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Super Bowl XXXII: DENVER BRONCOS vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS

Packers Clearly the Better Team

January 26, 1998|BOB GLAUBER | NEWSDAY

SAN DIEGO — Shaun, Shaun, Shaun.

Here you are, covering your first Super Bowl, and right away, you want to puff your chest and play the hero. Be different, just for the sake of being different, even though you know in your heart the Denver Broncos are about to surpass the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl futility, and that John Elway is about to join Jim Kelly as the second four-time loser.

So take the advice of someone who's been covering this game for 13 years and has yet to see an AFC victory: The Green Bay Packers will crush the Denver Broncos, 38-17, in Super Bowl XXXII and reduce Elway to that familiar vacant stare on the sideline by the time it's over.

Shaun, you've been around these teams all week. You've seen the tight-as-a-drum Broncos trying to maintain their cool with all those security guards fending off the masses at their team hotel. You've seen the loosey-goosey Packers, confident as Muhammad Ali before a fight as they strut around their hotel with not a care in the world. Shaun, this one may be close for a half, but in the end, the Broncos will go up in flames the way every AFC team has for the last 13 Super Bowls.

The Broncos, of course, are telling everyone that this will be different, that they're more of an NFC-type team with running back Terrell Davis and a defense that includes stud linemen such as Neil Smith and Keith Traylor and top-flight linebackers such as John Mobley and Bill Romanowski.

But mark my words: Brett Favre will pick apart this defense and the Packer defensive line will throw around Denver's undersized offensive linemen like a bunch of rag dolls. Those Bronco linemen should have kept their vow of silence during Super Bowl week because they're going to wind up with their collective foot in their mouths. Beating the injury-riddled Jaguars, the Marty Schottenheimer playoff-jinxed Chiefs and the outmanned Steelers is one thing; beating the defending champion Packers at the top of their game is quite another.

It won't happen.

"To me, the key is our defensive line against their offensive line," Packer free safety Eugene Robinson said. "I think it's going to come down to how well that matchup goes, and I'm quite confident we'll win that matchup. We have a great defense, a great defense, and I don't mind saying that. It's the truth. We're playing great football right now."

And they'll continue to play great football against Elway, who may be America's choice for today's game but who won't do significantly better than his previous three appearances, in which he totaled a mere 40 points. Forty points!

Shaun, you said it yourself last week: Don't feel sympathy for Elway, because he's had the chance to play the game of his life on football's biggest stage and instead has watched Phil Simms, Doug Williams and Joe Montana produce the games of their lives. OK, so Elway didn't have a Terrell Davis to hand off to back then. But don't be surprised to see Davis isn't any more effective than Sammy Winder when he goes against Gilbert Brown, the Packers' big-as-a-house defensive tackle, and Reggie White, who still has enough left in the tank at 36.

And if Davis can't get it going, then the Packer blitzers, notably strong safety LeRoy Butler, will have a field day because Green Bay knows the Broncos will have to pass if they want to mount any offense.

Denver has solid if underrated receivers in Ed McCaffrey and Rod Smith, and Shannon Sharpe is the best pass-receiving tight end in the game. But it won't matter because Elway won't get enough time to get the passing game going; instead, he'll be running out of harm's way as the Packer defense runs him down in the backfield.

Sharpe has been especially boisterous in challenging the Packer defense, saying he'll be the game's Most Valuable Player if Green Bay dares to use single coverage on him. But Sharpe should have let sleeping dogs lie because he's tweaking players who just love a challenge. You don't think Butler will be all over Sharpe, causing havoc for Elway's favorite receiver?

As for the Denver defense, it hasn't seen anything like the Packers this season. The Broncos had a relatively easy time with an inconsistent Jaguar offense, and Elvis Grbac couldn't get the Chiefs over the top in his first playoff start. Nor could Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart solve the Denver defense. But in Favre, you're looking at a quarterback who is at the point in his career that he can dictate the terms of a game any time he steps onto the field. He is the ultimate big-money quarterback in the ultimate big-money game, and he won't fail the Packers now.

Favre to wide receiver Robert Brooks on the quick slant. Favre to wideout Antonio Freeman on the deep post. Favre to tight end Mark Chmura on the seam pass over the middle. Bing. Bing. Bing. All day long.

And don't forget, Shaun. We haven't even mentioned Dorsey Levens yet. Just watch him churn up the yardage in the second half, when Green Bay starts pulling away. He'll start beating down the Denver defense with his between-the-tackles runs, and the Broncos will be huffing and puffing down the stretch. He did it to the Buccaneers. He did it to the 49ers. He'll do it again to the Broncos.

So Shaun, go ahead and enjoy your dare-to-be-different prediction slant on today's game. But let me tell you something, Super Bowl rookie. This one will never be in doubt despite America's sentimental feelings for Elway. He's going down.

You know it. I know it. Elway knows it.

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