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Advantage or burden?

Experience edge can be good or bad in Super Bowl

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Posted: Monday January 25, 1999 01:34 PM

  Cornelius Bennett has played in four Super Bowls. The rest of the Falcons have four Super Bowl appearances combined AP

MIAMI (CNN/SI) -- Both Super Bowl teams arrived early Sunday evening, but they brought with them drastically different levels of Super Bowl experience -- and expectations.

Before the Falcons departed Atlanta, they were greeted by a pep rally in Centennial Olympic Park, hosted by mayor Bill Campbell, who said the Falcons will have a parade after the Super Bowl, win or lose. The Broncos, knowing this is likely John Elway's last ride, know their fans won't be content with second place.

Super Bowl experience will no doubt be a storyline. The Broncos have fond memories of their upset of the Packers only one year ago, while the Falcons have only word of mouth from friends who have played in the Super Bowl.

Lofton's Analysis
Does experience matter? As someone who's been to three Super Bowls, I can tell you the answer is yes ... and no. Yes, it does count that you've been there and experienced it. You kind of know what to expect, like the hordes of media coverage that you go through.

On the other hand, the excitement of going through it for the first time -- you get those tingles -- is very exciting. The guys who have been there before for the Denver Broncos are going to yawn about it -- it's going to be very ho-hum. They know the media is going to be at their beck and call. The Falcons will experience all this for the first time -- they're going to be special, on center stage. Their stories will be new. We've all heard the stories from the Denver Broncos, how they were as little kids, how their Pop Warner coach was, what their mom's favorite dress is. For the Atlanta Falcons, it should be new and exciting, but not disruptive. -- James Lofton

But being the favorite in this game and having the experience can sometimes be a burden. As head coach Mike Shanahan told his Broncos this week, "If you get a little fat and start thinking you're better than you are, you'll get destroyed."

The Falcons are aware of their underdog role, simply because they're in unfamiliar territory this week, on and off the field.

"They have a big advantage. They've been through Super Bowl week and they know what to expect," Falcons receiver Terance Mathis said. "They know how to handle it. They've been there on Super Bowl Sunday. They know how to react with millions and millions of fans watching all over the world. They know. We don't."

The Broncos are cautiously confident, acknowledging they are the team to beat, but hardly boasting about their status as favorites.

"I don't think we're huge favorites in this game, but we're smart enough to know that they're the team that we were last year," said Broncos tailback Terrell Davis. "We can't be overconfident about the situation."

For Denver, the scenario is all too familiar. Last year, the Green Bay Packers were the team seeking a repeat and the Broncos were the underdog who had never won. Recognizing that will go a long way to prevent history from repeating.

Meyer's Analysis
In my opinion, the biggest thing a coach has in the week leading up to the Super Bowl is the logistics. You want to plan every single minute of your working day to make it comfortable, make it a learning experience, and most of all, to make it a successful experience at the end of your time in Miami.

You've got to plan your bus routes, your practice facilities, your videotape, your meals, right down to the pregame prayer that you want to use. So everything is taken into consideration for this monumental day, because as we all know, you only have one shot at that Super Bowl ring in many cases. -- Ron Meyer
"We're kind of in the predicament that Green Bay was in last year," said Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe. "They won it the year before, and they were back and favored. I think we're going to handle it a lot different from the way they handled it. I think we learned from their mistakes."

Falcons coach Dan Reeves has been in an unprecedented eight Super Bowls as a player and coach. He will put some of that Super Bowl experience to the test this week -- in an effort to quell some of the controversy that he helped create last week, Reeves insists he will answer no more questions about his fractured relationship with Mike Shanahan and John Elway once he arrives in Miami.

Only four Falcons have Super Bowl experience -- linebacker Cornelius Bennett lost four times with the Buffalo Bills, safety Eugene Robinson was on the last two Packers teams, and receiver Tony Martin and safety Randy Fuller were in Miami four years ago with the Chargers.

"I'm not getting caught up in the hype -- I'm not mesmerized by the experience factor at all," Robinson says. "All I know is we've been winning games all season. Why should we stop now?"

Related information
Elway, Chandler traveled different paths to Super Bowl
CNN/SI's Pat Kirwan: Davis will be too much for Falcons
CNN/SI's Pat Kirwan: Denver defense should dominate
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