Straight up, cornerbacks could be in for long day Crockett and Gordon will need help to slow Packers' explosive attack

Broncos' pass defense

Super Bowl Xxxii

January 23, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- The Denver Broncos are limited in the way they can attack Green Bay's passing game because cornerbacks Ray Crockett and Darrien Gordon don't match up well with Green Bay receivers Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks.

It may be the greatest mismatch in Super Bowl XXXII.

Crockett can't turn and cover deep routes and Gordon lacks ball awareness skills that make him vulnerable to play-action fakes.

So expect the Broncos to play a lot of zone and rotate the safeties to the outside so they won't give up big plays. Even safeties Steve Atwater and Tyrone Braxton are known more for their tackling skills than pass defense.

"We've had teams over the past years who have taken their chances trying to beat us deep," said Crockett. "I think people think that with Steve Atwater and myself, that we have some physical guys back there and that you can beat us deep. We'll definitely be up for the challenge."

The Broncos will give Green Bay a lot of looks and don't be surprised if they play a little more bump-and-run than usual. The Packers run a West Coast offense and quarterback Brett Favre operates with a three-step drop and has one of the quickest releases in the game.

If the Broncos have any chance of getting to him, they'll have to tie up Freeman and Brooks occasionally at the line of scrimmage. Also, Denver likes to blitz Gordon when he plays up tight because he is the most vulnerable of the cornerbacks.

Denver's secondary has to tackle well because Freeman and Brooks can turn short 8-yard slants across the middle into long game-breakers.

"Anytime you have big-play receivers, you have to tackle well," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

Shanahan will put a lot of pressure on his defensive line to get to Favre. The Broncos will blitz, but not as much as they did against Kansas City and Pittsburgh, where they came on almost every play.

The Broncos were able to rattle Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac and Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart. Favre won't fall apart so easily and his ability to throw on the run adds an extra dimension and TTC forces defensive ends to play with controlled aggression.

"I think you have to mix it up with those guys," said Crockett about Green Bay.

"You can't give those guys the same look and I think that's what the 49ers did a little bit too much. Against these guys, you can't do just one thing. You can't play off because there are plenty of routes in the West Coast offense that can hurt you. I think you have to mix it up and when you do bump, you have to get up and make good tackles."

Baltimore angle

Players: Packers WR Antonio Freeman, Poly '91; Broncos RB Vaughn Hebron, Cardinal Gibbons '89

School principals: Poly, Ian Cohen; Gibbons, Gary Meyerl

What: The principals will swap school sweat shirts and hats. The principal of the school with the losing team affiliation will wear the other school's sweat shirt the day after the Super Bowl.

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: Baltimore Polytechnic, 1400 W. Cold Spring Lane

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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