Commanders rewind: Remembering the first time Washington played in Seattle

Let's take a trip back in time...

Joe Theismann
Joe Theismann / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

As the Washington Commanders get set to take on the Seattle Seahawks this afternoon, we took a look back at their first road trip there in 1983.

The Washington Commanders travel to the Seattle Seahawks for a game that could go a long way to determining which of the two middle-of-the-road teams might be able to mount a playoff push in the second half of the season. After coming off an embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week, Pete Carroll's men will be looking to capitalize of one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL.

Since they began operations almost 50 years ago, Seattle has won about 60 percent of their home games. It doesn’t matter whether they played in the Kingdome or whatever the current stadium’s corporate sponsors call it at the moment - Lumen Field - since 2020.

But there’s a curious anomaly in that home-field dominance. The Commanders - or whatever name they are going by at the time - seem immune.

Commanders can take heart from previous success at Seahawks

In eight regular season games in Seattle, Washington teams have gone 7-1. The first four were in the Kingdome. The last four have been in Seahawks Stadium - or Qwest Field - or CenturyLink Field. Take your pick.

The only time a team from Washington lost a regular season game in Seattle was in 1998. Even in that game, the now-Commanders controlled much of the play, but three turnovers proved their undoing.

For some mysterious reason, the Commanders franchise has had little trouble leaving the Northwest with a win. Mind you - we’re talking regular season here. We won’t spoil your day by mentioning the playoffs, where Washington has never defeated Seattle, regardless of where the game was played.

In the way back machine today, let’s take a brief look at the first time Washington visited the Emerald City. No particular reason. It’s just a nice memory.

It was 1983. Washington was coming off its first Super Bowl and was in the process of building a juggernaut. They lost the first game of the season by one point to the Dallas Cowboys but came back with strong wins in the next two.

John Riggins was running behind the Hogs. Quarterback Joe Theismann was playing as efficiently as he ever had. Leading wide receiver Art Monk was hurt, but it barely seemed to matter.

On defense, no one could run against the front seven and the secondary took advantage with opportunistic turnovers at key moments. The effort was aided by a couple of rookies who would become all-timers - defensive end Charles Mann and cornerback Darrell Green.

All of these attributes were on display in Week 4. Both teams came in at 2-1. Seattle had a hot young running back in Curt Warner and, just like Washington, was intent on pounding the ball.

But they couldn’t. Playing behind the behemoth defensive tackle tandem of Dave Butz and Darrell Grant, middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz constantly blew up running plays.

Early on, defensive tackle Perry Brooks disrupted an attempted shovel pass to Warner, causing a fumble that was recovered by Tony McGee. It set up Riggins for his fourth touchdown in as many games, pounding it in from a yard out behind a great edge block from tight end Rick Walker.

That set the tone for the entire game. Washington just kept pounding Riggins. He didn’t have that good a statistical day, but he wore the Seahawks down. By the second half, Seattle could barely get the ball back.

John Riggo and Joe Theismann led the now-Commanders to success

As was a hallmark of Joe Gibbs’ teams, that running game set up big plays in the passing attack. Theismann threw two long touchdowns in the second quarter to create a big cushion. The first, a 64-yarder to Charlie Brown, came on a beautiful play-action fake.

Brown ran a post and cleanly beat both cornerback Keith Simpson and safety Kenny Easley. Before half-time, Theismann made his best throw of the day. This time, it was Alvin Garrett who streaked past.

The corner had tight coverage, but Theismann’s bomb landed perfectly in Garrett’s hands for a 47-yard score. On the day, the signal-caller only threw 16 times but averaged an outstanding 10 yards per attempt with three scores.

Meanwhile, with Warner bottled up, Seattle had to rely on its savvy quarterback Jim Zorn. He was able to move the team through the air by targeting his future Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Largent constantly.

Largent had his way with Green and fellow cornerback Vernon Dean for most of the game.

But midway through the fourth quarter, with Seattle trying to mount a desperate comeback, Zorn made a bad throw to Largent. Dean undercut for a diving interception. Or did he?

Largent said afterward that the ball hit the ground. But Dean rolled over a couple of times, got to his feet, and took off running. And there was no replay to consult.

Theismann then sealed it with a short touchdown throw to Walker after a brief scramble and Washington had another win. The only blemish on the day was the rather sudden inability of Mark Moseley to kick.

Moseley, coming off an MVP season in 1982, missed an extra point and a field goal on the day. Though he would lead the league in scoring in 1983 - due in large part to such an unstoppable offense - his decline had begun. We just didn’t know it at the time.

What we did know was that Washington, the defending Super Bowl Champion, was once again rolling.

That was a good Seahawks team. They made it to the AFC Championship Game. But the now-Commanders would come back the following week and beat a very good Raiders team in a close game, drop a one-point thriller to Green Bay a few weeks later, and then run off arguably the greatest stretch of games in franchise history.

Counting the playoffs, they won 11 straight. Most weren’t even close. They led the league in scoring. Their defense could be dominant.

Then they reached their second consecutive Super Bowl and played the Raiders again. We won’t talk about that. This is a time for happy memories.

Can the Commanders continue this good trend in Week 10? Time will tell on that front.