Elway basks in triumph powered by Davis


DENVER -- John Elway is the Denver Broncos' most celebrated player. Terrell Davis is the reason they're about to win back-to-back Super Bowls.

It's easy to forget that sometimes, especially in the middle of Elway-mania. But without Davis, the future Hall of Fame quarterback would be Dan Marino, still waiting for his first Super Bowl title.

Without Davis, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen could not have shouted, "This one's for John!" after Denver's upset of Green Bay in last year's Super Bowl.

Without Davis, yesterday could not have evoked memories of Sept. 6, 1995, the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record at Camden Yards.

"I got a chance to see the fans and look into their eyes, and I had a chance to really concentrate on them," Elway said after the Broncos' 23-10 victory over the New York Jets. "Usually, I'm so involved in the football game, it's hard to concentrate on them."

Photographers swarmed Elway on the field, even before time expired. He motioned for them to clear a path, ran to the north end of Mile High Stadium, then raised both arms in triumph.

The crowd shouted, "El-way! El-way!" then "One more year." Elway shouted, "I love you!" over the stadium PA, then took a victory lap with the AFC championship trophy.

This wasn't about one game, for Elway was far from his best in his likely Mile High farewell. This was about 16 years of memories, about five AFC titles, about an athlete who owns this town like no other, right down to his car dealerships. Still, Elway and Davis aren't Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Elway was the emotional center of last year's Super Bowl victory and last night's triumph, but Davis was the star of both games.

Indeed, Davis in the difference in the franchise that lost its first four Super Bowls and now is a seven-point favorite to become the sixth team in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles (Pittsburgh did it twice).

The Jets committed six turnovers, missed a field-goal try and blew a 10-0 lead in the second half. This is all you need to know about the Broncos' victory: Curtis Martin -- 13 carries, 14 yards; Davis -- 32 carries, 167 yards, one touchdown.

Vinny Testaverde threw for more than twice as many yards as Elway, who completed only 13 of 34 passes, but the running game took on even greater importance, with winds of 20 to 30 mph disrupting both teams.

Jets coach Bill Parcells won the 1986 NFC title game under similar conditions at Giants Stadium, but he had neither the run-stopping defense nor power offense to end Denver's 19-game home winning streak.

The better running game won. The better running game almost always wins in the postseason. And the better runing game will win in the Super Bowl, which is why Atlanta is doomed, even with Jamal Anderson.

The Falcons held Minnesota to 102 yards rushing in their 30-27 overtime victory for the NFC title. Davis has exceeded that total in five of his seven career postseason games.

"I talk to Jamal every week," said Davis, who also is a close friend of Martin's. "Last week, he told me, 'I'll see you in Miami.' Jamal is a strong runner, and our defense will have its hands full."

So will the Falcons'.

The Broncos got back into the game on Elway's one big play -- a 47-yard pass to Ed McCaffrey -- and by recovering a fumbled kickoff after the ensuing touchdown.

But from there, Davis took over behind one of the game's top offensive lines, gaining 97 yards in the second half. His 20-yard burst set up the tiebreaking field goal. His 31-yard touchdown run made it 20-10 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.

"I don't care what it's like outside, you always want Terrell Davis in your backfield," Elway said. "He's the best running back in the game."

Any arguments? Davis this season became the fourth 2,000-yard rusher in NFL history, joining Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders and O. J. Simpson. If anything, his postseason numbers are even more astounding.

Yesterday, Davis' sixth straight 100-yard postseason performance tied John Riggins' NFL record. Davis ranks sixth all-time in NFL postseason rushing yards -- not bad considering he has played in only seven postseason games.

Remember the days when the AFC was the finesse conference? Davis' postseason rushing average is 148.3 yards per game. The Broncos are 33-4 when he runs for 100 yards, 6-0 in postseason play.

"I don't know about the records so much, but you know it's a lot of yards," Davis said. "I always try to hold myself accountable if anything goes wrong in this offense. I don't blame other people, and I won't take credit for what I've done."

He can't.

For one more game at least, the credit goes to Elway.

Pub Date: 1/18/99

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