Nevertheless, Denver played terrific gap-control defense, shadowing Martin and never allowing him to get untracked. Martin, who rushed for 124 yards against the Jaguars, carried 13 times for 14 yards on Sunday; his longest run was four yards. Though Testaverde, who completed his first 13 throws into what Elway called the worst Denver wind he had ever experienced, played superbly through three quarters and finished with 31 completions in 56 attempts for 356 yards, he couldn't do it alone. In 16 possessions New York scored one touchdown, and it came on a drive of about 24 inches. That rarely used rookie, Blake Spence, blocked a Tom Rouen punt at the Denver goal line with 12 minutes left in the third quarter, and Martin scored on the next play to give the Jets a 10-0 lead.
Elway, meanwhile, was forcing the ball at times and short-arming it on other throws. "At half-time," he said after the game, "Kubes came up to me and said, 'Forget what's happened. Go with what got you here. Just start flinging it.' "
"What's great about John," Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe said, "is when the game gets tight and everyone's running around crazy, he's methodical. We're down 10-0, and he comes into the huddle with a sense of urgency but no panic." It was the volcanic Sharpe who got the Broncos revved up. In the huddle during the TV timeout before Denver began its comeback, he screamed, "Here we go! It's time! This is for all the minicamps, all the weights we lifted, all the sprints we ran! We're better than this!" He stared at wideout Rod Smith and yelled, "Make a play!" Ditto the other receiver, Ed McCaffrey. Sharpe stared at Davis: "Look here! Run it right behind me! I'll give you a hole!"
Yet when the Broncos broke the huddle for a first-down play from their 36-yard line, McCaffrey and Smith lined up opposite to where they should have been. The two started to switch sides, but seeing that the play clock was ticking down, Elway motioned for the two to stay put and screamed, "Run each other's route." Thanks to a blown coverage by strong safety Victor Green, who bit on Smith's shorter crossing route, McCaffrey was alone down the middle of the field. "Victor went to sleep," Parcells said afterward. Elway hit McCaffrey for a 47-yard completion, and two plays later Elway lasered a throw into fullback Howard Griffith's gut for an 11-yard touchdown.
Things really got bizarre on the ensuing kickoff. Aware of the tricks that the wind can play at Mile High, Denver's Jason Elam intended to kick high on the ball and drive it through the gusts. Instead, he caught the ball lower than he wanted, and it ballooned in the wind. The ball hit around the Jets' 22 and bounced back to the 31, where it was recovered by Broncos linebacker Keith Burns. "Pure luck," Elam said. Davis ran left for five yards, but his 15-yard run around right end was negated by a holding penalty, forcing Denver to settle for a 44-yard Elam field goal that tied the score.
New York went three-and-out on its next two possessions, while Denver was just getting warmed up. Between those two series, Elam's 48-yarder gave the Broncos their first lead, 13-10, with three minutes left in the third quarter. Then Darrien Gordon returned a punt 36 yards to the Jets' 38. That's when New York's defense, on the field for the sixth time in the quarter, finally broke. Davis cut left for four yards. He bounced around left end for three. Then he took a pitch from Elway, waited for left tackle Tony Jones and left guard Mark Schlereth to set up their blocks, and zoomed down the left side for a touchdown. In 10 minutes Denver had turned a 10-point deficit into a 10-point lead.
Davis, who finished with 167 yards on 32 carries, is the perfect confluence of speed and power. In 18 games this season he has run for 2,374 yards, the highest single-season total, including playoffs, in NFL history. In seven career postseason games he is averaging 148.3 yards. At 26, he's the Man in Denver. He's also very tired. "I'm just glad there's only one game left this season," he said.
For Davis, yes. For the 38-year-old Elway, who completed 13 of 34 passes for 173 yards, every arrow points to the Super Bowl matchup against the Atlanta Falcons as being the last game of his career. Elway won't acknowledge that publicly, but Demoff says, "Earlier this season I thought there was some competitive zeal in him that might make him come back to try to win three straight Super Bowls if the Broncos won this one. Not anymore. He's past that now."
Indeed, Elway, who will become the first quarterback to start five Super Bowls, has had enough fame. Kubiak knows as much. As Elway left Mile High on Sunday night, Kubiak handed him a compact disc, country singer Randy Travis's You and You Alone. "Listen to track six on your way home," Kubiak told him.
The song is called I Did My Part. It goes like this: