve Largent at receiver. One of the craftiest wideouts of his day, Largent finished with over 1,100 yards receiving and his 74 catches were more than twice as many as anyone else on the roster.
Given what Seattle went through offensively, what they accomplished and how disproportionate Largent’s production was to the rest of the Seattle receivers, you can make a credible case for Largent as second for the MVP award. No one was going to touch Miami quarterback Dan Marino for the award in a year when Marino set records for yards and touchdown passes. But Largent was pretty valuable himself.
In spite of losing Warner, the offense ranked 5th in the NFL in points scored. The defense enjoyed the same rank in points allowed, led by strong safety Kenny Easley. With ten interceptions and a reputation as a fierce hitter, Easley won Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was joined on the 1st-team All-Pro list by nose tackle Joe Nash.
Seattle’s defense had a lot of playmakers and as we’re about to see, were a genuinely explosive unit. Defensive ends Jacob Green and Jeff Bryant combined for 27.5 sacks. Corner Dave Brown picked off eight passes and made the Pro Bowl. Free safety John Harris had six more picks.
The season opened with an odd Monday afternoon game. The NFL started the year on Labor Day weekend, as was the custom at the time and for this Monday, they decided to have an afternoon-night doubleheader. Saettle’s home game with the Cleveland Browns was the opening act for a Cowboys-Rams game in prime-time.
After ten carries for forty yards, Warner got hurt and the changes mentioned above began. Krieg threw a couple early TD passes, including one to future Vikings head coach Mike Tice. The defense forced five turnovers and Seattle coasted to a 33-0 win.
The ability to force turnovers delivered Seattle in a home date with San Diego. After falling behind 10-0, the Seahawks scored 31 straight points, keyed by eight turnovers. The final was 31-17. They kept it going for one half in New England in Week 3. Seattle grabbed a 23-0 lead on a punt return for TD by Paul Johns and a Pick-6 by Easley. But the loss of Warner caught up to them—unable to run the ball and kill the clock, Seattle fell apart and lost 38-23.
A home game with Chicago restored some order. This was a good Bears team, that would reach the NFC Championship Game and Seattle took them apart, scoring four defensive touchdowns, forcing six turnovers in all. The 38-9 win pushed them to 3-1. A less impressive performance against Minnesota still produced a win. In spite of four turnovers against a terrible team, the Seattle defense forced four of their own and executed better in the red zone, winning 20-12.
A return visit to the Los Angeles Coliseum was next. Prior to 2002, when Seattle was an AFC team, they shared the AFC West with its four current occupants. The Raiders, then in Los Angeles, were the defending Super Bowl champions and had dismantled Seattle in this building the previous January. This trip wasn’t all that much different—Seattle’s offensive line collapsed and Krieg was sacked six times, the pass defense was non-existent and the Seahawks lost 28-14.
Pass defense was an issue the following week in a home date with the woeful Buffalo Bills. After Krieg threw two touchdown passes and staked Seattle to a 17-0 lead, Buffalo rallied to take a 28-24 lead. Again unable to run the ball, getting just 41 rush yards, the Seahawks turned to Krieg and Largent they delivered. The combo hooked up on a 51-yard touchdown pass that enabled them to survive 31-28.
The Green Bay Packers were an adequate team, but one that had a great passing game, led by Lynn Dickey. Seattle went in to old Milwaukee County Stadium, where the Packers used to play three home games a year, and a great quarterback duel unfolded.
Krieg was 22/35 for 310 yards. Dickey went 24/38 for 364 yards. Largent caught seven passes for 129 yards, while counterpart James Lofton caught five for 162 yards. The defensive lines did their share of work too—six sacks for the Seahawks, five for the Packers. Seattle was able to survive, 30-24.
The pass rush continued to do its job a week later at San Diego, getting to Dan Fouts six times. Even though the running game was non-existent, Krieg was razor-sharp, going 23/29 for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Seattle coasted 24-0 and pushed their record to 7-2 as October came to a close.
Another shutout came at home against Kansas City. After an early Seahawk field goal, the Chiefs were driving when Brown intercepted a pass at his own 10-yard line and took it 90 yards to the house. The rout was on and the Seahawks won 45-0. Consecutive wins over AFC West foes by a combined 69-0 were a good way to set the stage for a Monday Night visit by the Raiders.
The offensive line again played poorly against the Raiders, with no running game to be found and Krieg hitting the deck six times. But this time the defense forced six turnovers. After trailing 7-0 at the half, Krieg threw a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes and Seattle escaped 17-14. The turnover-fest continued at Cincinnati, as the Seahawks forced five more in a 26-6 win.
