The Denver Broncos have turned winning in the fourth quarter into an art form.
But it was surprising that they did it with defense instead of offense. The last-second hero wasn't quarterback John Elway, but safety Tyrone Braxton.
After the Bears got a first down at the Denver 1 with 40 seconds left, the Broncos appeared to be beaten.
"The odds are almost 1,000-to-1 against us in that situation," said defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry.
But Raymont Harris was stopped for a 1-yard loss on first down and lost 2 yards on a pitch on second down.
With nine seconds left on third down, Dave Krieg tried to throw a pass to defensive tackle Jim Flanigan, who was filling in at tight end. Flanigan couldn't catch it, which brought up fourth down. Krieg tried to loft a fade pass to Curtis Conway, but Braxton was ready.
"I was right on [Conway's] shoulder," said Braxton, who also had an interception and a fumble recovery. "I was ready to make the play. When the ball was in the air, all I could think was make sure he can't catch it. Knock it down. Knock it down."
He knocked it down, and Denver had the victory.
"We've got on a glass slipper. We're Cinderella and it's not going to be 12 o'clock until February," Braxton said.
That could be a ticket for the Broncos' fifth Super Bowl attempt. They're 6-1 in home playoff games with Elway -- losing only to Pittsburgh in 1984.
Phillips on the run
Lawrence Phillips, the controversial running back who had gained only 316 yards all year, broke loose for 106 yards on 14 carries in the St. Louis Rams' 59-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons before going out in the third quarter with a bruised knee.
And Phillips actually talked about his play after the game. He'd been avoiding the media.
"It's definitely been hard," said Phillips. "It's frustrating when you average, I think, it was 2.7 yards per game. I was just hoping to keep pushing and pushing and one day I would break through with a game like this. I didn't think I'd have to wait this long, but all the more better."
Phillips, who got stuffed three straight times by the Ravens from the 1 last month, also saluted his offensive line.
"They were creating huge holes," he said.
Phillips' knee injury isn't supposed to keep him out of Sunday's game against Carolina.
Friesz rescues Seahawks
When quarterback Jeff George was suspended by the Atlanta Falcons last month, the Seattle Seahawks offered him $30 million in a six-year deal. George turned it down and the Falcons weren't able to trade him.
Now the Seahawks are looking at a cheaper alternative who was on their roster all the time -- John Friesz. A backup to Rick Mirer the last two years, Friesz previously lost out to Stan Humphries in San Diego and Heath Shuler and Gus Frerotte in Washington.
Now Friesz has won four of five games since replacing Mirer and has the league's fourth-best quarterback rating -- 89.8.
He passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns in the team's 42-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The Seahawks no longer are interested in George. They want to sign Friesz to a long-term deal, but it's not likely to cost them $30 million.
Hill gets message, delivers
Greg Hill can understand a message. When the Kansas City Chiefs deactivated him for their Oct. 27 game against Denver, it was a message that he wasn't producing.
"He wasn't an easy person to block for," said wide receiver Chris Penn. "There was no telling where he was going to take the ball."
He took it to the end zone Sunday when he rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs' 27-20 upset of Green Bay.
In the process, he overshadowed Marcus Allen, who is tied with Walter Payton for the record with 110 touchdowns, but failed to score even though he had four carries inside the 10 in the first quarter.
Steelers kick one away
After Pittsburgh scored with five seconds left in the first half to take a 17-10 lead over Cincinnati, kickoff returner David Dunn was waiting for a squib kick.
"I thought I'd catch it on the first or second hop," Dunn said.
The Steelers had the same idea. Coach Bill Cowher told kicker Norm Johnson to squib it. But he kicked a line drive that Dunn returned 90 yards for a touchdown that sparked the Bengals to a 34-24 victory.
Cowher, though, wouldn't blame Johnson. He said the Steelers still should have stopped Dunn. "We had 11 guys to cover and we didn't. I don't want this to be thought of as a game we lost because we couldn't squib it," he said.
Extra Lion is no help
The Detroit Lions came up with a 12-man defense against the San Diego Chargers on Monday night and still couldn't stop a Hail Mary pass.
With two seconds remaining in the first half, the Lions put 6-foot-4 wide receiver Herman Moore on the field as a defensive back. But nobody came out, and the Lions were called for the penalty.
The Chargers declined it, though, because 5-9 receiver Andre Coleman got lost in the shuffle in the back of the end zone and caught Humphries' 46-yard pass that started the Chargers on their way to a 27-21 victory.
The AFC has a 24-15 edge against the NFC after winning five of six Sunday. The Bills' triumph over the Eagles gave Buffalo a 4-0 sweep against the NFC East. Sean Landeta of the Rams, who played at Towson State, has kicked 285 punts without having one blocked. Cincinnati coach Bruce Coslet, who was fired by the Jets after the 1993 season, is the first Bengals coach to start 3-0. Current Jets coach Rich Kotite is 4-22 with the Jets and 4-29 in his last 33 games as a head coach. Coslet finished 26-39 with the Jets.
Pub Date: 11/13/96