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Super Bowl XXXII: DENVER BRONCOS 31, GREEN BAY PACKERS
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Mile High

Davis' third touchdown gives Broncos and Elway a title, ends 13-year AFC drought and dethrones favored Packers.

January 26, 1998|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — It might have taken a lifetime of football to complete the journey, but John Elway has the exclamation point his stellar career lacked, and Denver, the city that demanded and expected as much from him for the last 15 years, is now a million miles high.

"Just four words," Bronco owner Pat Bowlen said while holding the Lombardi Trophy. "This one's for John."

Known early in his career as the "Duke of Denver" and around the country as a three-time Super Bowl loser, Elway rode the heroics of running back Terrell Davis and a last-minute defensive stand to score a shocking and entertaining 31-24 Super Bowl XXXII victory Sunday over the Green Bay Packers in Qualcomm Stadium before 68,912.

"What a storybook ending to John's career--if it's over," said Denver wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, like everyone else after the game left dangling by Elway, who has yet to commit to his future plans.

Elway, who has won more games than any quarterback in NFL history, knelt down at the Denver 30-yard line for a one-yard loss on what might have been the final play of his career, and then raised his arms high above his head in victory, the game ball still locked solid in his left hand.

"You're never going to be up there with the elite quarterbacks in the game without winning the Super Bowl," he said, admitting for the first time, "no, my career would not have been complete without this."

Denver's defeat of the defending world champions ended a 13-game streak of domination for the National Football Conference and proved one thing: If an AFC team wants to win the Super Bowl, it needs to employ a running back, who played previously for Lincoln High in San Diego.

Davis, the game's MVP just as Lincoln graduate Marcus Allen was for the L.A. Raiders in their victory over Washington in Super Bowl XVIII, overcame a migraine headache that forced him from the game in the second quarter to rush for 157 yards in 30 carries and become the first player in Super Bowl history to run for three touchdowns.

A series of migraine headaches two years ago left Davis unable to play, but after reducing his caffeine intake, having braces put on his teeth and working consciously to reduce the stress in his life, he played this season without a reoccurrence until Super Bowl XXXII.

"I blinked out for a play," he said, "and my vision was blurred. It was not a concussion--I thought it was the onset of a migraine--I took some medication, and the long halftime show helped."

Helped? It rejuvenated Davis, thus killing off the Packers.

"I told the students at Lincoln High this week don't listen when someone tells you you can't do it or that you don't have what it takes," said Davis, a sixth-round draft choice for the Broncos. "I watched the Super Bowl game that was played here in San Diego from my home and never dreamed this would be happening to me 10 years later. I'm numb right now; I have no idea that this is even going on right now."

Imagine how the Packers must feel, left dazed and bewildered after coming into the game as 11 1/2-point favorites and jumping on top of the Broncos, 7-0, in just over four minutes.

"I don't want to take anything away from Denver, but we just didn't make the plays," Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre said, while making no attempt to hide his displeasure. "We scored three touchdowns; that should be enough to win.

"I wanted to go over and congratulate John Elway and wish him well, but they were all jumping on him. . . . He's had a great career and he's finally got the greatest thing that the NFL has to offer."

Favre had the chance, however, to once again devastate Elway, the final minutes of the game resting on his arm.

With the score tied, 24-24, with 1:47 to play, Packer Coach Mike Holmgren told his defense to let the Broncos, who were parked on the one-yard line, score in order to give Favre the time to battle back.

Davis ran untouched up the middle for the go-ahead score with only two seconds running off the clock, and after the kickoff, the Packers took possession at their 30-yard with two timeouts remaining and 1:39 on the clock.

"Favre is the best quarterback in the league, bar none," said Elway, the master of the comeback, but now just hoping to hold on.

Favre quickly advanced the ball to the Denver 35-yard line with 1:04 to play and one timeout remaining, and threw a four-yard pass to running back Dorsey Levens for a four-yard gain. The Broncos tackled Levens inbounds, and Favre elected not to use his final timeout, leaving 42 seconds on the clock after firing an incomplete pass to Antonio Freeman, who caught two touchdown passes.

On third and six from the 31, Favre tried to go deep to wide receiver Robert Brooks, inspiring a three-player collision, which left Brooks and Denver defenders Steve Atwater and Randy Hilliard injured. By rule, any injury in the final two minutes of the game becomes a charged timeout, and since both teams had injured players, both teams surrendered a timeout--the last one for the Packers.

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