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Super Bowl XXXII: A look back through snapshots


Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

Those words still reverberate and ring in the minds of those Broncos fans that were able to witness the crowning achievement of the football team we have loved and supported. It was such a rush to watch John Mobley knock away Brett Favre's last ditch effort to maintain a drive on 4th and 6. Those that were listening can still recall the words of Dave Logan. Just in case I've transcribed them for you:

"Favre hit as he throws pass is gonna be INCOMPLETE!!!! DENVER HOLDS!!!! DENVER'S GONNA WIN IT, OH BABY THEY'RE GONNA WIN THIS THING, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Broncos players are all over the field......OH MAN! You can stand up and salute in Denver, you've got the World Champions that live in your town! Go ahead and salute em Denver YOU'VE GOT THE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!! THE BRONCOS HAVE DONE IT! They have shocked everybody and they have won Super Bowl XXXII....10 seconds left....come down to 7...6...5...4...3...2...1....The Broncos are World Champions, Final Score, Denver 31 Green Bay 24!"

Watching it on TV, I'll never forget the way our sideline exploded when that pass was knocked down. I'll never forget seeing John Elways' eyes light up in pure joy as he leaped up into the air to celebrate. My Dad and I screamed as loud as we could and bear hugged each other in our living room as the shock of the game set in. We lived across the street from a bar and we opened our door up on that frigid January evening to find one lonely soul walking past. Again we screamed and celebrated----no words of meaning came from our celebration, and yet this complete stranger started to scream and celebrate right there on the sidewalk----he knew what just happened, all of Denver knew....

Later on after soaking up the postgame presentations we hopped in our car as a family, my Mom came along too. We made our way down to Federal BLVD with a host of other jubilant Broncos fans. It was jam packed bumper to bumper for as long as I could see. One man, shirtless and skinny with a beard like "The Dude" hopped onto the trunk of his moving car to hold up a large old school Broncos flag as we cruised down the street of victory at a procession like 10 MPH. It was in one word, Amazing!

This was our moment of destiny as a Franchise, a City, a Fanbase so used to big disappointment. On this night the painful memories of Super Bowls past ceased to exist as one game effectively wiped out all heartache and failure that had filled the annals of history. On this night, our Broncos rewrote history.

Setting the Stage

The Broncos finished the regular season 12-4 which was only good for 2nd best in the division. We were first in total offense and points scored and 4th in total defense and 7th in points allowed. In the five team AFC West that still included the Seattle Seahawks, the Kansas City Chiefs finished 13-3 and sewed up home field advantage. Our Broncos would have one home game before embarking on two very difficult road tasks @Kansas City and @Pittsburgh.

This playoff run was coined "The Revenge Tour" as we faced off against an opponent who had beat us previously through each round. First up were the hated Jacksonville Jaguars who had crushed the dreams of Broncos fans everywhere with an epic upset the previous year in the Divisional Round. The Broncos had all year to think of this rematch and it showed as the game was a complete blowout 42-17. Next up were the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead.

The Chiefs featured a very young Tony Gonzales, an in his prime Derrick Thomas (R.I.P.), an aging HOF in Marcus Allen, and some guy named Elvis at QB;) Did I forget to mention perennial Elway punching bag Marty Schottenheimer as head coach? This one was an absolute slugfest as both teams played very stout and opportunistic defense. The score was 14-10 Broncos heading into the final two minutes of the game with the Chiefs driving. This still has to be one of the worst clock mismanagements in history as the Chiefs wittled themselves down to about 20 seconds in our territory after having eclipsed it with more than 1:40 left. On 4th and 2 Elvis Grbac inexplicably threw a terrible pass to the endzone into double coverage rather than try and get the first down and clock the ball. Broncos win round 3.

Finally, the Broncos overcame the Steelers in the AFCCG on the road to earn their berth to Super Bowl XXXII. Remember Kordell Stewart anyone? He was the Steelers starting QB and former CU Buff Alumn who already had put his mark on the sport through his versatility and use as a QB, Receiver, RB, you name it. "Slash" was a legitimate two way threat at QB way before mobile quarterbacks such as RGIII, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick took the league by storm. He was very green though and it cost the Steelers as he was responsible for four turnovers. Two of which were Interceptions thrown in the endzone that killed potential scoring drives. Late in the game with the Broncos leading 24-21 and facing a crucial 3rd and 8, Elway and TE Shannon Sharpe connected on a play they drew up in the huddle to keep the clock moving and ensure a Broncos victory.

