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THE NFL / 1996

Broncos Really Are Mile High

AFC: Denver wraps up home-field advantage throughout playoffs by beating Seahawks, 34-7.

December 02, 1996|From Associated Press

DENVER — The Denver Broncos have a problem 29 other NFL teams would love to have: figuring out what to do for the next three games before the playoffs start.

The Broncos' 34-7 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday guaranteed that Denver will play on its home field throughout the AFC playoffs. John Elway threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Vaughn Hebron set up two scores with long kickoff returns.

Elway, who sat out a series in the second quarter because of a hamstring injury, passed for a one-yard score to tight end Shannon Sharpe, a four-yarder to Ed McCaffrey and ran in from two yards out as the Broncos (12-1) won their ninth straight game.

Because Buffalo and Pittsburgh lost, it means the Broncos' playoff games will be at Mile High Stadium after a bye in the first week of the postseason.

"We didn't expect it today," Sharpe said. "But it's what comes from getting your business done in September and October. We won then, we won in November and now we've won in December. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but this is a good feeling."

Coach Mike Shanahan said, "We were prepared to win the AFC West. We thought we'd get the rest of it a game or two down the line."

That might have been better. The problem for the Broncos is that with the bye, their next meaningful game won't be until Jan. 4 or 5.

"It's never too early to clinch," Elway said. "If we could have clinched it in the fifth week, I would have taken that."

The upcoming stretch will give injured players--left tackle Gary Zimmerman will undergo shoulder surgery today--time to rest.

Elway and Sharpe, who twisted a left ankle, might sit for a while, even with next Sunday's trip to Green Bay a possible Super Bowl preview.

But there's also the problem of keeping players sharp for the playoffs while avoiding injuries.

"We can't just say we have home-field advantage and we play in a month," Shanahan said. "We have to keep the momentum up."

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