Brown does his job clogging the middle Drawing the double team clears way for Packers to finish defensive play

Super Bowl XXXII

January 20, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- Having exposed the myth of San Francisco's revived running game already this month, the Green Bay Packers will tackle the real deal in Super Bowl XXXII.

Terrell Davis, say hello to Gilbert Brown.

This is a collision waiting to happen, Denver's rugged Pro Bowl running back slamming into Green Bay's immovable nose tackle. To the winner goes the spoils?

If Davis can move the ball on the Packers, he can keep Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre off the field. If he can't, Favre can have a field day.

Davis, AFC rushing champ the past two years, is that important to the Broncos. Brown, a massive man who has played virtually fTC the whole season on one leg, is that important to the Packers.

It's not that Brown will make every tackle. It's the bodies he will occupy when the Broncos try to run. Brown will have to be doubled on every play. Considering that Denver has the smallest offensive line in the NFL (average: 289 pounds), two blockers may not be enough.

Listed at 345 pounds, the 6-foot-2 Brown is closer to 375. When he clogs the middle and draws the double team, he clears the way for tackle Santana Dotson, middle linebacker Bernardo Harris or outside linebacker Brian Williams to finish the play.

The numbers on Green Bay's run defense are misleading: 20th in the league against the rush, with averages of 117.3 yards a game and 4.2 a carry. Against Denver's No. 4 rush offense, that appears to be a mismatch.

But it's not indicative of how the Packers played the past two months. Although they've given up eight individual 100-yard rushing games this season, only one came during their current seven-game win streak. In the playoffs, they've given up 61.5 rush yards per game, including 33 to the 49ers.

With his cutback ability, Davis will present problems for the Packers. They will need to be wary of overpursuit. A slashing runner, Davis' favorite is the toss play, running behind tight end Shannon Sharpe or fullback Howard Griffith. At 5-11 and 210 pounds, he is both powerful and quick.

Most likely, the Broncos will try to run at gimpy right end Gabe Wilkins, behind left tackle Gary Zimmerman. That's a matchup in Denver's favor.

But the Packers had more trouble with scatbacks like Tampa Bay's Warrick Dunn and Detroit's Barry Sanders than they did with big powerful backs. Somehow, they usually manage to win the war in the trenches.

Pub Date: 1/20/98

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