All you need to know about the odds the Broncos faced heading into Super Bowl XXXII can be summed up by the following:

13.5 point underdogs

The AFC representative had lost 13 straight Super Bowls to the NFC

27-10, 39-20, 42-10, 55-10

Elway can't get it done, he'll never win the big game

I don't remember any national writer or pundit picking the Broncos to pull off the upset. In fact most figured it might be yet another heart-wrenching blowout. Being a kid at the time, I believed in my team more than anything else. Was I nervous as hell? You bet, but I still believed in #7 and our team.

I'd like to go back and take a look at exactly how they did it. This isn't like a normal Film Study. This is more a snapshot of the most influential Broncos plays from that game.

I hope you enjoy it Broncos Country---THIS ONE'S FOR YOU!

Super Bowl XXXII: First Half

The Packers won the opening kickoff and marched right down the field capping off a TD drive with a 23 yard strike from Brett Favre to Antonio Freeman. At this point, I have to imagine Broncos fans thinking to themselves "Oh no, not again, please don't let us get blown out again!"

On the ensuing Broncos drive, Elway and co. faced a 3rd and 10 past midfield. The pass was incomplete, but Green Bay Corner Doug Evans tacked Ed McCaffrey away from the play after getting beat and the Broncos had new life after an automatic first down. On the very next play from scrimmage, Terrell Davis scampered for 27 yards down to the GB 14 yardline. This sets us up for our first play, appropriately enough a tough Elway scramble:

2nd and 7, GB 12

The Broncos are lined up in 21 personnel---which was their base package. Offset I with Howard Griffith and Terrell Davis in the backfield, Eddy Mac and Rod Smith split wide right with Shannon Sharpe lined up off LT Brian Habib. McCaffrey goes in motion...



Elway playfakes to Davis, RT Tony Jones gets beat and hooks his man down to the ground....but holding is not called.


#7 takes off with a hole right in the middle of the Green Bay Defense


He's pointing out a defender for Howard Griffith to block, from another angle:


John lowers his shoulder close to the goalline and picks up 10 yards on the play for a Bronco first down.


2nd and goal, GB half yard line

Terrell Davis was out the previous play, and Vaughn Hebron failed to punch the ball into the endzone. On this play, the Broncos line up in 22 personnel with Dwayne Carswell off LT and Sharpe lined up off RT. Eddy is lined up wing right with Griffith and TD in offset "I".


Eddy comes in motion to the bottom of the screen


Our line gets excellent push and TD dives through the hole 3 yards deep into the endzone for a Broncos touchdown! Game tied 7-7




2nd and 5, GB 27

This is the ensuing Packers drive after the Broncos tied the ballgame up. Packers are in 21 personnel, "I" formation with a WR split to both sides. TE Mark Chmura is off right tackle. On this play, the Broncos are going to bring a corner blitz from the right side of the defense.


Favre goes playaction, but with both backs going out into a pattern, the heat brought by Darrien Gordon flushes Favre back in the pocket and to his right.


At this point, Neil Smith has beaten his man with a nice swim move and the Broncos have pursuit from both sides. As you can see the coverage is pretty tight.


Backpeddling, Favre heaves one off his backfoot. I don't know exactly who he was throwing to, but the ball goes toward safety Tyrone Braxton who dives for the ball and makes the interception.



Here's a better view of the pressure and Favre throwing the ball from his back foot.


At this point, momentum is clearly on the Broncos side. They have the ball in Packer territory, and on the first play of the Broncos offensive drive, Terrell Davis takes the pitch on a stretch play to the right, cuts it back, makes a beautiful spin move and gains 16 yards down to the Packer 29. This is a good example as any of just how good a back TD was and also a good example of a play that tortured opposing defenses during this run.

1st and 10, GB 45

The key with zone blocking and the stretch play is that it gets the entire defense moving in one direction. It requires a RB with great vision and instincts who will make decisive decisions. The RB will run laterally to the line and look for a hole. If it works, the hole will be on the backside. The RB makes one cut and is to the 2nd level with only a safety to beat.


