On Sunday, it was Pelluer, not Elway, who was the first to get something going. At the end of the first quarter he hit Mike Sherrard with a 42-yarder to the Broncos' 12-yard line. Close range had been golden for the Cowboys this year. They had reached the opposing 20 or better 17 times and had scored on each occasion: 14 TDs, 3 field goals. Louie Wright broke the streak, picking off a Pelluer pass on the one and fighting his way through tacklers out to the Dallas 43. The game had turned.
Randy White, the All-Pro defensive tackle, had pulled a hamstring running down halfback Sammy Winder, and he was through. The Cowboys tried free agent Bob Otto in his place, then Mark Tuinei, then nobody, giving up on the pass rush entirely and going with three down linemen and eight defensive backs on long yardage. Elway scrambled and bought time and made big plays, one of them a 50-yarder as he was running to his right. The Broncos scored three TDs in the second quarter; they got a safety when Rulon Jones, their All-Pro defensive end, split a double-team and sacked Pelluer in the end zone. Karl Mecklenburg, their All-Pro inside linebacker, did a number on Walker, reading and darting in through the gaps and jumping Herschel as he got the handoff.
Walker's final numbers read 15 carries, 33 yards. Pelluer, overmatched by the swarming defense and working behind a line that couldn't figure out how to get everybody blocked, looked confident and poised in a terrible situation. He has a real NFL future.
But so do the Broncos, who shut down a team that had tied an NFL record by scoring 30 or more points in each of its first four games. Denver's defense is a mixture of proud old vets, the four Super Bowl holdovers—an inordinately high number for a nine-year span—and wild-eyed youngsters.
"We're all light and quick," Jones says. "You have to be to play with this defense because there's so much running involved. I weigh 254. Greg Kragen, our noseguard is 255. The Fridge would have a hard time on this team."
"It's the fastest defense since I've been here," Reeves says. "That's what we drafted for."
"The swarm," Jackson says. "A lot of times you can't tell who made the tackle. A guy's got to make a reservation to get a helmet on someone. And people who see us in our last eight games will see a better team. Vance Johnson [the speedy wide receiver] will be coming back off injured reserve, Mark Haynes [the All-Pro cornerback] will be healthy. Our defense will be fresh because we play so many people. This is a better team than our Super Bowl team, but it's going to be better yet. Stick around."