Tom "Silky" Sullivan was the star when this series began. The year was 1976 and the expansion Seattle Seahawks played at Veterans Stadium, a chance for the Eagles to close out head coach Dick Vermeil's season on a high note.
Sullivan ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in the 27-10 victory as the Eagles ended the season 4-10 in front of -- and this is how bad it was for Vermeil to start his era -- 37,949 fans at the Vet. It was significant for Sullivan because he gained only 399 yards on 99 carries that season, but it's noteworthy because Sullivan was one of my favorite Eagles in that era and, well, he kept his job here for another year before Vermeil upgraded to a back named Wilbert Montgomery and we all know what he did in his Eagles career.
On Sunday, the Seahawks again visit South Philadelphia. The venue is now Lincoln Financial Field. The tickets are long gone, every one of them. Seattle is the defending Super Bowl champion. Montgomery, by the way, is 48 yards away from being bumped down a notch on the Eagles' all-time rushing list by LeSean McCoy. Vermeil, for your information, is doing great and living the life in the Philadelphia suburbs and tending to his wine business in California.
Between those humble beginnings in 1976 and now, the Eagles-Seahawks series has been, shall we say, quirky. Unusual, to be sure. Some games that you don't even think about that have been played but then you're reminded and you will, no doubt, say, "Oh yeah, weird game."
There have been plenty of weird ones with Seattle, which makes sense because the Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed the landscape of the NFL when they joined in 1976. The league grew to 29 teams with those two in -- Carolina and Jacksonville joined in 1995, followed by Houston in 2002 to make it the 32-team league it is today. The fee for joining? A cool $16 million, which grew to -- hold on to your seat -- $700 million when Houston joined the NFL 26 years later (2002).
Anyway, the second time the Eagles played Seattle it was at the cavernous Kingdome and it was 1980 and Philadelphia was on its way to a Super Bowl. But in the November 2 game the upstart Seahawks held a lead in the fourth quarter before Ron Jaworski tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Billy Campfield to give the Eagles the lead and Tony Franklin booted a 25-yard field goal and the Eagles won 27-20. Whew.
This is a series that has kind of bumped along through the years, the teams playing every few seasons. The Eagles -- who lead the series, 7-6 -- and Seahawks usually meet when one team is good and the other isn't, and that's why we see scores like Eagles 31-7 (1989 when Eagles finished 11-5 and Seattle was 7-9) and Seattle 38-0 (1998 season opener, the beginning and end of the Bobby Hoying era at Veterans Stadium) and Seattle 42-0 (2005, Reggie White Hall of Fame induction night at Lincoln Financial Field) and Eagles 26-7 (2008, when the Eagles reached the NFC Championship Game and Seattle finished 4-12. In that game, Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans caught a touchdown pass, the first for an Eagles offensive lineman since 1934.
Oh, there have been some good games. The 1992 overtime win by the Eagles at the Kingdome was a dancy. I was there. I remember it. It was pure torture. The Eagles were a far better team, and yet they couldn't stop making mistakes. Penalty after penalty (a Seattle 89-yard drive was aided by Eagles penalties adding up to 80 yards; the Eagles committed 17 penalties for 191 yards in all) and all of a sudden Seattle led in the fourth quarter when quarterback Randall Cunningham lost the football and Seattle's Dwayne Harper returned it for a touchdown and the paltry Seattle crowd went nuts and the Eagles' traveling party had a collective migraine.
But the Eagles strung together a 93-yard drive and Herschel Walker scored a touchdown to force the game into overtime and Roger Ruzek's 44-yard field goal won it in the extra period and the Eagles won a game in which they outgained Seattle 466-87, allowed 10 quarterback sacks and had the second-most penalty yards in NFL history.
History? You want history? How about some Eagles history, the origins of an iconic call.
"A game like that, with all of those penalties, you just can't get into a good tempo for the broadcast," radio voice of the Eagles Merrill Reese says, "and that game was so difficult. I think I was so relieved after Ruzek kicked the field goal that for the first time in my broadcasting career I said, 'It's gooooood.' It was such a tough game and I felt like, 'Thank goodness it's over.' "
"It's Gooooooood.' A legendary call born from this unusual little series that contains so few nooks and crannies.
These teams met for the first time nearly 38 years ago to the day -- December 12, 1976 was the date -- and now they play again with so much at stake. Never in the odd series history have both teams been so good this late in the season. Never has the national stage been more welcomed.
If the history of the series says anything, expect a weird bounce or an odd turn of events on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. It just has to be. It's what this series has been since 1976 -- a misshapen rivalry that usually leaves us wondering what in the world just happened in the 60 minutes of football played before our very eyes.