The Seattle Seahawks have set up a most unusual mismatch this coming weekend in Miami. It isn't necessarily a mismatch of teams; rather, it's a mismatch of styles.
Neanderthal vs. space age. Chuck Knox vs. Don Shula. Dan Doornink vs. Dan Marino. Three-yard gains vs. the bomb.
Will what worked against the Los Angeles Raiders, the ailing defending Super Bowl champs, work against the Dolphins, the leading AFC contender?
After the Seahawks had beaten the Raiders, 13-7, Saturday in the Kingdome, Doornink, who gained 123 yards, was asked what he thought of the Dolphins, Seattle's opponent in the AFC semifinals.
"Is that who we play next week?" he asked. Assured it was, he continued.
"Well, the pressure will be on us. We have to go to Miami, just as we did last year. And they're probably better than they were last year. There's no doubt we'll be the underdogs, but we like the underdog role."
The Seahawks, 12-4 in the regular season and 1-0 in the playoffs, have been this route before. Last year, in the first playoff appearance in their history, they beat Denver in the wild card game, then upset Miami, 27-20, in the Orange Bowl.
They finally lost to the Raiders in the AFC championship game. Now, they go to Miami as wild card champs again.
"The winner of the Miami-Seattle game will win the Super Bowl," said Los Angeles defensive end Lyle Alzado. He also had predicted the Raiders would win Saturday.
"Miami is a very high-scoring machine, very explosive," Raiders Coach Tom Flores said. "The Seahawk defense certainly will be challenged. But, more than that, the Seahawk offense will have to score some points."
The Seahawks beat the Raiders by sacking 37-year-old quarterback Jim Plunkett six times, limiting the Los Angeles rushing game to 105 yards and causing three turnovers. This team is a turnover machine, leading the league in fumble recoveries with 25 and interceptions with 38.
Against the Raiders, the pass rush controlled the game, strong safety Kenny Easley said.
"A great pass rush can dictate what you do," he said. "They couldn't do the things they are accustomed to doing, like stretching the field out. Plunkett didn't have the opportunity to throw downfield."
The Raiders didn't have the opportunity to do much of anything.
"We have problems, but I don't know what they are," Alzado said. Then he thought of one.
"Thirteen points isn't supposed to beat you," Alzado said. "We just had no offense."
Flores blamed a short week of preparation. His team lost to Pittsburgh last Sunday, after Seattle lost to Denver on Saturday.
"We talked like we were ready," safety Vann McElroy told reporters after the game, "but nobody was ready to dig deep down inside and turn it on for this game like Seattle did. We have to realize we can't get past good teams in this league like Seattle on just talk."
Seattle's game plan (passing just 10 times) did not surprise the Raiders. "If we know Chuck Knox, we know Seattle will come out and run the ball," said defensive end Howie Long. "That they did it so well is a tribute to Chuck Knox."
Long said Seattle's basic running game didn't hurt the Raiders as much as the backs' cutbacks. The Seahawks' plan was to line up backs one step deeper than usual so they would have more time to pick their holes.
"I couldn't count the number of times I got a hand on a running back and had him cut back," Long said. "They caught us playing too well on defense. Our pursuit was so good, they started one way and planned on cutting back as we reacted.
"It's not that we haven't seen cutback offense before. We just haven't seen it run with that consistency."
For the Seahawks, long the whipping boys of the AFC West, this game signaled the likely end of an era of Raiders domination.
"It's just fun to beat the Raiders," Doornink said. "I think we gained some respect today."
Cornerback Keith Simpson added, "The Raiders are great; we're just greater."