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For Broncos, Defense Is Best Backup Plan

PRO FOOTBALL WEEK 3 | DENVER 34, OAKLAND 17

September 21, 1998|From Associated Press

OAKLAND — John Elway pulled up lame and Bubby Brister's first pass was disastrous. Then Ray Crockett and Bill Romanowski took charge.

Crockett and Romanowski combined for three interceptions that led to scores as the Denver Broncos remained unbeaten with a 34-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

"The defense was awesome," Brister said. "They came back and saved the day."

The Raiders (1-2) seemingly had the Broncos (3-0) on the ropes, but were hurt by their penchant for penalties and critical mistakes by Jeff George, who was intercepted twice by Crockett and once by Romanowski.

Crockett returned his second interception 80 yards for a touchdown with 4:29 remaining to kill the Raiders' comeback attempt.

"Individually, it's gratifying but it's more so as a team," Crockett said. "As a unit, we came together and had to get turnovers. That's what this defense does."

Romanowski, who shared one of Denver's four sacks with Glenn Cadrez, said the Broncos were able to pressure George into mistakes.

"He was a little antsy back there," Romanowski said. "When he throws the ball up like that, you have to come down with it."

George's first two turnovers led to touchdown passes by Brister, whose first throw was intercepted by Eric Turner and returned 94 yards for a touchdown.

Oakland Coach Jon Gruden said he isn't worried about George as much as the Broncos' ability to put pressure on him.

"I'm not concerned about Jeff George. We need to be concerned about passing protection and about helping him," Gruden said.

Elway, meanwhile, said he hopes the latest injury isn't serious and plans to practice this week.

"It set me back but I don't think it set me back that far. Everything seems to be fine. I'll go out and try to move around," Elway said.

After Romanowski's interception, Brister came back to throw a three-yard scoring pass to Howard Griffith that snapped a 10-all tie just before halftime. Brister also threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Ed McCaffrey with 7:08 left in the third period following a Crockett interception.

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