Coming off a Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants the year before was disappointing, however #1 draft pick John Elway had arrived.  By all accounts Elway came of age with “The Drive”, the 98 yard march in Cleveland Municipal Stadium in the last minutes of the AFC Championship Game. Denver tied it at 20 in the final minutes and won 23-20 in OT.

87 Broncos ringThe game was seen as an all time classic.  Cleveland’s “Dawg Defense” smarted for over a year feeling as though they let the Brown’s fans down and swore to get revenge against the Broncos, and Elway in particular.  Two weeks later Elway came up a little short in his upset bid of the New York Giants out in the Rose Bowl, Super Bowl XXI, yet had a bright future. Denver would have many opportunities with a quarterback who conceivably could carry a team seemingly all by himself…wouldn’t they??

Bronco fans were buoyed with more optimism for the future with Elway than wracked with Super Bowl disappointment.  After all, this franchise hadn’t won a league championship in their first 26 years of existence. They hadn’t been among the league’s elite since the late 70s. This was the first time the Broncos had a legitimate “franchise quarterback” and Elway followed up his ’86 campaign with a better one the following season.

1987-cf-tnElway’s mobility was a vital element in the offense; he would scramble for first downs, scramble to keep passing plays alive, then deliver the ball anywhere on the field with his rocket arm. The offense being more potent helped resurrect the Orange Crush defense by keeping drives alive and the defense rested. Many pundits predicted that 1987 would be the Broncos year.

Enter the 1987 season; the Broncos bolstered their passing attack with speedy receiver Ricky Nattiel from Florida. He supplemented incumbents Vance Johnson and Mark Jackson and the three proved harder to defense. The “Three Amigos” were deadlier than ever thanks to an increasing penchant of Bronco coach Dan Reeves to go with more 3 receiver sets to create mismatches.

Steady play came from Sammy Winder at running back.  Versatile Steve Sewell saw increased playing time as a third down back with the loss of Gerald Willhite due to injury. Points rang up all year as the Broncos went 11-4 (strike shortened year) and earned home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs with a 24-0 win over San Diego in the snow in the final week. So this year, if they faced nemesis Cleveland, it would be in the friendly confines of Mile High Stadium.

00033503From 1977 – 1990 the Denver Broncos enjoyed the best home record in all the NFL. It was loud, the steel framing of the stadium & stairs made it louder when the 75,000 fans began to stomp on them. Already vociferous in nature, the din of the fans, along with the thin air that made it hard to breathe for hyper ventilating opponents. It made Mile High a most inhospitable place.  Many teams fell victim to this lethal combination….except one.

The Cleveland Browns were on a collision course with the Broncos.  They were running roughshod over the AFC Central and again finishing with a 10-5 record. Bernie Kosar, Webster Slaughter, Earnest Byner led the offense, where Clay Matthews, the late Eddie Johnson, Hanford Dixon, Ray Ellis, and Frank Minnifield again led the Dawg defense which added a new wrinkle. To take advantage of their superior cornerback play started to employ the “Bear” defense which was the Browns version of the “46 defense.”

As the AFC Championship began, Elway was on fire taking a 14-3 lead as Cleveland couldn’t get out of their own way. Several turnovers kept the Browns fighting an uphill battle. He kept play after play going with his legs and scrambling to find open receivers. They built a 21-3 halftime lead and when the Browns threatened to comeback, Elway made plays to turn the momentum.

super-bowl-logo-1987When Cleveland closed the score to 21-10, three plays later he escapes a 3 man rush scrambles out and hits Mark Jackson. He eludes 3 defenders and completes an 80 yard touchdown to put the Browns behind by 18 points again at 28-10. Once the Browns orchestrated a second half come back tying it at 31, he then drives the Broncos to the winning touchdown to Sammy Winder to make it 38-31. They withstood a final charge and recovers Earnest Byner’s fumble to escape to Super Bowl XXII.

Denver needed every great play from Elway that day to edge the Browns. His second AFC Championship solidified his position as one of the premier QBs with a bright future ahead. All he had to do was win a Super Bowl and he would have his second chance against the Washington Redskins.

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Hail to the Redskins…we heard that song so much in the 2nd quarter it was ridiculous!! Somewhere Tony Lilly (#22 Broncos) is still having nightmares. I remember tellin’ my boy Tommy Walker he may never play again in the NFL after this performance. Yet we’re here to celebrate accomplishment.

