Scouting report

January 31, 1999|By Ken Murray

Broncos run offense vs. Falcons run defense -- Terrell Davis has six consecutive postseason games with more than 100 yards rushing, and it's no coincidence the Broncos have won them all. He makes the Denver offense work. But he will face a defense that has allowed only one back to get 100 in its last 26 games and will have to bring eight players to the line of scrimmage. In a monster matchup, this is Atlanta's best chance to disrupt the Broncos. -- EDGE -- BRONCOS

Broncos pass offense vs. Falcons pass defense -- The Falcons' defense is most vulnerable in the secondary, but it has thrived with turnovers. Denver's John Elway has thrown seven interceptions in four previous Super Bowls, so he's capable of turning it over. But if the Falcons put eight defenders in the box, Elway will get the matchups in the secondary he wants. -- EDGE -- BRONCOS

Falcons run offense vs. Broncos run defense -- The Broncos have phenomenal numbers in the postseason (28 rush yards allowed, 1.1 average) largely because the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets quit running in the first half. Atlanta will keep pounding with Jamal Anderson until something gives. The Falcons need a flawless, ball-control attack to have a chance. -- EDGE -- FALCONS

Falcons pass offense vs. Broncos pass defense -- Quarterback Chris Chandler threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns with three long scoring drives against Minnesota. He can do the same against the Broncos' shaky secondary, provided he doesn't get picked. The Broncos have four interceptions in two playoff games, but that's when they knew the pass was coming. A balanced offense is a different story. -- EDGE -- FALCONS

Special teams -- The Broncos have two dangerous return men in Vaughn Hebron (kickoffs) and Darrien Gordon (punts). The Falcons counter with exciting rookie Tim Dwight. Denver's Jason Elam and Atlanta's Morten Andersen have similar numbers, while Broncos punter Tom Rouen has an edge on Dan Stryzinski. -- EDGE -- EVEN

Key matchup -- Broncos' Davis vs. Atlanta middle linebacker Jessie Tuggle. Davis is quick to read the defense and capitalize on over-pursuit. Tuggle, a 12-year veteran, doesn't miss many chances. But Davis is the MVP in the league this season, and now's the time to show it. -- EDGE -- BRONCOS

Intangibles -- Elway's farewell tour -- assuming he really does retire -- has been less than scintillating. He no longer can dominate a defense with his passing. The Falcons are the ultimate underdogs. They're loose and breezy, with almost no pressure. -- EDGE -- FALCONS

Coaching -- The Mike Shanahan-Dan Reeves brouhaha is for real. They both feel wronged and want revenge. With two weeks to fine-tune the multiple-formation Denver offense, Shanahan has the strategic edge. Reeves knows how to get here, but not how to win. -- EDGE -- BRONCOS

Prediction -- Unless Atlanta finds a way to control Davis -- either with its swarming defense or ball-control offense -- the Falcons will be in a catch-up mode. The Broncos operate best from in front. In a game that figures to be better than advertised, Denver should prevail, 27-23. -- EDGE -- BRONCOS

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