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51 for LI: Going Out On Top In Super Bowl XXXIII

[lead align=”default”]Our focus is on Super Bowl XXXIII today with just 33 days remaining until this year’s NFL championship.[/lead]

Peyton Manning was not the first Denver Broncos quarterback to retire following a Super Bowl victory. The first was John Elway, who led the Broncos to their first and second titles. It took his entire career, but better late than never. How did Elway arrive at his second title?

Super Bowl XXXIII: How They Got There

The 1998 Denver Broncos were the defending champions. In the prior Super Bowl, which is coming tomorrow, the Broncos defeated the Packers to end decades of futility for Denver.

Mike Shanahan and his crew came back, and helped the Broncos get to 14-2 overall. Throughout the regular season, there was an overarching feeling that Denver was a favorite to repeat. The Broncos made it to 13-0 before losing to the New York Giants in Week 15, and then the Miami Dolphins in Week 16.

14-2 won them the AFC West by a mile (high), and they were the one-seed in the conference. Denver smacked around the Dolphins and New York Jets to reach the Super Bowl.

They went on to face the Atlanta Falcons, another 14-2 team, but in their first Super Bowl appearance. One of Atlanta’s two regular-season losses was to San Francisco, but they dispatched the Niners in the playoffs. In the NFC championship, Morten Andersen capped an Atlanta comeback with an overtime field goal to beat the Vikings.

The Falcons had a miracle of a 1998 season. Not just in beating Minnesota, who were 10.5-point favorites, but in getting where they got. No Atlanta team was ever as successful previously, and (so far) none have been since. Dan Reeves, who dealt with scary health issues during the season, lived to fight another day, and did the “Dirty Bird” after the NFC championship.

Super Bowl XXXIII: The Game

Denver came into the Super Bowl as a 7.5-point favorite. Indeed, by the half, it felt a lot like the Broncos were on their way to another title. Late in the second quarter, Denver jumped out to a 17-3 lead, though Atlanta made it 17-6 on an Andersen field goal. The big play of the half was an 80-yard touchdown bomb from Elway to Rod Smith in the second quarter.

No scoring would take place again until a wild fourth quarter. Denver got the first two touchdowns: one on a Howard Griffith run, and the other on an Elway keeper. This was a 31-6 game with 11:20 to go, and it was party time again in Denver.

The Falcons scored two late touchdowns to make up 13 of those points (a two-point conversion failed), but Denver scored once more on a Jason Elam field goal.

John Elway came out of the game one more time, and as his backup took a knee, he left the NFL as a champion.

Super Bowl XXXIII: Highlights

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