The first Black quarterback to start a Super Bowl was one that carried significant weight for all those that were “coerced” into playing other positions throughout the years. Prejudice kept blacks from playing the thinking positions throughout the 50’s, 60’s,’70’s, & 80’s with the last bastion being that of the quarterback. Now to have Doug Williams about to face media darling John Elway, pundits wondered if Washington could stay on the field with them.

To think that we were about to see the greatest offensive performance in the history of the NFL in Super Bowl XXII just didn’t seem plausible.

Consider the fact that Doug Williams had begun the season as backup to incumbent Jay Schroeder and the on again, off again, nature of being the 2nd stringer being replaced by the starter. Schroeder had led the Redskins to the 1986 NFC Championship the year before which included a big playoff win over the defending champion Chicago Bears. He couldn’t come up big against the NY Giants in that championship game but neither had any other QB that season. So in ’87 after another Schroeder benching, Gibbs went with Williams as the starter in the playoffs. He played ok when the Redskins beat the Bears 21-17 in Walter Payton & Gary Fencik’s last game.

Williams only completed 9 of 19 passes in a lackluster NFC Championship (17-10) win over the Minnesota Vikings. There was still speculation over who would start at quarterback as the Redskins made their way to San Diego for SuperBowl XXII. After going down to Denver 10-0 and Elway’s first pass being a touchdown to Ricky Nattiel, Williams hurt his knee yet came back to start the 2nd quarter.

Now get this, the famous Elway drive in Cleveland took a little over 5 minutes the year before. Well in the 2nd qarter of SuperBowl XXII, Doug Williams led Washington’s offense to 356 yds of offense, 5TDs with 4 of them being TD passes in only 18 plays and 5:54 seconds of possession!! Yikes!! Talk about the “Greatest Show on Turf”…to finish the game with 602yds when they clearly stopped trying to score after halftime was ridiculous. Joe Montana, in his win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV, threw for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 55-10 rout.

Or to put it to you another way – Of the previous 21 Super Bowls, only 5 of the 42 teams gained more yards in their complete game than the Redskins had in the 2nd quarter alone.

A few of the Super Bowl records set:

  • Doug Williams most yds passing game 340 and for a half with 306.
  • Tim Smith most yds rushing game 204 and for a half with 136
  • Ricky Sanders most yards receiving game 193 and for a half with 177.
  • 35 points were most in a quarter and a half of a Super Bowl.
  • Total yardage for a Super Bowl game with 602 yards of offense.
  • Longest touchdown pass tied 80 yards – Williams to Sanders

This was one quarter we’re talking about!! Steve Foley had been Denver’s safety for many years, retired before the season and was replaced by Tony Lilly. Who spent Super Sunday chasing Redskins into the endzone and was subsequently let go after the game. He did not resign with another team.

super-bowl-logo-1987This was the ring for winning SuperBowl XXII and ushered in the era where black quarterbacks were able to gain their due…with the Warren Moon’s & Randall Cunningham’s soon to follow. I can remember my Mom being in tears as we watched and I kept telling her what record had just fallen and which ones were coming up.

His MVP announcement

Ironically the first modern black quarterback who held almost all significant Denver Bronco rookie passing records (even over John Elway) was Marlin Briscoe. He ironically was “coerced” into playing receiver later in his career winning two Super Bowls with the Dolphins. Full circle to have this feat happen to the Denver Broncos who gave up on Briscoe playing QB?? Not yet…

Try the fact the Washington Redskins are in a battle against Native Americans to keep their team name. What this generation doesn’t know is the Redskins under George Preston Marshall was the last NFL team to integrate. Before 1960, the Redskins were the NFL’s most southern team whose games were broadcast to the south regionally. In fact at their welcome back luncheon to kickoff the season, the Marshall owned Redskins actually sung “Dixie.” Something Hall of Fame Redskin Bobby Mitchell recounted in NFL Films’ Black Star Rising. Now Robert Griffin III sporting dreadlocks is the Washington incumbent starting quarterback.

If the Seattle Seahawks win it all here in the next 3 weeks, we’ll have the NFL’s first dynasty with a black quarterback at the helm in Russell Wilson.

Life works in mysterious ways…. now you’ve come full circle.

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This article is dedicated to Doug Williams for his transcendent performance in San Diego in 1988.

I also dedicate this article to my mother Mrytle Taylor who shared this moment with me. Her tears that day brought me to mine as we watched this performance obliterate an old stereotype. i know she’s looking down from heaven right now…

NFL Week 5: First Quarter Report Cards

Tonight’s game between the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys marks a quarter of the 2012 NFL season will be in the books. Last year we had twists and turns that could be blamed on the lockout where this one doesn’t have a scapegoat. Alright maybe it does with the replacement officials yet in hindsight they only affected one game. Aside from the Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Monday Night tilt, there were bad calls on both teams to even things out. Yet the regular officials were back yesterday and made a call that surprised me and will be the last we’ll say about the referees for awhile.

