War Room Keys to Victory
Posted: Thursday January 28, 1999 02:23 PM
The War Room is breaking down the matchups in Super Bowl XXXIII and offers up their "keys to victory" for both the Falcons and Broncos.
Atlanta will win if ...
1. They slow down Terrell Davis. This is a huge task containing the best rusher in the NFL, who has been spectacular the past two seasons constantly out doing his previous accomplishments. The Super Bowl XXXII MVP dismantled a strong Packer defense to win the title last year. This year all he has done was rush for 2,008 yards in the regular season and average more than 148 yards in Denver's two playoff blowout wins -- oh, and he was named the MVP of the NFL.
Atlanta will approach this game utilizing their quickness up front to penetrate the Bronco's backfield keeping their talented linebackers in position to tackle Davis before he can explode through the line of scrimmage or tear off a big run cutting back against defensive over pursuit. This front seven hopes to contain Davis so SS William White and FS Eugene Robinson can concentrate on stopping Elway's dangerous passing attack. If the safeties need to step up to slow down Davis, it could be trouble for Atlanta.
2. They stay in the game early. Resiliency. Just like the pesky Falcons did against the league's top scoring offense in Minnesota, Atlanta will fight and scrap to stay in the game. This defense allowed only 75 yards rushing per game and was the league's best in creating turnovers (44) and had by far the best turnover ratio (+20) in the NFL. This is a mentally tough team that continues to believe in itself and has the persistence to fight for 60 minutes. If Atlanta can keep it close, don't count out the Falcons.
3. They disrupt Denver's offensive flow with pass rush. The front four has played exceptionally well this season. This unit must continue to tie up offensive blockers in run defense and generate pressure on John Elway to force throws. If Elway gets a rhythm going this offense can be unstoppable. Atlanta will count on big plays from this front four to disrupt both the vaunted run game and dangerous passing attack.
4. They win the turnover battle -- no mental mistakes. Atlanta was the best in the NFL all season at winning the turnover battle. This group recovered 25 fumbles and snared 19 picks for 44 turnovers defensively while their efficient offense only had 24 turnovers -- the best turnover ratio in the league by six turnovers, as Minnesota was second with (+14). Denver was fifth in the league with a (+10) turnover ratio. The Falcons capitalize on these breaks putting points on the board as is evidenced by the 146 points directly a result of the 44 takeaways. The poise of this team can be best measured by the efficiency of the opening touchdown drive that Chandler led going the length of the field in the hostile environs of the Vikings Metrodome. That drive had no Falcon miscues and Chandler forced several defensive mistakes in the incredibly loud Minnesota stadium.
5. They make John Elway beat them. This may seem like a ludicrous statement based on the future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks credentials and his penchant for leading comeback victories BUT the alternative is to focus on Elway and let the dominating running attack of MVP Terrell Davis have his way with you. The key here is to contain the tremendous ground game and pressure the quarterback to disrupt the offensive timing. The great Elway does not quite have the scrambling or running ability of years past, so to get pressure on him will be a goal of Atlanta. The Falcons will be in better shape forcing Elway to make plays than if Denver can dictate the game's pace with a strong rushing game.
Denver will win if ...
1. They slow down Jamal Anderson and tackle. As Anderson goes, so go the Falcons -- this has been fairly true this season for the power runner, who gained 1,846 yards on the ground. This bruising running back is durable enough to have carried the ball an NFL-record 410 times and got stronger as the game went on. In fact, Anderson gained 713 yards in the first half and 1,133 yards in the second half of games this year. This interesting statistical breakdown shows how the strong RB would wear down defenses, averaging more than 5 yards per carry in the 3rd and 4th quarters this season. This again is why Atlanta game plans are successful when the Falcons can keep games close down the stretch. Denver has a penchant for getting an early lead, forcing teams out of the running game and has been terrific defending the run but they have not faced a back the caliber of Anderson outside of their own practices. Stuffing Anderson lessens the effectiveness of Atlanta's play-action pass game. As much as the Falcons rely on Anderson and the run game offensively the Denver defense will focus on keeping the Atlanta running back under wraps.
