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Jon Kendle is Director of Archives and Football Information at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His biweekly columns tell unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton in 1920 to the present day.
The 2017 National Football League season is in the rearview mirror and clubs are working tirelessly to build the best team they can to compete for a Super Bowl title in 2018. So much focus and discussion over the past five seasons has been on offense and more specifically, quarterback play. Last season, NFL passers helped fuel a total of 11,120 points scored. The corral of QBs threw for almost 115,000 yards and 741 touchdowns. And while these numbers are actually down a bit from the past several seasons, historically they are still impressive.
So, what about defense?
While production on offense has somewhat overshadowed the play of defenders recently, the fact remains defenses are creating highlights, too. Last year, defenses created 706 total turnovers on 430 interceptions and 276 fumble recoveries. This proves that while NFL offenses are scoring in bunches, they aren’t achieving this feat alone. Defenders are doing their part to set up offenses to put points on the scoreboard via turnovers, and in some instances, they’re putting six on the board themselves.
Last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5 in large part to the Jags’ stingy defense. Jacksonville intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times, including two returned for touchdowns during the 30-9 Jacksonville victory. While any defense would be more than happy with five interceptions and ecstatic with returning two for scores, that doesn’t come close to matching an incredible performance by the Seattle Seahawks in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs in 1984.
Do you remember when the Seahawks and Chiefs were bitter AFC Western Division rivals? One of the more memorable Sunday afternoon showdowns took place in Seattle’s Kingdome on Nov. 4, 1984. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, it was a one-sided beating by the Seahawks who came away with a 45-0 win. Seattle’s defense ruled the day with six interceptions of Kansas City passes, four of which were returned for touchdowns. The four pick-6′s in one game remain an NFL record.
The game started slowly with Seattle owning a 3-0 lead after the first quarter. However, early in the second quarter left cornerback Dave Brown, an Akron native, intercepted Chiefs’ QB Bill Kenney and returned it 95 yards to pay dirt putting the Seahawks up 10-0. During Kansas City’s next possession, Kenney was picked off once again, this time by Keith Simpson who raced 76 yards for a score. By halftime the score was 28-0 and a woozy Chiefs team had given the ball to second-year QB Todd Blackledge of North Canton. Seattle’s secondary, however, wasn’t finished.
The Chiefs opened the second half with the ball and after four consecutive pass completions, Blackledge was picked off by Brown who returned that interception 58 yards for his second TD of the game. Finally, with time winding down in the fourth quarter, Kansas City’s third-string QB Sandy Osiecki threw the final interception of the game to Hall of Fame safety Kenny Easley, who returned it down the right sideline 58 yards for a TD to put the exclamation point on one spectacular day of defense.
The shutout victory lifted the Seahawks to an 8-2 record and thrust them into the record books. Aside from the record number of pick-6′s, the total of 325 yards on interceptions remains the most by one team in a single game in NFL history. To put the yardage figure in perspective, Seattle’s defensive backfield racked up more yardage than the Chiefs entire offense that day.