Seattle, Los Angeles and Denver were locked in a tough fight for the top of the AFC West, heightening the stakes for the Seahawks’ visit to old Mile High Stadium in Denver. Krieg threw an 80-yard touchdown strike to open the scoring and open his best game of the season. Krieg went 30/44 for 406 yards and no interceptions. Largent caught 12 passes for 191 yards and they outgunned Denver’s John Elway 27-24.
The Seahawks and Broncos were now tied for first at 11-2, with Seattle holding the tiebreaker and still having a home game with Denver in the season finale. Los Angeles was giving chase at 9-4. The Seahawks were in firm command for one of the two wild-card spots, with New England being the only contender outside the AFC West.
Even though the Seahawks would lose a tiebreaker to the Patriots, the Pats were only 8-5. If you looked the other direction of the playoff bracket, Miami was leading the race for the #1 seed at 12-1, with Seattle and Denver both eyeing that spot.
The events of December 2 made it look like everything was coming up right for Seattle. Krieg threw five touchdown passes, with Largent catching eight balls for 104 yards in a 38-17 rout of collapsing Detroit. Denver lost at Kansas City. Miami lost to the Raiders. Seattle was alone at the top of the AFC West and tied for the #1 seed.
Then it came undone. The Seahawks played a horrible game at Kansas City, with Krieg throwing five interceptions in a 34-7 loss to a team that would finish 8-8, but did a nice job messing up their divisional rivals in December. Miami and Denver both won.
It set up a Seahawks-Broncos head-to-head battle for the AFC West title. NBC, which then had broadcast rights to the AFC, had to be thrilled that this late Saturday afternoon game had such stakes. If Seattle won, they would need Miami to lose on Monday Night in Dallas to gain the #1 seed.
Pittsburgh, the third division winner in what was then a three-division conference format with two wild-cards (the MLB format of today) was well behind the pack, but Seattle could finish in any of the 1,2,4 or 5 spots.
If the Seahawks would have known coming in that they would intercept Elway four times, while holding him to 9/21 for 148 yards, while Krieg threw for 334 yards, they would have undoubtedly expected to win. But Seattle was outrushed 143-79, they never got to Elway and Krieg threw a couple interceptions of his own. And Seattle’s turnovers were more damaging—trailing 17-7, Krieg threw a Pick-6 that all but sealed the Seahawk fate. They lost 31-14.
In the course of two weeks, the division title and possible #1 seed were gone. Even hosting the wild-card game was in doubt. If the Raiders won a home game with the Steelers, then the Seattle-Los Angeles playoff battle would again be in the Coliseum. Fortunately for Seattle, the Raiders showed up flat, lost the game and on December 22 came up to the Kingdome.
The oddsmakers did not respect Seattle and installed them as a (+1.5) underdog on their home field. The defense came back with the big-play ability that had been missing in recent weeks. They got to Raider quarterback Jim Plunkett six times, with Green leading the way with 2 ½ sacks. The first quarter went by scoreless, and a Krieg touchdown pass in the second quarter made it 7-0 at halftime.
Seattle had the best kicker in the NFL with Norm Johnson and he delivered field goals in the third and fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Seahawk defense was simply dominating. The Raiders had poor field position all game and only crossed midfield three times. Seattle didn’t help them with turnovers, as the Seahawks won the turnover battle 3-0.
Knox played it safe, and Krieg threw only ten passes. Unheralded running back Dan Doornink had the game of his life with a career-high 126 rush yards. Even though the Raiders got a 46-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Allen, the Seahawks were never in serious danger of actually losing a game that ended up 13-7.
Now it was time for another playoff rematch—Seattle had upset Miami in the Orange Bowl the previous year and went back there again this season for an early Saturday afternoon kick.
Krieg threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Largent in the second quarter and they only trailed 14-10 at the half. But a missed field goal by Johnson at the start of the third quarter decisively shifted momentum. Marino got rolling and Seattle couldn’t slow him down, only holding the ball for a little over 24 minutes. The loss of Warner and the lack of a running game finally caught up to them in a 31-10 loss to the NFL’s best passing attack.
The fact it took this long for the loss of one of the league’s marquee runners to catch up to Seattle though, is testament to the job of Knox and the performance of Krieg, Largent, Easley and the playmakers on defense. A 12-4 season and a playoff victory would not have been predicted without Warner and that’s what the 1984 Seattle Seahawks delivered.