A Rocky Mountain high Broncos, Davis knock AFC chip off shoulder, upset Packers, 31-24

'Thought they couldn't lose'

Elway's quest fulfilled as back rushes for 157

Super Bowl Xxxii

January 26, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- The losing stopped here for John Elway, the Denver Broncos and the AFC last night.

Elway finally got the crowning jewel to his Hall of Fame career when the underdog Broncos upset the defending champion Green Bay Packers, 31-24, in Super Bowl XXXII.

It took a MVP performance by running back Terrell Davis, a tenacious blitzing scheme on defense, and a sizable chip on Denver's shoulder to get Elway's first Super Bowl win after three losses.

"This is what I play for," Elway said after a modest 12-for-22 passing performance that produced 123 yards. "A lot of things go with losing three Super Bowls, for a guy who's never been on a winning Super Bowl team, and the NFC-AFC thing. All the [questions] we've been answering for the last 13 years make it a lot sweeter."

Elway, the people's choice in a matchup against three-time MVP Brett Favre, helped deliver the AFC's first victory over the NFC in 14 years. The last AFC win came on Jan. 22, 1984, when the Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins, 38-9.

The Broncos (16-4) became the second wild-card team to win the Super Bowl, joining the Oakland Raiders from 1980. Denver used a philosophy that was borrowed heavily from previous NFC champions: a punishing running game and an aggressive defense that forced turnovers.

Davis, a native of San Diego, came home for rush for 157 yards and a Super Bowl-record three touchdowns, all of them 1-yard plays. He had to wait out a migraine headache he incurred after getting kicked in the head on a goal-line play in the first quarter. But he ended up with the MVP hardware, awarded unanimously.

"In my book, he's the best running back in the league, bar none," Elway said. "He showed it again tonight. He's always breaking tackles and he's always going north and south."

The Broncos' undersized offensive line wore down the Packers' defense with a total of 179 rushing yards and a near-five-minute edge in time of possession.

This was the payback for two weeks of hearing about how dominant the Green Bay defense was.

"When you hear that for two weeks, it builds a fire under you," Broncos tackle Gary Zimmerman said. "We had to sit quiet and bite our tongues for two weeks, and the last few days we've been having to suck it up and tell them how good they are. And we're pretty good ourselves."

It became a theme to build on in the buildup to the game.

"This erases a lot of bad memories, a lot of bad losses," said safety Tyrone Braxton, one of three Broncos who played on the team that lost, 55-10, to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV.

"They [the Packers] thought they couldn't lose. We talked about it all week long."

Green Bay (15-4) had its moments, though. Favre churned out scoring drives of 76, 95 and 85 yards. He completed 25 of 42 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns.

But it was his two costly turnovers early in the game that set the tone and put the Packers in a 10-point hole. After throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman to cap Green Bay's first possession, Favre threw an interception and lost a fumble.

The interception was the first turnover by an NFC team in four years, since Dallas' Troy Aikman threw a second-quarter interception against Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII.

The Broncos used the turnovers to get a 1-yard touchdown run by Elway and a 51-yard field goal by Jason Elam in the second quarter, producing a 17-7 lead.

The Broncos' elaborate blitz package pressured Favre into the early mistakes. "We did a lot of different things to Favre," safety Steve Atwater said. "We threw some blitzes at him, we got good pressure on him, and our guys covered good on the outside."

Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren said the first-half deficit took its toll on the Packers.

"We got behind early and battled back," he said. "And we used so much energy coming back, like a basketball game. At the end we fell short.

"You have to give Denver all the credit in the world. They played a fine football game. Terrell Davis was deserving of the MVP award."

A Green Bay defense that yielded just one individual 100-yard rushing game in the previous seven was shredded by the slashing Davis, who carried 30 times even while sitting out the second quarter.

"They disrespected us all week," Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "Everybody disrespected us. [But] they never faced a running game like we have."

Davis got the ball on six plays in a 10-play scoring drive that tied the score at 7-7 in the first quarter. He slammed up the middle for the final yard.

When he scored again in the third quarter, it broke a 17-17 tie and capped a 92-yard scoring drive. A 36-yard pass from Elway to Ed McCaffrey carried to the Green Bay 33.

Elway converted a third-and-six with an 8-yard scramble to the 4, taking a headlong dive into a crowd of three Packers defenders. Davis carried twice from there, scoring with 34 seconds left in the period.

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