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Originally published January 14, 2011 at 7:30 PM | Page modified January 14, 2011 at 10:52 PM

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Seahawks' last playoff win on the road came in 1983, at Miami

Like this season's Seahawks, the 1983 team was an underdog when it played at Miami.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seahawks only reached the playoffs by winning the final game of the regular season. In their first year under a new coach, they won a home playoff game and headed east for a divisional playoff game in which they were a prohibitive underdog.

But you probably know all about 1983, right?

That was Chuck Knox's first year as the team's coach. The Seahawks entered the playoffs at 9-7, beat the Broncos on Christmas Eve and traveled to Miami for what remains the only road playoff win in franchise history, beating the defending AFC-champion Dolphins.

So if nothing else, Seattle can cite that precedent as it prepares to play Chicago at 10 a.m. Sunday in the NFC divisional playoffs.

And here's the thing about that '83 game — the Seahawks almost never got off the ground.

"We were late getting into Miami," Knox said in a telephone interview.

Twenty-seven years hadn't taken all of the tension out of his voice. The team's charter flight was delayed.

"The aircraft that was set up did not have the special alert machine," Knox said, referring to a specific sensor.

So the Seahawks waited for a replacement. And they waited. They got hotel rooms, even held a walk-through in the ballroom and tried to make the most of their time as they waited before finally leaving and landing in Miami early in the morning, getting to the hotel about 3 a.m.

"We were exhausted," said Joe Nash, the team's nose tackle.

So the Seahawks were road weary and heavy underdogs to boot, with the Dolphins favored by at least eight points.

"Nobody thought we had a ghost of a chance of winning," said Dan Doornink, the team's fullback. "The pressure was sort of off because, 'How could we beat Miami?' "

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The Dolphins had gone to the Super Bowl the year before. They had Dan Marino; the Marks Brothers, Clayton and Duper, at receiver; and the Killer B's defense.

Yet Seattle blocked an extra point in the first quarter, recovered fumbles on back-to-back kickoffs in the fourth quarter and scored 10 points in the span of 22 seconds late in the final two minutes of the game to beat the Dolphins, 27-20.

Doornink recovered the second of Miami's two fourth-quarter fumbles, this one coming after Norm Johnson's 37-yard field goal put Seattle ahead by seven with 1:26 left. As Doornink lay at the bottom of the pile, ball clutched tight, he could sense the disappointment all around him.

"You could feel what that stadium felt like," said Doornink, now a doctor in Yakima. "No one could believe it. Everyone thought they were just going to get the ball and come down and score and it was going to be the game."

Not so fast. Turned out the Seahawks had been underestimated.

"We were a better team than our record showed," said Curt Warner, the running back who scored two of Seattle's three touchdowns. "And internally, we knew this."

The confidence was important, but understated.

"Our team was on a roll," Doornink said. "That is why we played well the week before. We were concentrating on what was going on, and nobody gave us a chance. But we had a quiet confidence and we kind of kept our traps shut and went down there and played hard."

That was the first playoff road game in franchise history, and the only road win. It turned out to be the season's high point.

"I wish we didn't celebrate as much as we did," Nash said, "because the job wasn't done."

The Seahawks lost the next week to the Raiders, falling 30-14 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was the first of seven consecutive postseason road losses, though three of those defeats came in overtime.

So do the alumni of the only road win in franchise history have any advice for this year's team?

"It's the playoffs, and whatever has happened to get to this point doesn't matter," Warner said. "It's win-or-die, loser-go-home, so play it that way. You've got nothing to lose."

Knox's advice is a little more practical.

"You hope that they're going to have a little alert machine on the plane," he said. "You can't take off without it."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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