Doug Wiliams injuring his knee and dropping the football in Super Bowl XXII. The ruling then was he gave himself up therefore the ball was dead. Yesterday the NFL refs ruled differently.

Taken from The Chancellor of Football’s Facebook page: In yesterdays Jets v 49ers game, Santonio Holmes injures his knee, drops the football and turned it over to San Francisco. In Super Bowl XXII, Denver was up 10-0 on the Washington Redskins when Doug Williams dropped back, injured his knee, drops the football as he is writhing in pain just like Holmes. He hadn’t been touched down and Rulon Jones recovered the ball. The explanation THEN was Doug Williams “gave himself up (injury) therefore the ball was dead” Huh? The Denver Broncos would have had the football at the Washington 22 with a chance to go up 17-0. A turning point of a game that NEVER got talked about. So either the Broncos got cheated in Super Bowl XXII Dennis Smith Karl Mecklenburg Eric V. Lockett or they screwed up yesterday. Which is it!?!?!?!?

The point maybe moot with the 49ers handing the Jets one of their worse home loss in years but we are here to hand out report cards.

The 49ers swallowed the Jets offense yesterday 34-0.

Receiving an “A” grade:

Atlanta Falcons – On course for a possible trip to the NFC Championship Game or beyond. Matt Stafford trapped on his own 1 with :59 left and down 28-27 hits Roddy White for 59 yards. He completed 3 passes and moves the team 70 yards and they win 30-28. Could be a team of destiny with a win like that. An absolute championship building block.

Minnesota Vikings- Christian Ponder has yet to throw an interception and this team is not beating itself. Yesterday’s 20-13 win over Detroit was the Vikings first divisional win in 2 years. By moving to 3-1 with a head to head victory on Detroit gives them a 3 game lead over the Lions. As time goes on and Adrian Peterson gets comfortable with his recovered knee…look out.

Houston Texans- Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster are powering the only team in the AFC South. J.J. Watt and the defense has played solidly yet this team hasn’t played anyone yet.  We’ll know if they stay on the “A” list when they take on the Baltimore Ravens in week 7. That’s the team that eliminated them last year.

Arizona Cardinals -Surprisingly this team has become a defense first football team. They had a signature win over the New England Patriots in Foxboro two weeks ago. They have won in spite of their offense sputtering in 3 games and rotating quarterbacks in Skelton and Kevin Kolb. Right now they are 4-0 and playing strong football. Patrick Peterson is about to become the cover corner and is blossoming into a great player.

San Francisco 49ers – Last week when they lost to the Vikings everyone wanted to attribute it to jetlag. Maybe the Vikings are that good and surprised San Fran. Yet Harbaugh’s bunch exposed the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions to start the season off right. Yesterday’s 34-0 destruction of the New York Jets showed how physically imposing this team is. They are rushing the football with authority and playing thunderous team defense. They will definitely be there in the end.

Brian Dawkins was honored at halftime of last night’s game.

Receiving a “B” grade:

Baltimore Ravens – This team should be on the “A” list but were undone by Joe Flacco’s 4 for 16 2nd half performance in the 24-23 loss to the Eagles. The defense has played lights out football with Haloti Gnata, the best defensive lineman in the NFL, and Ray Lewis still playing at a high level. Ray Rice is still running the football hard and has 317 yards rushing on the young season. Flacco is still checking the ball down too much to Rice and if he doesn’t improve on this they won’t make it to an “A”.

Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick has had a rough first quarter yet he did march them to a winning score with a minute to go against Cleveland. As an encore, he brought the Eagles back last night against the world champion Giants. What has been lost in this great start is how the defense has been playing. Everyone besides Namedi Asoumgha… What has happened to him?? Right now they are 3-1 and as the Cardinals keep winning, that one loss doesn’t seem like such an upset.

Chicago Bears – Last night showed how a team can play when they are hitting on all cylinders. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are making progress. You saw how Devin Hester can be freed with defensive attention on Marshall. Once the team is totally in an offensive rhythm once Matt Forte is at 100%, you can see how Hester can become the Bears answer to Minnesota’s Percy Harvin. On defense, it was pointed out that the Bears are playing fundamental 4-3 defense without any gimmicks. Solid pass rush, strong linebacker play and Charles “Peanut” Tillman has been the most consistent corner over the last 5 years. All they have to do is get Cutler to have a good game once they face the Packers. They’re records keep going as they are and they won’t have to worry about Green Bay. A serious NFC darkhorse in Chicago.

