Broncos, Chiefs come up short of Super billing

September 22, 1993|By Rich Hofmann | Rich Hofmann,Knight-Ridder News Service

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- They hyped this Joe Montana-John Elway thing as if they were combatants in the late-night television wars or something. And, come to think of it, what with all the penalties and punts and such, maybe they were.

It was well past midnight in the East before they put an end to this dismal, little exercise. Montana was OK. Elway was OK. The game was awful. The game was worse than awful. The Chiefs beat the Broncos, 15-7.

Montana vs. Elway.

Wasn't the last one terrible, too?

Montana vs. Elway.

Wasn't the last one 55-10?

"When they bill it that way, it usually goes the opposite way," Montana said. "We don't play against each other. We're not on the field at the same time. He hates being pitted against me and I hate being pitted against him. If he covered my wideouts, I might have a better shot."

Montana was 21-for-36 for 273 yards against the Broncos. His sore wrist, injured in the opener at Tampa Bay, still is sore. Precautionary X-rays were taken after the game. That figures to be the standard bill of fare around here for the rest of the year.

He is their porcelain quarterback.

Handle with care.

You might remember that the Chiefs rested Montana and that wrist last week against the Oilers. He threw the Friday before the game and pronounced himself ready to go, but the coaches held him out anyway.

It's an interesting strategy: attempting to baby their grand old man into the playoffs, giving up a bit here and there along the way because, in the back of their minds, they know what Montana can do when it's money time. It's very, very interesting. It's also something that might not be true.

Whatever. The fact is, everybody is worried about getting Montana through this season healthy. Every hit on the quarterback draws a stadium full of concerned glances. One time Monday night, Montana was run down from behind by Denver's Simon Fletcher and body-slammed into the turf. Montana was near the Chiefs' sideline at the time. He landed right at coach Marty Schottenheimer's feet.

Worried?

"No, because I saw the look in his eye and there was no look of despair or anything like that," Schottenheimer said. "What happened was he got the wind knocked out of him."

Worried?

"No, I just got squashed sideways," Montana said. "He just knocked the breath out of me."

In a game devoid of highlights, that qualified as a memorable moment. The Chiefs always have played this way, it seems. You can give Schottenheimer a Joe Montana. You can give him a high-tech offense, courtesy of coordinator Paul Hackett. You can give him Marcus Allen, who can still play, by the way (17 carries for 91 yards, his highest regular-season total in five years).

You can give Schottenheimer everything.

They still get field goals.

Nick Lowery had five of them Monday night: 34, 41, 52, 44 and 20 yards. "I don't know if I stole the show," Lowery said. Trust me. He did.

That was the K.C. offense. The Chiefs haven't scored a touchdown in two weeks. Schottenheimer says he isn't worried.

This field-goal business, well, it must be a genetic thing. (Question: Schottenheimer and Jim Mora, separated at birth?) If he isn't going to change this year, he never will. That's not to say he isn't trying. He says he is. Early in the third quarter, with a 12-0 lead, the Chiefs even called eight consecutive pass plays. Imagine!

"On the Monday following the Denver loss last year, I made a decision," Schottenheimer said. "We may lose by 30, but we're going to do everything in our power not to lose by one, two or three, because that had happened too many times.

"I even called Paul Hackett -- this morning -- and I said, 'Keep throwing the ball. I don't care what position we're in.' "

Montana said he wasn't surprised when the eight straight passes were called. Of Schottenheimer, he said, "I think he's changed his philosophy a little. This offense has big-play capabilities, but it's a ball-control offense as much as anything. We don't take a lot of chances . . ."

"Everybody says that, well, the Chiefs got Joe Montana and they felt that was the missing piece for them to go to the Super Bowl," Schottenheimer said. "I can understand why people would think that. It's easy to see how people would see it in that context, but that's never been the issue. Both Carl Peterson and I have always felt that [Montana's] presence might accelerate our transition to this offense and help us move ahead."

Nothing accelerated, for either side. Elway said afterward, "We knew coming in we were walking into a hornet's nest." He was right. And he got stung.

The whole thing was a disaster, this battle of superquarterbacks. There is only one alternative.

Burn the tapes.

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