Elway won't have to contend with the wind . . .

Super Bowl Xxxiii

January 28, 1999|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- John Elway had trouble all around in the AFC championship game in Denver -- wind gusts of 40 mph and a fierce New York Jets pass rush played havoc with his passes.

The wind tossed his throws; the pass rush deflected them.

The Broncos quarterback doesn't figure to have a wind problem at Pro Player Stadium in Super Bowl XXXIII, but he easily could see a repeat of that pass rush from the Atlanta Falcons.

The Jets' rushers came in high on passing plays, arms raised in anticipation of rerouting Elway's throws.

They got enough penetration to swat six passes and turn a 23-10 Denver victory into one of Elway's poorest postseason performances.

Elway completed just four of his first 18 passes, while Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde completed his first 13.

Without running back Terrell Davis, the Broncos would not have earned a return to the Super Bowl.

In two postseason outings, Elway completed just 47.4 percent of his passes for a modest average of 177.5 yards a game with two touchdowns.

To beat the Falcons, Elway will have to do better. Against Atlanta's No. 21 pass defense, he probably will.

In playoff wins over San Francisco and Minnesota -- two pass-happy teams -- the Falcons allowed a combined completion percentage of 61.1, three touchdowns and 542 yards.

They survived that assault by collecting five turnovers. That followed a season-long trend, as the opportunistic Falcons led the league with 44 take-aways in the regular season.

Elway, who hasn't been intercepted in two playoff games, will try to exploit a Broncos' height advantage.

Receivers Ed McCaffrey (6 feet 5), Rod Smith (6-0) and Shannon Sharpe (6-2) all are taller than Atlanta cornerbacks Ray Buchanan (5-9) and Ronnie Bradford (5-10). Elway will have to throw better to capitalize, though.

Even if Denver's passing game hasn't percolated in the postseason, it has produced some big plays.

A 47-yard pass to McCaffrey got the Broncos untracked against the Jets. A 33-yarder to McCaffrey helped open a 14-0 early lead against the Miami Dolphins.

Curiously, McCaffrey is not Denver's quickest receiver, but he did have the best yardage per catch in the regular season (16.5) and in the playoffs (19.7).

There is another factor that may also come into play Sunday. Falcons coach Dan Reeves coached Elway the first 10 years of his NFL career. If any opposing coach knows Elway's tendencies well, it ought to be Reeves.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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