At this point you can already see the backside pursuit being sucked in.


This group will continue to string the play out that way, but look at the hole being developed by the flow of the play. TD already sees it and is about to make that one cut and blast through. Just to the right of the red line, you can see a beautiful cut block being executed to perfection. This man will go down taking out the last man on the edge, the hole is wide open.


As you can see Darren Sharper is the only guy on the next level.


Sharper has already committed himself to going low, and TD exploits it with a spin move.


Here Eddy Mac gets a block on another backside defender, right after this TD puts his head down and gets a couple extra yards as the safety successfully gets him down.


After a few more plays, including one where TD is hit head on during a play that is called back due to a penalty, the Broncos find themselves in a 3rd and goal situation. In fact the hit I speak of is probably what brings on TD's migraine. For those that didn't know, Terrell Davis suffered from migraine headaches. Though he ends up with over 150 yards rushing in the game, Davis missed almost the entire 2nd quarter of the game because of it.

Now, if you haven't seen players talk about the following play before, here's the breakdown. Davis as mentioned was having a severe migraine that blurred his vision. In fact he comes to the sideline and says "I can't see". Coach Shanahan says "That's ok I don't need you to see, but if you're not in there they will never believe we're going to run the ball." The meaning here being that with Davis out of the game and with a few yards to convert, the Packers will key on playaction. If Davis is in there, they will key on him and the fake will be wide open. Davis, blurred vision and all goes in as a decoy and runs a fake dive. In the huddle Elway tells him "just run straight and I'll take care of the rest". This was how important Terrell Davis was to our offense.

3rd and goal, GB 1.5 yard line

Eddy Mac is going to come into motion, Elway will fake the run to TD and bootleg out to his right, and Griffith will come back underneath the fake and give John a receiving option. Sharpe will also be a receiving option and there are three reads: High (Sharpe) to Low (Griffith) as well as to keep the ball and run it.



Here we can see how well the decoy works everyone is keyed on Davis including the safety at the bottom of the screen. This leaves the bootleg wide open, Elway can pass or run it in. He opts to run it in.





Elway said later that he knew he could run it in and he didn't want to make a mistake trying to dump the ball off. Elway wanted to leave nothing to chance haha. Broncos lead at this point, at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, 14-7. Broncos fans that suffered through the early superbowl realize just how bad 2nd quarters had treated the Broncos in the past. The Redskins scored a record 35 points to turn a 10-0 deficit to a 35-10 lead. Weather the storm, keep it close, and our team had a shot!

The Broncos would keep their momentum going, forcing yet another turnover on the ensuing Packer drive.

3rd and 5, GB 34

Anyone recall the name "The Smiling Assassin?" This refers to Denver Bronco all-time great Steve Atwater. During his tenure as a Bronco, he was the hardest hitting defender we had. In this game, every tackle he made he laid the wood on someone. On this particular play, Atwater is going to blitz the B gap on Favre's blindside. Favre doesn't see it coming. Like any smart defender, Atwater hooks around the back and punches the ball out of Favre's hands. Neil Smith disengages his man to dive on the football and give the Broncos possession.




Here he hooks his right arm around and punches the ball out



From here the Broncos failed to get any traction. Jason Elam ended up kicking a 51-yard FG to put them up 17-7. Throughout the rest of the 2nd Q, both teams traded possessions and punts. At the end of the first half, the Packers put together a long TD drive capped off by pass from Favre to Chmura to end the scoring at 17-14. It wasn't a blowout, the Broncos had won the line of scrimmage, turnover battle, and found themselves with a slight edge going into halftime. That's all we could ask for, we still had a shot!


Super Bowl XXXII: Second Half

The Broncos received the 2nd half kickoff looking to extend their lead into double digits. Though the Broncos had played mistake free ball up until this point, they were about to make their first big mistake.

1st and 10, DEN 23

Lined up in 21 personnel, the Broncos went back to their patented pitch play, again to the left. Terrell Davis takes it and gets a few yards upfield before a GB linebacker reached back and got his hand on the ball, it moves slightly, but other defenders swarm in and strip the ball from Terrell Davis. After effects of the migraine? Perhaps...Packer ball deep in Denver territory.