2. They hit Chris Chandler. The well-traveled quarterback also has a reputation for getting injured. His history of getting hurt is not a measure of his toughness just that he has had to play behind some relatively weak offensive lines on the six teams he has played for. In fact, FOX Analyst Howie Long commented to me at the NFC Championship game that Chandler is held together by glue but sure is a tough guy to keep getting up and leading his team down the stretch -- to a Super Bowl in this instance. A quarterback has truly earned his stripes for the Hall of Fame-nominated Long to compliment him on his toughness. Look for Chandler to show up on Long's "Tough guy" list in the future. If Denver can get to the oft-injured Falcons signal caller and force him to the sidelines, then Atlanta will have to play 44-year old Steve DeBerg or young Tony Graziani, both of which would be a huge dropoff.
3. They protect John Elway. The Broncos offensive line has big game experience and tremendous cohesiveness after all five starters started every game this year. Look for this group to sell out to protect John Elway against a good Atlanta defensive front. If Elway has time he will pick apart the Falcons utilizing his outstanding receiving corps.
4. They jump on Atlanta early and don't let the Falcons hang around. The Denver Broncos are known for getting an early lead and dictating the flow of the game. Early leads force opponents out of their designed game plans and allow the strong running attack to ground out the game while the talented defense can then tee off on what tends to become one-dimensional offenses. In the 1998 season Denver outscored their opponents 144-54 in the 1st quarter. If Denver can follow this pattern against Atlanta it may force Dan Reeves out of his game plan which would give the Broncos control over the pace of the contest.
5. They run the football and control the clock. This season, the Broncos offense averaged about 33 rushing attempts per game, the second-highest total carries average in the NFL. Terrell Davis was phenomenal as only the fourth player in NFL history to gain more than 2,000 yards during the regular season and, believe it or not, he has taken his game to a higher level in the playoffs averaging 148.2 yards per rush. That total per game smashed the previous record of 110.7 yards per game set by Washington's John Riggins. Denver has dominated opponents with their tremendous ground attack with all five linemen starting every game this season and Davis continuing to play at his outstanding level. Davis is in a class by himself and his downhill, aggressive running style that always seems to produce more yards than appear to be gainable. If Denver can rush the ball with such success Atlanta is in for a long Super Bowl experience.
War Room Overview
As is evident to everyone except the Minnesota Vikings, Super Bowl XXXIII matches up the top teams in each conference to duke it out for the Championship. After the tremendous job the 16-2 Atlanta Falcons did winning in the hostile environment at Minnesota against the NFL's top scoring team, you can never count out Dan Reeves' bunch. They have shown a special chemistry and ability to overcome obstacles by playing aggressive, sound football in every facet of the game all season long with their confidence growing with each week culminating in an NFC Championship and an appearance in the Super Bowl. This team brings a balanced offense that controlled the ball and the time of possession all season with big play-makers at several positions and a talented leader at quarterback. Atlanta also lines up an outstanding run defense that has improved every week gaining confidence and an opportunistic unit making plays while leading the league in takeaways. The defending World Champion Broncos come to Miami focused and ready for battle. While Atlanta thrives on their underdog status Denver carries themselves as champions who must take care of business one more time. This tremendous offense features the NFL MVP and a Hall-of-Fame QB with a terrific O-line and outstanding receivers. The Denver defense has shown some vulnerabilities but played at a Championship level in their two dominating playoff victories over Miami and the Jets. This group tends to rise to the occasion making big plays at critical junctures to allow Denver to win. Both teams field big-time kickers and quality punters with Atlanta's coverage and return units playing more consistently so this special teams match up leans toward the Falcons. Evaluating the matchups and dissecting the past performances of the two clubs allows us to draw several conclusions, the most obvious being that come Sunday football fans around the globe are in for a treat. The "big game" experience will be a deciding factor as well as which unsung hero will surface in the bright light of the biggest game of the year. But when all the over-analyses is said and done this game will be won by the football team that makes the least mistakes and executes their game plan the best. If this game goes down to the wire the Falcons gain an edge as they have rallied all season long but if the Broncos can play their game establishing an early lead then they will control their own destiny as this veteran bunch knows how to put their opponents away. We at The War Room look forward to a great contest that features two outstanding teams and from where we sit ... the War Room Edge goes to the Denver Broncos.
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