Salute to the champions Broncos bust AFC hex, favored Packers behind Davis, 31-24

'This one's for John'

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.

With Terrell Davis rushing for 157 yards, Elway got the biggest victory of his 15-year career and the Broncos stunned the defending champion Green Bay Packers, 31-24, in Super Bowl XXXII at Qualcomm Stadium.

The people's choice, Elway averted Super Bowl infamy when he broke a three-game losing streak in the NFL's championship game.

The Broncos (16-4) not only avoided their fifth Super Bowl loss, but joined the Oakland Raiders as only the second wild-card team to win the title.

"This one's for John," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen told a crowd of 68,912 moments after the game.

Even though the loudest roars were for Elway in the post-game celebration, Davis was the man of the hour. He pounded Green Bay's defense for a Super Bowl-record three touchdowns, all 1-yard runs.

The Broncos, who were 11 1/2 -point underdogs, brought to an end the NFC's 13-year stranglehold on the Super Bowl. The last AFC victory came on Jan. 22, 1984, when the Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins, 38-9, in Super Bowl XVIII.

Davis, who left the game in the first half with a migraine headache, broke John Riggins' all-time NFL record for carries in a season and was a unanimous MVP award winner.

He scored the winning touchdown with 1: 45 left after a five-play drive that started at midfield.

A 15-yard face-mask penalty against Green Bay's Darius Holland got the drive started. Then a 23-yard pass-and-run from Elway to fullback Howard Griffith gave the Broncos first-and-goal at the 8.

After the two-minute warning, the Broncos backed up to the 18 on a holding penalty against Shannon Sharpe. But on the next play, Davis powered 17 yards behind Griffith to the 1.

Elway took a timeout, and on the next play, Davis went up the middle and scored standing up.

Elway's numbers were modest, at best. He completed 12 of 22 passes for 123 yards, and threw a critical interception in the third quarter.

But he had a gritty 9-yard scramble late in the third quarter when he took on three Green Bay defenders. The run carried to the 2, and set up the second of Davis' touchdowns.

"You wonder if you're going to run out of years," he said. "But fortunately I hung on, and [coach] Mike [Shanahan] came in here and got it done for us."

The Broncos were motivated by their underdog status against the Packers all week here.

"They disrespected us all week," said Sharpe. "Everybody disrespected us. [But] they never faced a running game like we had."

Turnovers were critical to Green Bay (15-4). Quarterback Brett -- Favre completed 25 of 42 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. But he threw an interception and lost a fumble on consecutive series in the first half that gave the Broncos a 17-7 lead.

"We got behind early and we used so much energy coming back," Packers coach Mike Holmgren said. "At the end, we fell a little short. They played a fine game."

The Packers had 1: 39 left and one final shot after Denver went ahead. Four consecutive passes to running back Dorsey Levens (19 rushes, 90 yards) put them on the Denver 35.

But a drop by Antonio Freeman, an incompletion and a breakup by Denver linebacker John Mobley on a pass for Mark Chmura dethroned the Packers.

The Broncos broke a 17-17 tie with a 92-yard, 13-play scoring drive late in the third quarter.

The big play in the drive was a 36-yard pass to Ed McCaffrey against a zone defense that carried to the Green Bay 33.

Two plays later, a 9-yard rollout pass to McCaffrey put the Broncos at the 16. After two runs by Davis, Elway showed the fire for which he is so famous. On third-and-seven, Elway scrambled up the middle, then hurdled headfirst into a crowd of three Packers defenders.

The gutsy play earned 9 yards and a first down on the 4. Two plays later, Davis carried linebacker Bernardo Harris into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run.

When Freeman fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Denver's Tim McKyer recovered on the Packers' 21. A hit by Tony Veland knocked the ball loose.

But one play later, Elway let the Packers off the hook. He threw a pass in the end zone for Rod Smith and was picked off by safety Eugene Robinson.

Freeman, a Poly alumnus, quickly atoned for the fumble. He had a 26-yard catch to the Packers' 41. Two plays later, he had a 17-yard catch.

Then, on first down, he beat Steve Atwater on an out pattern at the goal line for a 13-yard touchdown that tied the game at 24-24. He finished with nine receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Denver's blitzing defense pressured Favre into two early turnovers and helped the Broncos forge a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

Favre was intercepted on the Packers' second possession when receiver Robert Brooks was tackled by cornerback Ray Crockett and the overthrow went to safety Tyrone Braxton at the Packers' 45.

It was the first turnover by an NFC team in the Super Bowl in four years, since Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman threw an interception against Buffalo.

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