Dorsey Levens, stuffed on 1st and 10. 2nd and 10 brings a blitz, errant throw, and near INT by Steve Atwater. 3rd and 10....screen pass for 6 yards. What sticks out to me so far is the frequency with which the Broncos defense has blitzed on 2nd and 3rd down. I don't think there's been a defensive series yet where they didn't blitz at least once. Force Favre to make quick decisions----great strategy!

GB kicks a FG to tie the game at 17.....except


Alfred "Huge Laugh" Williams (listen to the drive with Big Al and DMac and you'll know what I'm talking about) is early on the snap was 4th and 4, Green Bay has yet another shot in the redzone. Broncos hold and are aided by consecutive false start penalties on 3rd down. Packers tie the game for real this time with a 27 yard FG. 17-17.

Alright, so a potential disaster was averted. A turnover only cost the Broncos three points. No big deal 27 minutes left and we were still in the game.

Both teams traded punts, which set up the Broncos for a Super Bowl defining drive.

To this point, the Broncos relied heavily on their running game. Elway threw a lot of checkdowns and short passes. Watching him double pump on several attempts, it is clear to me that Elway is trying to protect the ball and not make any big mistakes. At this point in his career, in this game, he no longer has to do it all. He has a great RB to help shoulder the load, all he has to do was make some key plays at key moments, and that is precisely what he does. We've all heard of the drive, 98.5 yards to destiny. This one would be 92 yards to destiny.

1st and 10, DEN 31

After getting a couple first downs and advancing the ball from their own 8 yardline, Elway executes a playaction, exploits a busted coverage or missed assignment, and hits Eddy McCaffrey for 36 yards deep down the seam on a skinny post. Let's take a look at "The Duke" in action:


What a gorgeous fake he had!


Picture perfect form!


Ok, here's a look at the entire play. Now, I think this is cover 2 robber. Both DB's on the outside open up their hips and run with the play as if they have deep responsibility. At first glance the Packers might be playing Cover 3...but the safety up top stays on that side of the field. In fact, he doesn't flinch or pursue #87 once he splits the seam. The safety down at the bottom steps up, presumably biting on the playfake. Except when he realizes TD doesn't have the ball, he doesn't struggle to pursue, either he misunderstands his responsibility, or there is a miscommunication in the secondary, Eddy runs deep down the field wide open.


21 personnel, Sharpe up top, Rod split wide at the bottom, McCaffrey in the slot.




McCaffrey was a horse, still drags two defenders to the ground with him


The next two plays net 17 yards on an 8 yard gain by Davis on the ground and a 9 yard pass to Ed McCaffrey. With a first down on the Packer 16, the Broncos gain only 4 yards on 1st and 2nd down bringing up a 3rd and 6, and the defining play of Superbowl 32.

3rd and 7, GB 12, "The Helicopter"

This play above all others in SB XXXII epitomizes the will to win: Sacrificing one's self for the sake of the team. To a man, every Bronco that's ever been asked about this play has said it was the point in the game when they realized they were going to win the game. Elway, takes the snap from shotgun, scans the field and sees great coverage. There is also a running lane and "Big Bad John" (my Dad's nickname for him) takes off. As he makes his way downfield, he takes a quick look at the sideline to see how far he needs to go for the 1st down. Realizing the only chance he has is to go for broke, Elway leaves his feet head first right into a trio of Packers defenders. This one deserves some special treatment, so there will be a video with this one.





I said this deserved special attention, let's see it from another view

Elway looking for the 1st down marker on the sideline


The dive


The impact


The spin


The pain!


"You can't tell me this 37 year old man doesn't wanna win this one!"


Here's the video, and remember, 1998 was long before HDTV, if you've forgotten how good things have gotten, you'll see it here!

From here, the Broncos had a first and goal, all they had to do was feed TD the rock. At this point Davis had over 100 yards rushing and we're not even into the 4th quarter yet. The Packer defense was definitely being worn down by the physicality of the smaller yet more athletic Bronco line, not to mention the punishing running of TD. On 2nd and goal from the 1, Davis got the job done, carrying a Packer linebacker on his back into the endzone. Broncos 24 Packers 17





"Mile High Salute"


Wow! We really have a shot at winning this thing. We're playing hard, smash mouthed football and taking it to the 13.5 point favorites from the NFC. I won't presume to speak for Broncos Country, but while the game was definitely nerve-racking, this is probably the point in the game where victory started to become a reality. Heading to the 4th quarter with a lead was a first for our Broncos in the superbowl. The lead could have grown bigger....much bigger.

