Hawks, Broncos rivalry a long one

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When the Seahawks and Broncos kick off Super Bowl XLVIII this afternoon, it’ll fulfill the matchup I felt was inevitable when the season began six months ago.

I certainly wasn’t alone in that feeling, and today’s game has the makings of one of the best Super Bowls in history.

It pits Seattle’s top defense against Denver’s top offense. The Seahawks defense allowed just 14.4 points and 273.6 yards a game in the regular season, while the Broncos racked up 37.9 points and 457.3 yards a game.

Something’s gotta give, and defense wins championships.

But the matchup means more than stats to me. It brings me back to the rivalry the two teams had while both were in the AFC West from 1977-2002.

Those early years of the late 1970s and early ’80s were when I fell in love with the Seahawks.

Seattle quarterback Jim Zorn and wide receiver Steve Largent were larger than life to me as a young fan.

A buddy and I watched every game, running to the park to play Zorn-to-Largent during halftime before racing home to catch the second half.

Denver was a bitter AFC West foe for the Seahawks in the ’80s, and John Elway, currently a Broncos executive, was a big reason for the rivalry.

I was at the Kingdome for a Broncos-Seahawks game when I first saw Elway in person. The first pick in the 1983 draft, Elway was already on the path to legendary status more than a decade before he led Denver to a pair of Super Bowl victories.

Elway was walking with Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg during pregame warm-ups, and I was amazed at his poise — and how much bigger than Krieg he seemed.

Denver owns the series between the teams, winning 34 games to 18 for Seattle, and while I can’t remember who won that game I attended, Krieg got the best of Elway and the Broncos in the Seahawks’ first playoff game in December 1983.

Later in the decade, Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth added to the rivalry when he came to Seattle for an ill-fated career that brought “Bronco Busters” T-shirts to zealous Seattle fans. Focusing more on his marketing career than football, Bosworth also sold “Ban the Boz” shirts to unsuspecting Broncos fans in Denver.

That, unfortunately for Seahawks fans who had high hopes for the linebacker, was the biggest contribution to Seahawks history Bosworth ever made.

I always respected Elway, even as I gritted my teeth every time he cut the Seahawks defense apart, and didn’t begrudge him picking up Super Bowl rings following the 1997 and ‘98 seasons.

As did all die-hard fans, I rode the Seahawks roller-coaster that filled the next decades, including their move to the NFC West in 2002. That move led to new rivalries, including the best one in the NFL right now with San Francisco.

I was ecstatic when Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander led Seattle to Super Bowl XL. I was in full Seahawk regalia as they fell to Pittsburgh, 21-10, dashing fans’ hopes of finally shedding what seems a curse on Seattle sports teams.

Now, Seattle coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have the Seahawks back on the brink of a world championship. Their drafting of QB Russell Wilson, addition of running back Marshawn Lynch and the construction of the vaunted Legion of Boom defense appears to have the team poised for a long run of success.

The next step for the Seahawks is beating their old rival Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Denver, a three-point favorite through most of the week, has Peyton Manning at the helm following his record-setting season.

Can the Seattle defense slow down a guy that, despite having neck surgery and missing an entire season two years ago, threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns?

Will Wilson put together a complete game and take another step toward elite NFL quarterback status?

And can Lynch, a huge part of the Seahawks offense, forget about all the hysteria surrounding his reluctance to speak to the media and run the ball effectively?

The league’s top offense versus the its top defense should make for a good one.

But historically, defense has won championships, and that’s good news for Seahawks fans.

Go Hawks!

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