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Jags strike again, topple Broncos 23 straight points spring 30-27 upset, AFC title chance

Elway's rally falls short

QB Brunell, RB Means stun top seed Denver

January 05, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Brunell directed the Jaguars like a master in the second half. His perfectly thrown, 31-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell extended Jacksonville's lead to 20-12 midway through the third quarter. His 25-yard dump pass to running back James Stewart set up Hollis' 22-yard field goal to make it 23-12.

And after the Broncos finally awakened to drive 57 yards and cut Jacksonville's lead to 23-20 with 7: 37 left, Brunell might have saved the Jaguars' season.

He started the Jaguars' sixth straight scoring drive with a 12-yard run, then topped that with a 29-yard scramble in which he covered both sidelines, broke one tackle and eluded three other defenders. That moved the Jaguars to the Denver 21. Soon after, Brunell hit Smith with the game-clincher.

"What Brunell did at the end of the game was incredible," Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin said.

"Our football team just hung in it, and that touchdown to Jimmy Smith in that situation was huge. I told the players at the beginning of the week I believed we could win. I didn't know how it would come down. I didn't give them that script."

The most surprising page of Jacksonville's winning script was written by its defense, which faced the unenviable task of containing Elway and neutralizing running back Terrell Davis and tight end Shannon Sharpe.

Although Davis rushed for 91 yards and scored a touchdown, his only real damage came early, when he took a pitch around the left side and raced 47 yards to set up the Broncos' first score. And other than his 18-yard touchdown reception from Elway that made it 12-0, Sharpe was not a factor.

The Jaguars opened primarily in man-to-man coverage, but after Sharpe burned rookie linebacker Kevin Hardy for his score, they switched to more zone to contain Sharpe and Davis underneath.

The strategy worked. Other than Davis' early long run, Denver's longest gain from scrimmage was 18 yards.

Pub Date: 1/05/97

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