On the kickoff, specialist Tony Veland (#32) puts a hat right on the ball and pops it out of the grasp of GB returner Antonio Freeman. Tim McKyer (#26) jumps on the ball and gives the Broncos possession on the GB 21 yardline.





What a golden opportunity to really put our foots on the necks of the Packers and stomp the life out of them, in fact Coach Shanahan thought so as well dialing up a deep pass to Rod Smith....except....Elway never saw the safety. Interception, and it was a damn good route and double move by Rod Smith!







From here, it only took Brett Favre 4 plays and one pass interference penalty to go 85 yards for a game tying TD. Looking back the previous play could have been a source of regret. Why not just pound the rock? Why not just play it safe and work your way down the field? See how ludicrous 2nd guessing can be? At that point in time, the absolute correct move was to go for the kill, they set it up all game with the run, why not? It just didn't work out.

The next 10 minutes or so were probably the most nervous I've been during any Bronco game, ever. Tie game, we're so close to winning, please please PLEASE, don't let us make it this far only to come up short! Through the tension, both defenses stiffened up. Both teams had two possessions each that lead to a total of four punts. The final Packer punt came from their ten yardline setting up the Broncos for the most important drive of the game.

1st and 10 GB 49, Davis rushes for 2 yards, but is yanked by the facemask. Personal foul, 15 yards, first down!

1st and 10 GB 32, Davis rushes for 1 yard....we can't come up short here!

2nd and 9 GB 31

21 personnel, offset "I", Griffith is motioned to the left. Playaction to Davis. Elway rolls to his right, checks it down to Griffith. #29 streaks down the sideline.....BAM!!! WHO JUST MADE THAT BLOCK?





Now you see him....


Now you don't...



You wanna see that block one more time?



Even Eddy knows how hard he hit that dude! "The Fingerpoint"


Inside the Packer 10, 1st and goal, TD rushes to the 1....then the refs see something that wasn't there---holding on Sharpe. Sharpe gets penalized for having his hands on the outside, but he engages, drives, and lets him go...




Bad call, but it didn't matter. Nothing would keep us from our destiny. After a 10 yard penalty and 1st and goal from the 18, Terrell Davis comes back the very next play and runs the ball all the way down to the 1 yard line, setting up "The Gimme".

I remember right after the superbowl that it came out GB let the Broncos score so they would get the ball back with time and timeouts. Very sound strategy, after all, the Broncos could take some knees, make them burn their timeouts, kick a FG and give the ball back with next to nothing on the clock.

Here's a look at how big the hole was for TD's record setting TD run:




31-24....4th Quarter...1:45 left....please hold em!!!

Unfortunately, Broncos fans still had to squirm. Brett Favre lead his Packers down the field quickly gaining 39 yards in 4 plays. They had the ball on the Bronco 31 yardline, facing a 3rd and 6 when something disastrous happened: Steve Atwater knocked himself and another Bronco defensive back out cold.





4th and 6, 32 seconds left, it all comes down to this. Two guys in your secondary are out. The fate of a franchise will be written, and whoever makes the play will become part of history. Can our defense hold and give Elway, The Broncos, and the city of Denver it's first World Championship?






YES!!! WE WON!!! OH MY GOD WE WON!!!!!!!!





The greatest kneeldown of all time, Final Score: Broncos 31 Packers 24


We finally did it, we overcame a history of failure and heartbreak. It is the pinnacle for everyone involved in this sport---to call yourselves the "world champions". Fans can finally say the team they love with all their hearts finally won the big one. Looking back on this game, it is amazing to see how many people contributed to victory. This one may have been for John, Terrell Davis may have been the Super Bowl MVP, but it took a TEAM to win! Hope you enjoyed the read my Orange and Blue Brothers and Sisters, please share your memories of the game in the comments.....GO BRONCOS!!!


More Helicopter, and the final play with radio call from Dave Logan and Scott Hastings