No-weakness Pack sure to bust Broncos Elway's underdogs simply no match for Favre and Co.

January 25, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- OK, America, you can start weeping for your latest sympathetic sports hero tonight at 11 o'clock. That will be about the time that the Denver Broncos' John Elway joins Jim Kelly as the only quarterbacks to lose the Super Bowl four times.

The Broncos have a chance to beat the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII if they stay within striking distance in the fourth quarter and give Elway the opportunity to pull off another of his miraculous comebacks, but the game will probably be a blowout by then.

Why?

Because Packers quarterback Brett Favre is The Man. And Green Bay's mammoth nose tackle, Gilbert Brown, is two men. (( And receivers Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks and tight end Mark Chmura are too many men for the Broncos to cover. And Eugene Robinson and LeRoy Butler are two of the best safeties in the game and can cover anybody on the field.

And it could go on and on

In this era of parity, you don't have to be a great team to win the Super Bowl, merely a team that has no weaknesses. That's the 1997 Packers, and that's why they will beat the Broncos. Elway practically admitted it last week, talking about why underdogs rarely spring upsets here.

"No. 1 in this game, the underdog is not going to catch the favorite by surprise," Elway said. "You don't catch anyone not mentally ready to play in this game, and that happens during the regular season quite a bit."

Hint No. 2, from Broncos defensive end Neil Smith: "Green Bay has no weaknesses, and for us to beat them, we have to play a perfect game."

"Perfect" describes Favre's play of late. "Red-hot" is another.

Favre, who threw for 3,867 yards during the regular season with a quarterback rating of 92.6, is 31 of 55 for 412 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs.

"This guy puts so much pressure on a defense with the quick release, his ability to scramble and throw darts across his body. Then he makes big plays by taking off on a scramble," said Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski. "To contain Green Bay, you have to attack the ball, and the person handling the ball on every play is Favre."

Favre spreads his passes around. Freeman had 81 catches during the regular season and Brooks had 60. Dorsey Levens was a threat out of the backfield with 53 receptions and Chmura had 38.

Poor Darrien Gordon and Ray Crockett. The Denver cornerbacks have a clue but no chance. Everybody picks on Gordon, and it won't make a difference if he gets rotating help from safeties Steve Atwater and Tyrone Braxton.

"They have tremendous receivers," Gordon said. "All of them have athletic ability, they run good routes and they're big-play guys. It will be a tough test trying to contain those guys."

It won't happen. Then, when Freeman and Brooks start turning 8- and 10-yard patterns into 15- and 20-yard gains, Packers coach Mike Holmgren will turn Levens loose in the second half.

Denver will try to control Favre and the Packers' offense with running back Terrell Davis, who could have some success early. But, eventually, the Packers' defense will stiffen, and the 345-pound Brown will dominate the middle.

Davis may gain a few yards on the perimeter, but Robinson and Butler will make the adjustments to provide run support.

That eventually will put most of the burden on Elway. He'll hit on a couple of big plays to tight end Shannon Sharpe and may complete a few more to wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, but not enough to have a major impact on the game.

Elway isn't what he used to be, but he is still better than most other NFL quarterbacks. He can't, however, carry the Broncos alone, and if Denver gets behind early, Green Bay will become blitz happy.

If the Packers get to Elway, this game could get ugly. Denver, though, will cover the spread, with the Packers winning by 11, 24-13.

Favre will be named MVP and go to Disney World.

Elway will join Kelly in their two-man fraternity.

And America can cry about its latest sympathetic sports hero.

Pub Date: 1/25/98

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