And then on Saturday morning Jacksonville got this terrific bit of help from an out-of-shape, cigarette-tokin' Denver Post sports columnist named Woody Paige. About 75 copies of Saturday's Post were delivered to the Jaguars' breakfast room so that the players could read how Paige called them the "Jacksonville Jagwads" and "a USFL team," and went on to say, "Can we get a legitimate NFL team in here next Sunday?" Inspiration, at only 25 cents a man.
The whole day just seemed Jagwired. First of all, it was sunny. The Jaguars are the only team in the league that packs its own sun. When they won at Buffalo, it was 49°. It's not even 49° in Buffalo in July. In Denver it was 46° at kickoff. No snowdrifts, no avalanches, nothing.
Second of all, Denver seemed to suddenly forget how to catch, kick and run off the field. You figure the Broncos might have forgotten a few things, seeing as how they hadn't played a game that meant anything since the first day of December, when they clinched home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Yeah, they rested that whole time. They also rusted. One Bronco, defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry, was still strolling to the sideline as Jacksonville punted late in the third quarter and got called for being a 12th man on the field. "Petty," said Perry. "First down," said referee Red Cashion. Given new life, the Jaguars drove for a field goal.
Rust never sleeps. Denver's flawless kicker, Jason Elam, missed an extra-point try, his first botch in 47 attempts this season. After the Broncos' second touchdown, Sharpe dropped a baby pass from Elway on the two-point conversion.
Still, it looked like a Denver blowout when, with the Broncos leading 12-3 in the second quarter, cornerback Tory James intercepted a Brunell pass near he Jacksonville 25. Except for he pass interference flag. "That was a f——-up call," said James. "First down," said Cashion. Jacksonville retained possession and set off a Natrone bomb (Natrone Means: 140 yards on 21 carries) with an eight-yard touchdown run. Suddenly the Jaguars were in the game, 12-10.
And then, even more suddenly, they were in the lead, when the unquenchable Brunell marched them 65 yards in 47 seconds, with no timeouts, for a field goal. Out of nowhere the USFL Jagwads led the supposedly unbeatable Broncos 13-12, and you could've sworn you heard a Rocky mountain crumble in the background.
From then on, Brunell was unbelievable, not to mention unafraid, uncanny and untouchable. About a halt-dozen times Brun Elway was on the verge of being sacked, and about a half-dozen times he turned those sacks into whiffs. He made linebacker Bill Romanowski look as if he were diving at snipe. "I could never get my hands on him," Romanowski groaned afterward, looking like a man who needed a chiropractor. In the third quarter Brunell scrambled left to throw a perfect spiral on the run 45 yards to wideout Keenan McCardell in the back of the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown. In all, he drove the Jaguars to a score on each of their last six drives—FG, TD, FG, TD, FG, TD. He never threw an interception, never fumbled, never got flustered. "We never faced a quarterback like that before," said Williams.
Amazing how few people really knew about him. NBC's Cris Collinsworth asked him on-air this season if it felt good to have one of the NFL's best left tackles, Boselli, protecting his blind side. Uh, Cris, Brunell is lefthanded. Shanahan knew. He put together a horror reel of Brunell's amazing plays for his players to watch. It didn't seem to take. Even Brunell doesn't know how good Brunell is. When told that he is the first player since Johnny Unitas in 1963 to lead NFL quarterbacks in both rushing and passing yards, he said, "Really? Johnny Unitas?"
And yet Denver still had a chance to make Caitlin happy. Elway started one of his copyrighted fourth-quarter comebacks, driving for a touchdown and a two-point conversion to make it 23-20 with 7:37 left. All the Broncos needed was one stop—one stop. "We looked over at the sideline," said Jurkovic, "and I told the guys, 'Be careful. Elway's still got some magic left in him.' "
So did Brunell. He got in the huddle before the first play of the biggest drive of his life and said, "One more, we've got to have one more score," and then he delivered it. He danced away from Romanowski for a 12-yard gain. He kept handing the ball to the human bone-crusher, Means. He appeared caught again by Romanowski in the backfield and again left him looking like a yard sale on the midfield grass, taking off on a circus run for 29 yards. And then, facing a third-and-five at the Denver 16 with 3:44 to play, when all sanity implored him to simply get the first down and keep the clock rolling, he went for the whole enchilada.