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the NFL
Peter King
October 26, 1992
SKY-HIGH AT MILE HIGH
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October 26, 1992

The Nfl

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Number of Times Cut Or Rights Relinquished

Guard

Yrs.

NFL

USFL

Total

Shawn Bouwens

3

2

0

2

Ken Dallafior

11

4

2

6

Dennis McKnight

12

4

0

4

Larry Tharpe

1

0

0

0

SKY-HIGH AT MILE HIGH

Forty-five minutes after the Oilers had been Elwayed by the Broncos 27-21 at Mile High Stadium on Sunday, Houston defensive end Sean Jones still hadn't taken off his grass-stained and dirt-caked uniform. He was tired, and he was not happy. And like his devastated teammates, he was in no mood to tell the world what he thought of John Elway.

"It's so redundant," Jones said. "All of this is so redundant." He sighed. "I'll just say this: If you're playing the best 3 and 2 hitter in baseball, you don't run the count to 3 and 1 and give him two chances to beat you. If you're playing the best power-play team in hockey, you don't let it have a man advantage at a crucial time. If you know that Michael Jordan's got the best baseline jumper in basketball, you don't let him get the ball on the baseline late in the game. Same thing here. You don't give John Elway the ball with a chance to beat you with two minutes to go."

But the Oilers did, and Elway came through yet again. For the 13th time in his career, Elway drove Denver to the winning touchdown in the final two minutes of a game. The most stunning thing about this drive was that the Oiler defense, one of the AFC's three or four best, folded down the stretch.

With 1:56 left, Houston, having just scored a go-ahead touchdown, led 21-20. The Broncos had the ball on their 20. Oiler linebacker Eddie Robinson ran by Elway before Denver began its series and yelled, "Not this time, Elway!" (You've got to walk the walk, Eddie.)

On first down Elway stumbled while avoiding a sack and looked as if he might run. But he pulled up and threw over corner Jerry Gray to wide receiver Mark Jackson for 39 yards. The Oilers knew that the Broncos, who were now on the Houston 41, had a good chance to get a field goal if they could pick up only a few more yards, so they threw the kitchen sink at Elway on the next two plays, sending six defenders after him in trying to force a turnover or get a sack. Elway saw the enemy coming, and on the first play he dumped a perfect pass to wideout Vance Johnson, who got to the Houston 20.

In the ensuing huddle second-year back Reggie Rivers heard Elway call his number for a draw play. Rivers gulped. "I'm thinking, I don't know about this," he said after the game. "That's what the Oilers will be expecting. But I took the ball, and it looked like the Red Sea parted. What a hole! I heard John yelling, 'Go! Go! Go!" Rivers went, went, went, untouched, into the end zone.

Elway's winning drive: three plays, 80 yards, in 22 seconds.

The Oilers were finished, demoralized by Elway's heroics as well as by the thundering crowd noise at Mile High. On their final possession they couldn't hear Warren Moon's signals at the line. Imagine standing between two airport runways with no earplugs while two 757s take off simultaneously, and you have some idea what it was like to be Moon, who was 85 yards from the end zone with 88 seconds left. "It's our Heartbreak Hotel," Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said.

"If we're close at the end," said Denver linebacker Karl Mecklenburg, "the altitude will get to them, John will get to them, and Mile High will get to them."

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