"John's confident now. He's having a good time again," says Stanford coach Jack Elway, who also happens to be John's father. "He went into the weight room after his second year in Denver. I think it impressed the rest of the team to see John lifting with them." Opponents are impressed by Elway's added bulk. "He's 220 if he's a pound," says Hayes.
With the Broncos leading 7-3 and facing second-and-goal from the three late in the third, Elway faded back, looking peripherally at the onrushing Jones. Elway gazed at the goalposts, influencing the safeties toward the middle. Holding the ball until the last instant, he leaped over Jones and hummed a strike to running back Sammy Winder in the left flat. Elway had neither foot on the ground when he made that throw and had his back on the ground when Winder scored.
For his part, Wilson had a second-and-goal on Denver's three early in the fourth quarter. He faded, looking all the way at his intended target, the hobbling Marcus Allen, in the end zone. The blitz was coming, so Allen broke wide open. Instead of throwing, Wilson froze and was sacked by Tony Lilly at the 19. For the game, Wilson was 25 of 47 for 367 yards, with a 20-yard TD to Jessie Hester.
Jones sacked Elway once. Unbothered, Elway converted a third-and-four with less than 10 minutes left in the game and with the Broncos holding a 14-3 lead. He nimbly stepped up in the pocket past defensive end Greg Townsend, then back and out to the sideline, outrunning linebacker Jerry Robinson and Town-send yet again. These are two of the quickest Raider defenders. Going backward, Elway found Johnson for 12 yards and a first down. Johnson was downed at the Raider 42. Elway watched the finish of the play from Denver's 15-yard line.
The Raiders still have a shot at a wildcard berth, and they look to their 24-year regular-season winning percentage of .704—the best in U.S. pro sports in that time—for strength. But the Broncos' winning percentage since Elway's arrival is a gaudy .719 (41-16). And even when throwing only a dozen times, Elway goes all the way the right way. His way. "The best thing about John," said Hayes, "is that he's off our schedule for a while."