Broncos Defeat Falcons 34-19 To Repeat As Super Bowl Champs

The Magnificent 7
Elway gives Broncos their second straight Super Bowl title

By Michael Silver

The rain was pouring down early Monday morning as John Elway stepped onto the balcony of his Fort Lauderdale hotel room and let out a resounding roar that reverberated eight stories below. Elway had just played the game of his life in Super Bowl XXXIII, throwing for 336 yards and a touchdown to earn MVP honors in the Denver Broncos' 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. With water splashing on his face, a Cuban cigar in his left hand and an American beer in his right, Elway looked and felt like the king of the world. His broad grin reflected a victory that went beyond a second consecutive NFL championship. Challenged to a duel by his former boss and tormentor, Atlanta coach Dan Reeves, the 38-year-old gunslinger displayed his grit, slaying not only the Falcons but also his remaining demons in what was probably the last game of his Hall of Fame career.

Falcons receiver Tim Dwight returned the opening kickoff 31 yards to the Atlanta 37-yard line. Then aided by a 25-yard pass interference penalty against Broncos defensive back Steve Atwater, the Falcons drove to the Broncos 8-yard line, but Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski sacked quarterback Chris Chandler for a 7-yard loss on third down, forcing Atlanta to settle for Morten Andersen's 32-yard field goal to give them a 3-0 lead.

The Broncos then responded with an 80-yard scoring drive. Quarterback John Elway's 41-yard completion to wide receiver Rod Smith and 2 receptions by tight end Shannon Sharpe for a total of 26 net yards setup fullback Howard Griffith's 1-yard touchdown run. Unfortunately for Denver, Sharpe was injured on that drive. He did play the next drive, but was taken out after that.

Later in the quarter, Falcons defensive back Ronnie Bradford intercepted a pass from Elway (that had bounced off Shannon Sharpe) and returned it to the Broncos 35-yard line. But Denver's defense made a great stand in the opening minutes of the second quarter, tackling Atlanta running back Jamal Anderson for no gain on third down and 1, and then stopping him for a 2-yard loss on a fourth down conversion attempt. The Broncos then reached the Atlanta 8-yard line on their ensuing possession, but were forced to settle for kicker Jason Elam's 26-yard yard field goal to increase their lead, 10–3.

The Falcons then advanced to the Denver 8-yard line on their next drive, but failed to score when Andersen's 26-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. Immediately after the Broncos got the ball back, Smith broke ahead of Falcons safety Eugene Robinson, caught a pass from Elway, and took off for an 80-yard touchdown reception, giving Denver a 17-3 lead (the fourth 80+ yard touchdown pass play in Super Bowl history). TV viewers did not see most of the play, as FOX was still airing a commercial at the time. Aided by Dwight's 42-yard kickoff return to the 49-yard line, the Falcons responded by driving to Denver's 11-yard line and scored with Andersen's 28-yard field goal to cut Atlanta's deficit to 17–6 going into halftime.

The Broncos opened the second half by driving 74 yards to the Atlanta 20-yard line, but ended up scoring no points after Elam's 38-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. Chandler responded on the next 2 plays with a 29-yard completion to receiver Tony Martin and a 12-yard scramble to advance the ball to the Denver 41-yard line. But then linebacker John Mobley sacked Chandler for a 6-yard loss, and cornerback Darrius Johnson intercepted Chandler's pass and returned it 28 yards to the Falcons 42-yard line on the next play. Denver then drove to the 29-yard line, but Elam missed another field goal attempt, this one from 47 yards.

After the missed field goal, the Falcons drove to the Denver 21-yard line with Anderson's 13-yard run, wide receiver Terance Mathis's 13-yard catch, and a 15-yard run from Anderson, giving them a chance to cut their deficit to within one touchdown. However, Broncos defensive back Darrien Gordon intercepted a pass from Chandler and returned it 58 yards to the Atlanta 24-yard line. Five plays later, Griffith scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard run to increase Denver's lead to 24-6.

The Falcons reached the Broncos 26-yard line on their ensuing drive, but Gordon intercepted another pass and returned this one 50 yards to the Atlanta 48-yard line. On the next play, Elway completed a short pass to running back Terrell Davis, who turned it into a 39-yard gain. Two plays later, Elway finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, giving the Broncos a 31-6 lead. (Elway became the second player in Super Bowl history to score a touchdown in four different Super Bowls. He ran for scores before in Super Bowls XXI, XXIV and XXXII, joining Thurman Thomas on this list).

Dwight returned the ensuing kickoff 94-yards for a touchdown to cut the score 31-13, but the Broncos recovered Atlanta's ensuing onside kick attempt. Two plays later, a 25-yard completion from Elway to receiver Ed McCaffrey set up Elam's 37-yard yard field goal with just over 7 minutes left in the final period.

The Falcons offense advanced inside the Denver 30-yard line for the third consecutive time, and finally scored this time on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Chandler to Mathis. Mathis' touchdown made the score 34-19 (Chandler's pass on the 2-point conversion attempted was incomplete), but by then there was only 2:04 left in the game. Atlanta failed to recover the onside kick, but got the ball back on their own 30-yard line with 1:34 left after Denver failed to "go for it" on fourth down. However, Jamal Anderson fumbled at the Broncos 33-yard line, Broncos defensive back Tyrone Braxton recovered the ball, allowing Denver to run out the clock and win the game. The two teams combined for a Super Bowl record 30 fourth-quarter points, with the Broncos' 17 and Falcons' 13.

The Falcons offense gained a total of 337 yards, were not penalized once, and had driven inside Denver's 30-yard line 7 times. But Atlanta's offense could only score 13 points and lost 5 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Broncos gained a total of 457 yards and scored 34 points.

For the Broncos, Davis recorded 102 rushing yards and caught 2 passes for 50 yards. Davis' 102 rushing yards in the Super Bowl gave him over 100 rushing yards for the 7th consecutive postseason game (and he was the 3rd player to run for 100 yards in back-to-back Super Bowls, the others being Larry Csonka in Super Bowls VII and VIII, and Emmitt Smith in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII). Davis became just the second player to be on a Super Bowl winning team after being named the NFL Most Valuable Player and leading the league in rushing. Emmitt Smith was the first one, but also was named Super Bowl MVP for Super Bowl XXVIII during that year. Marcus Allen is the only other player to win all three of these honors during his career. Allen won the 1985 NFL MVP Award and rushing title while being named Super Bowl XVIII MVP at the conclusion of the 1983 season.

Smith caught 5 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, an average of 30.4 yards per catch. Gordon recorded 2 interceptions and returned them for a Super Bowl record 108 yards. Jamal Anderson rushed for 96 yards and caught 3 passes for 16 yards. Dwight returned 5 kickoffs for 210 yards, the second most in Super Bowl history, and the highest Super Bowl career yards per return average(42.0). Falcons receiver Terance Mathis led Atlanta with 7 receptions for 85 yards. Chandler finished the game with 19 out of 35 completions for 219 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted 3 times.

Dan Reeves became the fourth head coach to lose four Super Bowls, joining Bud Grant, Don Shula and Marv Levy. Reeves lost Super Bowls XXI, XXII and XXIV while with the Broncos.