Game's healthy history bodes well for Favre's chances

ON THE NFL

January 25, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- With all the hype and hoopla, it goes without saying that the Super Bowl is not a normal football game.

There are the two-week delay, the neutral site and teams practicing for a week away from their normal training facilities.

The biggest difference, though, is that injuries are usually no factor.

This is the 32nd Super Bowl, which is two weeks worth of regular-season action in the NFL.

In any normal two-week span, teams cope with a lot of injuries, especially at the vulnerable quarterback position.

Super Bowl teams tend to be healthy, though. They normally have to be just to get there -- especially at quarterback.

Only one of the first 31 Super Bowls was won by a backup quarterback who entered during the game -- Earl Morrall of the Colts, who came on when John Unitas was injured late in the second quarter of Super Bowl V against the Dallas Cowboys.

Not that Morrall did much in a mistake-filled game. He completed seven of 15 passes for 147 yards.

For a backup quarterback on a winning team, though, that's yeoman work. The second most passes thrown by a backup on a Super Bowl champion was four by Steve Fuller in Super Bowl XX, when he saw mop-up action for Jim McMahon in the Bears' 46-10 victory over the New England Patriots.

The only other quarterback on a Super Bowl champion to get knocked out for the rest of the game besides Unitas was Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl X, when he suffered a concussion after lofting a 64-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Swann that clinched the victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

There were only three minutes left when Bradshaw departed. Terry Hanratty came in and handed off for the final four snaps.

This background sets the stage for Super Bowl XXXII.

The Packers are heavily favored and figure to win as long as quarterback Brett Favre goes the distance.

Favre is not only better than an aging John Elway, but he is also better than Elway was in his prime. And he plays better in big games. Elway has thrown two touchdown passes and six interceptions in three Super Bowl losses.

By contrast, Favre is on one of the great rolls in NFL history. He's 7-1 in his past eight playoff games with 15 touchdown passes and five interceptions. Over his past 47 games, he's 39-8 with 110 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions.

He still has a reputation for making the big play and the big mistake. But he has cut down on the mistakes. Sure, he threw that pass from his knees that Detroit's Reggie Brown ran back for a touchdown. But that's the exception, not the rule.

"I guess he's like Michael Jordan," said Denver safety Steve Atwater.

Only an injury can probably keep him away from a second Super Bowl ring.

Rushing Favre

With Favre the key to this game, it's noteworthy that the Broncos hired assistant coach John Teerlinck as a pass-rushing specialist last year.

Teerlinck's calling card is getting to the quarterback.

He puts so much emphasis on it that he was called into commissioner Paul Tagliabue's office last year when he was with Detroit for supposedly condoning cheap shots.

His linemen knocked out Warren Moon and Trent Dilfer and backup Casey Weldon from games, and two of his linemen were fined for late hits.

This season, his players have avoided controversy.

"Nobody's been on our case excessively. We got that cleaned up. We had a good year. We haven't had a player fined the whole season. I think that's behind us," Teerlinck said.

But Teerlinck believes in controlling the quarterback.

"He's the guy that will beat you the fastest," Teerlinck said.

He also has a history with Favre from five years of coaching in the NFC Central with Minnesota and Detroit.

"Way back when he first came up, we thought we could rattle him by talking. And that thing has turned into a fun deal," Teerlinck said.

They may not have much fun going after Favre today. Blitzing Favre is dangerous because he's so elusive and can throw on the run.

Control

Football coaches tend to be control freaks, but Mike Holmgren may be overdoing it by talking about how he'd like the challenge of running a team.

Holmgren would be better off waiting for five years or so before thinking about leaving Green Bay.

He has a situation that is almost utopian. As long as Favre is at the top of his game, the Packers are going to be a contender. And Holmgren doesn't have to worry about dealing with an owner because the Packers don't have one.

Sluggish

You probably think the Broncos have lost four Super Bowls because the NFC teams they played were better. But former Broncos coach Dan Reeves, the losing coach in three of them, is peddling the theory that the real problem is the Broncos are moving from a high altitude to sea level.

The theory is that red blood cells start to diminish on the third day when athletes go from high altitude to sea level, and reach a low on the seventh day, making them sluggish for the games.

"The reason I buy into that is you go to the Super Bowl a week ahead of time," Reeves said.

He said an Air Force Academy official gave him this theory. Scientific evidence is inconclusive.

Quick facts

The last NFC coach to lose a Super Bowl was Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, who won three of them.

The last quarterback to win a Super Bowl for the AFC, Jim Plunkett, just turned 50.

Names in the news

Jim Harbaugh says he expects the Indianapolis Colts to draft Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf and dump him. He'll be in demand because of the shortage of quarterbacks.

Doug Flutie, who signed with the Buffalo Bills, has taken a pay cut to leave the Canadian Football League. He's still trying to prove wrong the skeptics who said he can't make it in the NFL at 5 feet 9.

Dana Stubblefield of the San Francisco 49ers couldn't be in a better position. He's one of the best defensive free agents, and a $12 million to $14 million increase in the salary cap is coming.

Pub Date: 1/25/98

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