New England Patriots – Early on they had some protection issues and were going away from Wes Welker. With yesterday’s blistering 45 point second half in their 52-28 win in Buffalo, they may have righted the ship. In doing so, the Patriots had two 100 yard rushers in Stevan Ridley (137 yards) and Brandon Bolden (137 yards) and should bode well the rest of the season. Even though they are 2-2 on the season, they lost to 4-0 Arizona and 3-1 Baltimore. Brady can get hot and now that they have awakened from their early season slumber the Patriots will be off and running from this point forward. Next up they host the Denver Broncos. Tom Brady v. Peyton Manning. You don’t think Brady will be up for this one?? Another 40 point outing awaits…

San Diego Chargers – Just making this list by virtue of their record are the 3-1 Chargers. In reality they are the best of the weaker teams and have a weak schedule to thank. The Titans, Raiders, and Chiefs have a combined record of 3-9. When they lined up against the Falcons, they couldn’t stay on the field and were crushed 27-3. Their offense is ranked 24th in the NFL and will need to remain turnover free to keep this up.

Cincinnati Bengals – On a 3 game winning streak, this is the surprise team of the early season in the AFC. Right now Andy Dalton has connected on 67.5% of his passes and 8 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. Cincy is playing wide open football and are ranked 10th in all of football. Do they have the ability to run the football with muscle when they need it?? They were exposed in that 44-13 opening day loss to Baltimore for lacking that. They have to develop some strong running game to combat all of their division rivals.

Marshawn Lynch has enjoyed a rebirth in Seattle.

Receiving a “C” grade:

New York Giants – Eli Manning has been saving this team all season and nearly pulled out another game last night against the Eagles. So if Manning didn’t throw for more than 250 yards and 25 fourth quarter points, where would the Giants be?? Where is their pass rush?? They have had a few injuries and they still need to run the football with authority. They need to make Andre Brown (5.2 yards per carry) the running back the rest of the season. Ahmad Bradshaw is not an every down running back.

Denver Broncos – Every thought has been on Peyton Manning and will the Broncos make it to the Super Bowl. At 2-2 with a trip to Foxboro coming up, this game is when we find out about this team. They beat the hapless Raiders and an undermanned Steelers defense. Yet against teams with real Super Bowl aspirations, they are 0-2 and face the defending AFC Champions. They beat this  Patriot team then talk to the Chancellor.

Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III has made this team one to be reckoned with. Not only have they been competitive, they are 10 points away from being 4-0. Right now they are feeling the loss of Bryan Orakpo on defense. However after several years of solid defense, this team is transitioning into an offensive team that can run the football and rest their defense. With 8 rushing touchdowns to go along with 69.4% completion percentage, 1,070 yards and 4 touchdowns, Griffin will be more dangerous as defenses tire.

Seattle Seahawks – Everyone is upset that a bad call gave them a victory over the Green Bay Packers but a truth was overlooked by the finish. This team has been playing defense as though Buddy Ryan is coaching them. They sacked Aaron Rodgers 8 times in that game and almost knocked him from the game. The Seahawks are ranked #2 in total defense and the defense held the mediocre Cowboys to just 7 points when they came to visit. So keep in mind in home games, they have only given up an average of 9.5 points per game. This is a growing trend. Once the offense with Rookie QB Wilson can get some consistency in the passing game, this team will move into the “B” category.

Well these are the teams that have made the grade. So if you don’t see your team here, they have to return with a signed report card from their parents. Either they are going in the wrong direction or flat-out don’t grade above a “D” or an “F”. It is what it is… so they better crack open the books and get their game-plan together. Report cards are always tough elixirs for some to take. Remember this isn’t about cheering for a team, this is about assessing their performance.

[Dallas Cowboys] – Listen…not only do they not get a passing grade but everything that was discussed by The Chancellor before was evident last night. This team does not have a player at any position aside from DeMarcus Ware that is either the best at his position or a player other teams would replace their player for one that plays for the Cowboys. They’re just not that good. Seattle and Chicago both manhandled them in their two losses and they were sporadic in a lackluster 17-9 win over Tampa. They were fired up for game 1 against the Giants, which now looks like a fluke win. Now they’re season gets tough with four of the next five on the road in Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Carolina. Who are they better than of that bunch?? Come on now Cowboy fans…

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