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Broncos Beat Falcons the Elway Way, 32-28 : Interconference: Quarterback engineers 34th game-saving drive of his career and scores on four-yard run.

November 21, 1994|From Associated Press

DENVER — For a time, John Elway might have been the problem. In the end, he was the solution.

Elway engineered the 34th game-saving drive of his career by running four yards for a touchdown with 1:56 left after passing for two second-half touchdowns as the Denver Broncos defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 32-28, on Sunday.

"The Falcons blitzed John a lot, forced him out of the pocket and sacked him," Bronco Coach Wade Phillips said, "but he just kept fighting back."

Said Atlanta Coach June Jones: "Elway did what he's supposed to do. He's good at winning games in the fourth quarter, and he did it again."

Elway, whose two turnovers in the second quarter helped the Falcons take a 14-10 halftime lead, needed the late-game heroics to offset four touchdown passes by Atlanta's Jeff George, who staked the Falcons to a 28-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Elway completed 27 of 42 passes for 382 yards--the third-highest yardage total of his career--as the Broncos (5-6) posted their fifth victory in seven games. Atlanta (5-6) has lost four of five.

"We had been making some big plays," Elway said, "and I just felt the way things were going, we would get more opportunities. When you come from 11 points down, you've got to have some luck. But I think this shows the character of this team too."

The Broncos had a long field-goal attempt blocked on their first possession of the second half, but on the next series they marched 93 yards, capped by Elway's 22-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Campbell, to take a 17-14 lead.

Atlanta countered as George passed for two touchdowns to Terance Mathis in a span of 1:41. Mathis got behind cornerback Ray Crockett and hauled in George's 47-yarder with 55 seconds left in the third quarter. On the third play of the final quarter, George connected with Mathis for a 49-yard touchdown pass play.

Denver dominated the remainder of the game. Elway drove the Broncos 72 yards for a score, passing 32 yards to Anthony Miller and then hitting Miller on the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 28-25.

With Denver's defense finally stiffening, the Broncos got another opportunity with six minutes left. Elway took them 57 yards for the clincher. He completed a 13-yard pass to running back Reggie Rivers on third and 13, and although Rivers appeared to fumble, the officials ruled the ground caused the loose ball.

Elway then scrambled 11 yards to the four and scored on a quarterback draw up the middle.

"We thought they'd blitz when he ran the last one in for a touchdown," Phillips said.

Referring to season-long fan discontent, Phillips said, "Whoever said, 'Don't come and see these games,' was mistaken today. This was pretty exciting. You have to make the plays when it counts, and that's what we did. That's a good sign."

Close Encounters

This is the most competitive season in the NFL since the merger with the AFL in 1970. Of 152 games, 85 have been decided by seven points or less, such as Sunday's Denver-Atlanta game.

Year Games Pct 1994 86 of 153 56.2 1988 113 of 224 50.4 1991 112 of 224 50.0 1974 91 of 182 50.0 1978 108 of 224 48.2 1980 108 of 224 48.2

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