Safeties will have linear perspective Atwater, Braxton need front four to take control to succeed against Levens

Broncos' run defense

Super Bowl Xxxii

January 21, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- For the Denver Broncos to have any chance of stopping Green Bay's rushing attack, the Broncos must get the best game of the season from starting defensive ends Neil Smith and Alfred Williams, and tackles Keith Traylor and Maa Tanuvasa.

Then, the Broncos need equal run-support effort from safeties Steve Atwater and Tyrone Braxton.

Green Bay enters Super Bowl XXXII with one of the most punishing ground games in the league, averaging 119.3 yards a game, and paced by running back Dorsey Levens, one of the team's most versatile athletes. Levens, in his first season in the feature role, rushed for 1,435 yards on 329 attempts. Just as Denver running back Terrell Davis does, Levens gets stronger as the game goes on.

"He is probably a little bigger than Terrell and Terrell might be a little faster, but when they hit you, you know you have been involved in a collision," Traylor said. "But I think we've got a great game plan for him."

The Broncos started the season with a conservative approach, sticking to a base 4-3 defense. But after losing consecutive games to the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers near the end of the season, the Broncos began to gamble.

They became more of gap control team, relying on the blitz for big plays. In playoff victories against the Kansas City Chiefs and Steelers, Denver blitzed on almost every play.

Don't expect that to happen against the Packers because Green Bay has a more diverse offense than both the Chiefs and Steelers. Denver has to have its front four take control, control the gaps, take angles straight to the quarterback and get penetration.

The distraction will allow time for Atwater and Braxton to make the tackles, the Broncos hope. Tackling hasn't been their strength, particularly among linebackers.

Levens, at times, has a pretty reckless style. A key will be his yardage gained before Atwater and Braxton arrive. Does he gain just two and go down? Or does he run over them after gaining 12?

"The key for us is discipline," Atwater said. "We have to stay in our assigned areas, not try to make big plays, but play with control. If the front four takes care of business, then we should succeed."

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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