Talk about a curtain call. How many of us had a former boss that we wanted to show them what we were about?? Super Bowl XXXIII was John Elway’s last game and it came courtesy of Dan Reeves…yikes.
I still thought the 98 Vikings were the best team that year but guess what? History doesn’t care what The Chancellor thinks so after a 34-19 win over the Falcons; this was the crowning jewel for becoming back to back champions! And just like what happened with the early 90’s Cowboys we’re left with the glut of never ending questions when we’re drinking and talking football…”Would they have three-peated if___?” In this instance had John Elway come back….would they have? Well that wasn’t rhetorical, what do you think?
After 36 seasons and 4 other failed Super Bowl appearances the Broncos were champions. Elway was now a champion and didn’t have to answer those questions anymore. The organization, city, everyone celebrated the triumph in XXXII over the Packers. They were supremely ripe for a letdown. Yet once the press conference to announce Elway’s return for his 16th season came, it seemed like the Broncos would be a good defending champion. Who knew they would go on to be one of the strongest ever??
They leaned on their celebrated running game that had matured thru the previous post season. Terrell Davis came into 1998 running strong. The Achilles heel from the season before was stopping the run, the best thing to do was to get an early lead and impose your running game on your opponent while forcing them to pass. The Broncos did this with great aplomb as Davis became the first 2,000 yard rusher in the AFC since OJ Simpson in 1973.
So the Broncos went from defending champion to a team that threatened to run through the season undefeated. The champagne on ice the ’72 Dolphins put away until the last team loses was ice cold as the Broncos raced out to a 13-0 record. There was a strange feeling when the Broncos entered Giants Stadium during that 14th game. They had already wrapped up the AFC West Division where they had been a wildcard entrant the year before.
For the first time in the latter half of 1998, Denver faced a team that was not intimidated by them. The Giants pulled off the upset when Kent Graham hit Amani Toomer with a late game touchdown 20-16. The dream of the undefeated season had melted away, and after a Monday night loss to the Dolphins, there was concern the Broncos had lost their edge. The playoffs beckoned yet Shanahan started resting his players. Countenance turned to anguish as some Denver fans remembered the ’96 finish and upset to the Jaguars at home in the playoffs.
Uh….well Denver faithful didn’t need to worry. Something about that embarrassing loss brought the fire out of the Broncos who ran roughshod over the Jags 42-14. Next up were the Cinderella New York Jets, who came in with Bill Parcells trying to become the first coach to take 3 teams to the Super Bowl. In Elway’s last game at Mile High Stadium they prevailed 23-10 in a defensive struggle.
Next up, Super Bowl XXXIII and an old ally in former coach Dan Reeves. In the end, Elway threw for 336 yards in an MVP performance in his last game. Elway retired 4 months later and left us to ask that proverbial question…Would they have three-peated had Elway played another year??
What do you think??