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NFL Playoff Recap (Denver-Kansas City)
Posted: Sun January 4, 1998 at 9:12 p.m. ESTDENVER 14, KANSAS CITY 10
Terrell Davis rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead fourth quarter score, and cornerback Darrien Gordon made two clutch defensive plays in the final quarter to lead the Denver Broncos to a 14-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC divisional playoff game.
The Broncos (14-4) will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) next Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. It will be the third time in four years that Pittsburgh will host the AFC title game.
"This was one of the best football games I've ever been involved in," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. "It was hard hitting on both sides of the ball. I was really pleased with the way we hung in there and came up with big plays. I'm really pleased with the character of our team."
It marked the second time in three years that the Chiefs (13-4) entered the playoffs as the AFC's top seed and lost in the divisional round. Two years ago, Kansas City was beaten at home by Indianapolis, 10-7.
"I'm disappointed," said Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer, who fell to 5-11 in the playoffs with three losses to Denver. "I told our football team that I have no words of wisdom that are meaningful to them at this point. Without a doubt, the men in that room gave everything to this organization that one could ever ask."
Davis scored on a pair of one-yard runs and rushed for 70 yards on 11 carries in the second half after being held to 31 yards on 14 carries in the first half.
"Our commitment today shows we're going to run regardless of the situation," said Davis, who recorded his third 100-yard game of the season against the Chiefs. "We kept running and we wore them down."
Gordon tackled Kansas City's Louie Aguiar three yards shy of a first down on a 4th-and-6 play off a fake field goal in the fourth quarter and deflected the final pass from Kansas City's Elvis Grbac away from intended receiver Lake Dawson in the end zone with 12 seconds left.
The Chiefs took their first lead of the game, 10-7, when Grbac hit tight end Tony Gonzalez with a 12-yard scoring pass on a 3rd-and-7 play with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
But Denver quickly responded. Following a 43-yard pass from John Elway to Ed McCaffrey to the Kansas City 1, Davis was stuffed for no gain on consecutive running plays. Facing a 3rd-and-goal, Shanahan opted to give the ball to Davis again and he bolted up the middle for a one-yard touchdown to give Denver a 14-10 lead with 12:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Chiefs took over at their own 28. On the first two plays, Grbac hit Andre Rison with a 23-yard pass and Marcus Allen broke off a 14-yard run to the Denver 35. But the drive stalled when Grbac threw an incompletion on a 3rd-and-6 play at the Denver 31.
Pete Stoyanovich was sent out to attempt a 48-yard field goal, but Schottenheimer tried a fake. Holder Aguiar took the snap on 4th-and-6 and raced to his right. But the Broncos were not surprised by the fake and Aguiar was tackled by Gordon, three yards shy of a first down with 9:37 left.
"We've run fakes all year and this was specifically for Denver, but it didn't work out," said Aguiar. "I was looking for number 21 ( Denver's Randy Hilliard) and I saw 33 (Denver's Dedrick Dodge) standing next to him. I should have called it off and taken a delay of game."
The Chiefs reached the Denver 20-yard line in the closing seconds. A 29-yard pass interference penalty against Broncos cornerback Ray Crockett, a 12-yard pass from Grbac to Dawson on a 4th-and-9 play, and a 23-yard pass from Grbac to Rison moved Kansas City to the Denver 28.
But on a 4th-and-2 play at the Denver 20 with 19 seconds left and no timeouts, the Chiefs elected to take a shot in the end zone instead of shooting for the first down. Grbac threw to his left for Dawson, who raced for the end zone, but Gordon cut in front of the receiver and deflected the ball away.
"Lake ran a fade route," said Grbac. "I didn't see what Andre did on the other side. We were trying to make a play when we had to."
"We needed a TD, we just came up short there," said Dawson. "We had some big plays throughout the course of the game, but we just came up short."
Grbac completed 24-of-37 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown. Rison finished with eight catches for 110 yards.
Elway was 10-of-19 for 170 yards. He attempted just eight passes in the second half and completed three passes for 64 yards.
"Our defense was outstanding and they have a great defensive team," said Elway. "I just tried not to press any harder than I normally do today. I get in trouble when I press."
Former Chief defensive end Neil Smith, who signed as a free agent with Denver in the off-season, and Alfred Williams had two sacks apiece for the Broncos.
Denver was 1-5 on the road in the playoffs, excluding Super Bowls, entering Sunday's game at Kansas City. Ironically, the lone win came when Elway led what is known in football lore as "The Drive" when the Broncos defeated Schottenheimer's Cleveland Browns, 23-20, in overtime in the 1986 AFC Championship Game.
""No, I don't feel cursed," said Schottenheimer. "But it is frustrating and disappointing."
After a scoreless first quarter, Kansas City thought it drew first blood when Stoyanovich kicked a 34-yard field goal with 6:53 left in the second quarter, but a holding penalty against Greg Manusky negated the points. Pushed back to a 44-yard attempt, Stoyanovich, who converted 26 of 27 field goals during the regular season, clanked one off the crossbar.
The Broncos then took over at their own 35 and marched 65 yards in eight plays. Davis capped it with a one-yard run with 1:56 left in the half. Elway hit tight end Dwayne Carswell with a 26-yard pass and connected with Rod Smith on a 17-yard play to key the drive.
Davis' score was the first rushing touchdown allowed by Kansas City in its last 42 quarters at home, dating back to November 24th, 1996 against San Diego.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kansas City's Tamarick Vanover fumbled at the 27 after being hit by Denver's Anthony Lynn. Detron Smith of the Broncos appeared to be on the verge of recovering the fumble, but mishandled the ball and Vanover was able to retrieve it.
The Chiefs opened the second half with a fury. On the first play from scrimmage, Grbac hit Rison with a 34-yard pass to the Denver 36. On a 3rd-and-5 at the 31, Grbac connected with tight end Ted Popson on a 13-yard pass to the 18.
Two bootleg runs by Grbac moved the Chiefs to the Denver 6. But on a 3rd-and-goal at the Denver 3, Gonzalez made a leaping catch of a Grbac pass, but failed to get both feet inbounds in the end zone. The Chiefs settled for a 20-yard field goal 3:18 into the third quarter to pull within 7-3.
Davis took over on Denver's next possession. He caught a 17-yard pass from Elway and broke off a 41-yard run to the Kansas City 11. But while Davis was resting on the sideline, Derek Loville fumbled after he was hit by defensive end John Browning and Chiefs safety Reggie Tongue recovered at the Kansas City 11 with 7:26 left in the quarter.
The Chiefs drove 65 yards in four plays later in the quarter to take their first lead of the game. Grbac hit reserve receiver Joe Horn with a 50-yard pass to the Denver 15. Two plays later, Grbac rolled right and hit Gonzalez in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
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