DENVER -- Once in Cleveland and now in Kansas City, Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer has seen enough of John Elway and his Denver Broncos.
As a Browns coach, Schottenheimer lost to the Broncos in two AFC Championship games because of an Elway touchdown drive and a Earnest Byner fumble. First, The Drive, then The Fumble.
Last night it was The Throw.
Elway completed a 49-yard crossing route to Vance Johnson on a fourth-and-10 that put the Broncos in position to score an exciting 24-23 victory over Schottenheimer's Chiefs in Mile High Stadium.
"I didn't even think about the situation," Elway said. "Dan [Reeves] told me on the sidelines that anything inside the 30 would put us in great shape."
Critical non-Super Bowl situations don't faze Elway. After all, he's made great comebacks commonplace, but he outdid himself last night. What made it more critical was that the Broncos were on the verge of disaster for the season. A loss would have dropped them to 0-2.
Throughout the game, the Broncos toyed with the tough Chiefs, but they wouldn't level the fatal blow. They opened a 21-9 lead at one point, but a blocked Mike Horan punt helped the Chiefs to cut the lead to 21-16 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Steve DeBerg to Stephone Paige.
With two minutes left in the game, the Broncos blew a chance to put the game away when David Treadwell missed a 38-yard field goal.
"We made too many mistakes in the ballgame in allowing what happened in the end to happen," Reeves said.
The ultimate blunder was by nickel back Kip Corrington. Paige ran free down the sideline and caught a pass. Corrington charged for a tackle and missed Paige, who raced down the sidelines for an 83-yard touchdown with 1:44 left.
"If I was in better shape, I would have probably tackled him," Reeves said.
Out came Elway, the master of the comeback. All week he had been down because of a terrible performance in a season-opening 14-9 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders. The Los Angeles heat and a Raiders pass rush forced him to spend the last part of the game receiving treatment for heat exhaustion.
Elway was embarrassed.
"Besides the Super Bowl losses, that's probably as disappointed as I've been in a long time," Elway said.
Last night, however, was different. From his 17, Elway started. The clock read 1:44, the scoreboard read, 23-21, Chiefs. He misfired on the first pass, and on the second, a supposed fake injury by defensive end Neil Smith gave replay official Bill Fette enough time to call a completion to Broncos receiver Michael Young a trap.
"That replay official must have the best eyes I've ever seen," Reeves said. "Three passes were reversed in the game. I'm going to be interested to see that."
A third incompletion set up the fourth-and-10. In previous plays, Johnson advised Elway to keep alert for the post pattern.
So Elway dropped back. The Chiefs blitz, providing single coverage on the receivers. Elway looked downfield and when he didn't see free safety James Donaldson, he knew good things were going to happen.
Johnson indeed had cornerback Kevin Ross beaten to the post and caught the perfect pass, thrown almost 60 yards by Elway. The Broncos, with 1:11 left on the clock, had a first down at the Chiefs' 34, 4 yards from being close enough for a field goal.
They drove to the Chiefs' 4, and with no time left on the clock, kicker David Treadwell booted a game-winning 22-yard field goal.
Schottenheimer couldn't believe it.
"Elway is a very, very competitive man," he said. "I've got tremendous respect for him. He's got the people that help him, and that's a great football team."
"To be down with 1:44 to go and have a fourth down it lookepretty grim," Reeves said. "Vance ran a great route,John made a great throw and that put us in a position to win the game. In the two-minute period our offense was able to come up with enough plays that made the difference.
"If people didn't enjoy that one,I guess they never will. It had everthing in it -the good,the bad and the ugly."
DeBerg,who passed for 395 yards, called it a game "where whoever had the ball last was going to win .That fourth-down play by Elway was amazing. That was an All-Pro Play."