YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Here Is a Vote for Broncos Winning Super Bowl XXXII

January 26, 1998|SHAUN POWELL | NEWSDAY

SAN DIEGO — Contrary to widespread belief, it's not the Denver Broncos who are confronted with the most difficult challenge Sunday. That belongs to yours truly, the expert, who must somehow convince you, the skeptic, why the Broncos will win Super Bowl XXXII.

The only person in America with a trickier job of explaining away, at the moment, is White House spokesman Mike McCurry.

As everyone knows, the Broncos traditionally don't play their best football in late January. They can beat you with two minutes left on the clock, then expire with two weeks left in the month. I cling to the theory that somewhere along the way, they mixed up their January dates and confused the Super Bowl with the Pro Bowl, a game in which players use just enough energy to apply the Coppertone.

In the Big Game, John Elway, America's Quarterback, is oh-for-III and the club is oh-for-IV. The only people outside Denver with a bigger stake here are those in Minnesota and Buffalo, who pray the Broncos will become the undisputed Super Loser of all time.

It isn't just history working against the Broncos. They're also returning to the site of the crime. They were the better team only once in four Super Bowls, and 10 years ago on this field, they were up 10-0 on the Redskins and apparently headed for victory. Then Doug Williams had the best quarter of any quarterback, black or white, when he threw for four touchdowns in a 35-point second quarter.

The stadium then was named after Jack Murphy, not Qualcomm, and some think the Broncos will need to take a few Qualcomms for their headache after Sunday's game.

Of course, the main reason that you are buying the two-touchdown spread is because of the Green Bay Packers. No question, they're a great team, and can we pause a second and give respect to Green Bay, Wis.? There aren't many better places to live in America, with the warm and gentle December breezes, the tony shops, the bustling downtown, round-the-clock entertainment and not a Stucky's in sight. Those Packers sure are lucky.

More good than lucky, however. Brett Favre can carve up just about any defense. Craig Stadler has one of the sharpest coaching minds in the game today. The Packers have a balanced offensive attack and they're almost as good on defense, where the reverend, Reggie White, says God wants the Packers to win. Those are two tough people to argue with, White and God.

The three-time Super Bowl-winning Packers have been there and done that, while the Broncos have been there and failed that.

Enough already.

I believe the Broncos will win, and not because I drew the shorter straw on this assignment and therefore was given the tougher case to argue. My gut feeling looms bigger than Gilbert Brown's. It says the Broncos will follow Villanova and Buster Douglas and the Namath Jets and send a jolt through the sporting world.

You must understand, the Broncos are the most impressive-looking two-touchdown underdog in NFL history. Remember, Elway has help this time. Plus, the Bronco defense isn't the one that gave up 39 points to the Giants in XXI, 42 to the Redskins in XXII and 55 to the 49ers in XXIV. Linebacker Bill Romanowski will rip off someone's lips before the Broncos surrender that many points. There is Neil Smith and Steve Atwater and Ray Crockett, and they are every bit as aggressive as the Packer defense, although combined, they weigh less than Gilbert Brown.

Even the man of the moment seems prepared for probably his last try at the big one. Elway is 37, but he can still bring it. No team wins a Super Bowl unless it has a decent quarterback, and in that category, nothing has changed in Denver. Except this time, the Broncos won't rely heavily on Elway.

This is Terrell Davis' town. This is Terrell Davis' team.

He is back home, in San Diego and has too much incentive not to have a great rushing day. Everyone seems to be concerned about whether the anorexic Bronco offensive linemen can move the behemoth Packer defensive line, but no one has stopped Davis in these playoffs. He rushed for 184 yards against the Jaguars, 101 against the Chiefs and 139 on the Steelers. For the first time in the Elway Era, the Broncos are using the run to set up the pass, and it's working.

So how do they stop Favre? Good question, no easy answer. He's the best player in football, rises to the occasion and is tough to rattle. You pound him and he gets up and keeps going. What the Broncos must do is confuse him and the West Coast offense by mixing blitzes with deep drops.

The key isn't stopping Favre; it's outscoring him. That makes the Bronco offense the most important unit on the field today.

Just in case it ends up close, the Broncos don't need Elway to take them 80 yards. He only needs to get in range of Jason Elam, who has three kicks beyond 50 yards and in a clutch situation may be more reliable than Packers rookie kicker Ryan Longwell.

Maybe the Broncos' biggest ally is fate. The Broncos stumbled in the regular season and didn't win the AFC West, as expected. But then they destroyed the team that knocked them out last year, Jacksonville. Then they went on the road and won in difficult places to win, Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Their road to San Diego was more intimidating than the one traveled by the Packers, whose only true test was against the 'Niners on a muddy field.

At the end, the Broncos will gallop off the Qualcomm Stadium field, flashing the "V" sign.

And not because they just lost their fifth Super Bowl, either.

Los Angeles Times Articles