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Little Familiarity Remains Between Old Rivals

Posted Jan 20, 2014

Independent Analyst Andrew Mason looks ahead at the Broncos' matchup against Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII.

DENVER --The "Revenge Tour" doesn't quite have the same meaning against a foe that defeated you in the preseason -- or against a team that you haven't seen in the regular season in nearly four full seasons.

But Seattle's 40-10 preseason win over the Broncos at a raucous CenturyLink Field Aug. 17 exacted a toll, although not so much from the Seahawks themselves as from injuries. That was the night the Broncos lost Champ Bailey for all but three games of the next four months, and lost starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley for the season.

The Seahawks hit hard, often, and blind-sided the Broncos with explosive plays in all three phases, with quarterback Russell Wilson racking up a 141.3 quarterback rating. That, and their predilection for forcing Broncos fumbles -- three of them in the first half -- is why Seattle led 33-7 at halftime in spite of being outgained, 209 yards to 173. 

Seattle's aggressive defense helped them lead the league in yardage allowed, passing yardage allowed and interceptions.The suspension of cornerback Brandon Browner hasn't hurt the Seahawks as much as expected. Their pass defense has chugged along fine without him, and punctuated their recent play 22 seconds before the end of Sunday's NFC Championship, when cornerback Richard Sherman deflected a Colin Kaepernick pass to Michael Crabtree into the grasp of linebacker Malcolm Smith.

It is on games like Sunday's that the Broncos will focus their preparation. There is little use looking back to the last time the teams played a game that counted: a 31-14 Broncos win on Sept. 19, 2010 that seems like ancient history.

Pete Carroll was in his second game as Seahawks head coach; he and general manager John Schneider had only begun the task of overhauling Seattle's then-aging roster. The Broncos' administrative overhaul was still four traumatic months away.

The Broncos have played 67 games since that day; the Seahawks have played 68. Just nine Seahawks who played that day remain on their roster; the Broncos' total is 11. 

It was notable for being the game in which Demaryius Thomas scored his first NFL regular-season touchdown. Scores would remain sparse until he finally returned to full health late in 2011 and promptly exploded, but this 21-yard score near the left sideline was the first sign of what was to come. 

The teams have only played once every four years since the Seahawks moved from the AFC West to the NFC West in 2002, ending a 25-season rivalry that included some massive games, including a Broncos wild-card loss at Seattle in 1983 and a Broncos win at Seattle in the regular-season finale a year later that gave Denver its first AFC West title in six years.

This sort of Super Bowl reunion is rare. This will be the seventh Super Bowl played between teams that were in the same division at some point in the Super Bowl era (1966-present). The others are:

  • Super Bowls X, XIII and XXX between the Steelers and Cowboys, who were in the NFL's Eastern Division in 1966;
  • Super Bowl XXXVII, between the Buccaneers and Raiders, who were in the AFC West in 1976; 
  • Super Bowl XLI, between the Colts and Bears, who were in the NFL's Western Division in 1966;
  • Super Bowl XLIII, between the Steelers and Cardinals, who were in the NFL's Eastern Division in 1966 and the Century Division from 1967-69.

The Groundhog Day showdown may not have revenge as a factor, but it possesses enough history to stoke memories that could easily be re-ignited among fans with long memories.