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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Because of Davis, Packers May Not Run Away With It

January 12, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Considering that the NFC has won 13 consecutive Super Bowls, and considering that the NFC's second-best team, San Francisco, beat the AFC's best, Denver, by 17 points a month ago, I've been searching for reasons to have a Super Bowl this season.

I've found one.

Terrell Davis.

I know the theme of this Super Bowl will center on whether 37-year-old, three-time loser John Elway can finally win one.

He said it himself in 1990 after the Broncos lost, 55-10, to San Francisco.

"I've got to try to figure out how we can win one of these games or at least be [close] in one," he said.

The answer is simple. The Broncos needed a running game.

When they lost, 39-20, to New York at the Rose Bowl in 1987, their starting tailback, Gerald Wilhite, gained 19 yards.

When they lost, 42-10, to Washington in San Diego in 1988, their starting tailback, Gene Lang, was twice as good, rushing for 38.

The Broncos had a respectable running game two seasons later, when rookie Bobby Humphrey gained 1,151 yards. But he started the Super Bowl with a cracked rib and fumbled on Denver's first possession, leading to a 49er touchdown. He finished with 61 yards, but the Broncos' net gain rushing was a mere 64.

This time, Elway is coming to the Super Bowl with a dominating running game. Davis, who gained 1,750 yards this season, is surpassed as a runner only by Barry Sanders.

Even wearing a flak jacket to protect his bruised ribs, Davis became the first runner to gain more than 100 yards against Pittsburgh this season with 139 in 26 carries Sunday.

"I'm just the man behind the man," says Davis, who should be healthier when he returns to his hometown of San Diego to play the Super Bowl.

Steeler Coach Bill Cowher knows better.

"You'd better stop Terrell Davis, not to take anything away from John Elway," he says. "If you don't stop Terrell, then John never comes into play."

Don't get me wrong. Green Bay will win the Super Bowl.

But maybe Davis will gain as many yards as Wilhite, Lang and Humphrey did combined, maybe the Bronco running game can keep Brett Favre off the field and maybe we'll have a game as entertaining as the commercials.

*

Three interceptions and a lost fumble? . . .

Neil O'Donnell could have done that. . . .

But Kordell Stewart shouldn't be discouraged. . . .

Terry Bradshaw threw two interceptions and was criticized for his lack of poise and maturity in the first AFC championship he started, a 21-17 loss in 1972 to Miami. . . .

If anyone is thinking of defending Barry Switzer because he won a Super Bowl, keep it to yourself. . . .

The Cowboys of two seasons ago were incredibly lucky in their playoff pairings, getting a young Green Bay team at home instead of the 49ers on the road and then Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. . . .

Have I mentioned O'Donnell lately? . . .

Even before last week's national figure skating championships, Campbell's Soup decided to use photos of Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski and Nicole Bobek on its cans. . . .

Fortunately for Campbell's on Saturday night, none of the three ended up on theirs. . . .

Who was the only one of nine judges who didn't award Kwan a perfect 6.0 for her stunning long program? . . .

"It must have been the East German," Channel 2's Bret Lewis said, tongue in cheek. . . .

No, it was Sherie Grimson of Santa Ana. . . .

ABC's Brent Musburger speculated that Kwan, Lipinski and Bobek, who all have won national championships, might comprise the best women's team the United States has sent to the Olympics. . . .

Perhaps. But, in 1992, the United States had the three medalists from the previous year's World Championships, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. . . .

They might have swept the medals if Harding hadn't arrived in Albertville long after the other skaters and performed her short program while still battling jet lag. . . .

She still finished fourth. Yamaguchi was first and Kerrigan third. . . .

Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones appear on Keenen Ivory Wayans' talk show tonight on Fox. . . .

Meantime, everyone else is talking about the town's most exciting backcourt, Baron Davis and Earl Watson.

*

While wondering if Mike Shanahan would like his old job back, I was thinking: Al Davis should be trying to recycle him instead of Art Shell, the Packers sure miss Desmond Howard, the 49ers would have been better off if Jerry Rice had played and Marquez Pope hadn't.

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