Although the Seahawks have a ferocious looking raptor on their helmets, they figured to be duck soup for the Dolphins. After all, Seattle had a regular-season record of 9-7 and an unheralded quarterback, and had made the playoffs for the first time in their undistinguished eight-year history. These birds couldn't be expected to survive against mighty Miami, Super Bowl finalists last season, 12-4 in '83 and by some accounts an emerging dynasty, featuring the golden arm of rookie quarterback Dan Marino.
But what happened in the soggy Orange Bowl last Saturday was no fluke. Seattle beat the Dolphins in almost every phase of the game, from the stat sheet down to those old intangibles, character and poise, on the way to a 27-20 victory.
Marino, under heavy pressure, was looking through the trees all day. Two passes were tipped in his opening offensive sortie, and that set the tone for the whole game. After he was slammed to the ground on consecutive downs in the third period, Marino's throws seemed to lack the zip that had put him on top of the quarterback standings in the AFC; he was the first rookie to lead a conference in passing since the merger in 1970. Under the Seattle rush, Marino, with a rickety left knee that needs surgery and with his timing off, was a different guy from the boy wonder who had come out of Pitt to take away David Woodley's job. Midnight for Cinderfella.
Mistakes and mishaps crushed Miami, which made only five first downs in a desultory second half. An extra-point attempt was blown after the first Dolphin touchdown, a 19-yard throw to tight end Dan Johnson 2:23 into the second quarter. Marino suffered two interceptions. David Overstreet lost a fumble on the Seattle 45 in the third quarter, and in eight plays Seattle had rallied from a 13-7 half-time deficit, rookie running back Curt Warner carrying in from the one. And when the Dolphins needed something at the end, when they still had a chance to pull it out, there were successive fumbles by kick returner Fulton Walker.
The Dolphins were coming off two weeks of thumb twiddling after getting a first-round playoff bye, and Marino, whose fans think he needs only a llama rug to be the second coming of Joe Namath, hadn't played since twisting his knee on Dec. 4 against Houston. Seattle was riding a three-game win streak and was blessed with the skills of Warner as well as the coaching knowledge of flinty Chuck Knox, who rallies his troops with "Knoxisms," a collection of expressions straight out of Knute Rockne.
While a few Dolphins splashed in the pool at their Biscayne College training facilities on Thursday, the Seahawks settled for the rain and cold of Seattle, pumped up by the rumor that an overconfident Miami was looking past them to the Los Angeles Raiders in the next round. "Hit and hustle," said Knox. "If you win, there's enough glory for everybody.... Be smart and be tough.... Perfect practice prevents p——poor performance." Well, not exactly Rockne.
It hadn't quite sunk in that Knox had had eight playoff teams in his 11 years as the head coach of three different NFL teams, that the Seahawks had faced the toughest schedule in the league and that they had beaten the Raiders twice. Nor was it appreciated that Warner had led the AFC in rushing and that Dave Krieg. the team's gutsy little general out of Milton (Wis.) College, a football lemonade stand now out of business, could hang in against the rush, take his lumps—he had been sacked 38 times in the regular season—and come back for more. Krieg was, in fact, the second-rated quarterback in the AFC behind Marino.
On Saturday, Warner softened up the Dolphins with 113 yards rushing, most of that coming on juke-and-blast runs in which he pops towards the line, then makes a cut outside. Not surprisingly, the Seahawks are now 7-0 in games in which Warner has rushed for more than 100 yards. Krieg, who has started only 15 games in his four-year pro career, was 15 for 28 for 192 yards against Miami, including a pair of clutch heaves in the last 2½ minutes to Seattle's big-play man, wide receiver Steve Largent.
Seattle needed some last-minute heroics only because the Seahawks, with 4:44 left, had almost thrown the game away. At his own 27, with a 17-13 lead, Krieg threw a short pass to the outside while his receiver, Largent, went to the inside. Miami's Gerald Small intercepted. Three plays later, the Dolphins scored and Miami had a 20-17 lead with just 3:43 remaining.
At this point, the Seahawks might have been expected to put their tail feathers between their legs. Instead, they came up with those back-to-back big plays by Krieg and Largent—passes covering 56 yards—that set up Warner for the winning touchdown, a two-yard run. With 1:48 left, it was 24-20.
Capping a miserable Miami afternoon, Walker fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Seattle's Norm Johnson said thank you with a 37-yard field goal. The hapless Walker fumbled the next kickoff, and Seattle ran out the clock. The Seahawks had won their fourth consecutive game, the longest win streak in club history.
Charle Young, an 11-year veteran and one of the handful of oldtimers Knox had recruited for their leadership qualities, summed up the Seahawks' feelings by kissing the sodden Orange Bowl turf. "What's a Seahawk?" Young said later. "A Seahawk is a mean and vicious bird. It takes what it wants."
With 2:00 to go, Largent got the trailing Seahawks to the two with this 40-yard reception.
Eight seconds later, Warner took the ball in and the mighty Dolphins were down 24-20.
A miracle catch by Mark Duper gave the Dolphins a 13-7 advantage at halftime.
Except for one boo-boo, Krieg blitzed Miami, completing 15 of 28 for 192 yards.
Knox at times sounded like a latter-day Rockne.