Missed chances doom Falcons
Posted: Monday February 01, 1999 03:03 AM
Six times Denver stopped the Falcons inside the 30, including twice on interceptions by Darrien Gordon. Keith Traylor's deflection set up one of the interceptions, and he stuffed Jamal Anderson on fourth-and-1.
"That's what you've got to do -- you've got to keep them from scoring touchdowns," Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski said. "We preach that, and we live it.
"Our stars are on offense, so they're going to get the attention. As a defensive player, you realize that's life. But defense wins championships."
The biggest momentum swing in the Broncos' 34-19 victory Sunday came when Morten Andersen hooked a 26-yard field goal attempt wide right. On the next play, John Elway hit Rod Smith with an 80-yard touchdown pass, giving Denver a 17-3 lead.
"That takes the air out of your balloon," Atlanta receiver Tim Dwight said. "It was kind of a strange game. We established that we could move the ball. We just couldn't put six points on the board consistently."
Atlanta had a chance to close the gap in the third period, reaching the Broncos' 21-yard line, but Gordon intercepted a Chris Chandler pass deflected by Traylor and returned it 58 yards, setting up a touchdown to make the score 24-6.
If not for the tip, Chandler said, the pass might have gone for a touchdown to Terance Mathis.
"There were things there for the taking," Chandler said. "It was just unlucky things that happened. A tipped ball -- you never plan on that."
Gordon intercepted Chandler again on the next possession after Atlanta reached the Denver 26.
"I was looking for that route," Gordon said. "Chandler didn't see me, and he threw it right to me."
Gordon sparked a pass defense that ranked 26th in the NFL during the regular season.
"We took a lot of criticism as a defense, particularly in the secondary," he said. "The bottom line is that we don't give up a lot of points."
In the first half, the Falcons ran more plays and had a three-minute advantage in time of possession. But they trailed 17-6 at halftime because four scoring threats produced merely two field goals.
Anderson was stopped on a fourth-and-1 sweep at the Denver 26, and two other times the Falcons drove inside the 15 before settling for three points.
Atlanta drove 55 yards to the 8 on the first possession of the game before Romanowski sacked Chandler on third-and-goal. Andersen then kicked a 32-yard field goal for the Falcons' only lead, 3-0.
The break was good for a first down at the Denver 35, but the Falcons failed to take advantage. Glenn Cadrez stopped Anderson for no gain on third-and-1, and Traylor stuffed Anderson for a 2-yard loss on fourth down.
Trailing 10-3, the Falcons mounted their best drive of the game, moving 65 yards to the 8. But Chris Chandler's third-and-3 pass to Dwight sailed high out of the end zone, and Andersen failed on the field-goal try.
The miss ended Andersen's streak of 13 consecutive postseason field goals, including a 38-yarder in overtime to beat Minnesota in the NFC championship game.
Dwight's 42-yard kickoff return gave the Falcons good field position again. They picked up two first downs and had a second-and-5 situation at the 11, but two Chandler passes fell incomplete, and Andersen then kicked a 28-yard field goal to make the score 17-6.
"We said at halftime, `Let's blow these guys out,'" Romanowski said. "But they kept hanging around until we gave the ball back to our offense, and the offense kept doing great things.
"It comes down to the red zone, and we stopped them from getting touchdowns, and that gets frustrating for them. They got field goals and it got to them. The frustrating thing to us is they kept getting down there. But then we made big plays, and that was the key to the game."
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