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Rick Reilly
September 21, 1987
John Elway gave a smash opening-day performance as Denver embarrassed AFC West-rival Seattle 40-17
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September 21, 1987

The Broncos Were Boffo

John Elway gave a smash opening-day performance as Denver embarrassed AFC West-rival Seattle 40-17

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Still, Boz steered clear of his usual trouble (see: GM assembly lines, steroids, NCAA T-shirts, loogies) until...somebody asked him about playing Elway. Right away, Boz started to grow hair on his palms. "I'm going to take as many and as hard shots as I can get on him," he said. You mean him harm? "Yeah."

Uh-oh. The Boz oughtn't have done that. Elway's response was calm enough—"Boswell?...Boswean?...Bosley?...Nah, never heard of him"—but Coloradans didn't cotton to threats to their dear John. T-shirts beget nasty T-shirts. There was even a Boz-bashing song on the Denver airwaves, sung to the tune of the '70s hit War!

Boz! Unh!
What is he good for?
Ab-so-lute-ly nuttin'!
Say it again!

Alienating the entire Mountain time zone fazed Boz not a whit. "Those people in Denver bug the——out of me," he says. "I think it's the oxygen. I don't think they get nearly enough oxygen to the head."

But that got the Boz in deep with Seattle coach Chuck (No) Knox, who has a No-Knocks rule. The coach took the rookie to the figurative woodshed for his Elway threats. " Brian Bosworth was wrong," Knox said. "That's not Seahawk football." Boz was barely contrite. "I think he wants me to prove it on the field first," Boz said, "then talk."

Boz did end up proving it, once Broncos center Billy Bryan was through applying a cheap shot from the blind side after the whistle on the first series. Boz answered with a titanic hit on a scrambling Elway, who thought he had the sideline made. "He was faster than I thought," Elway admitted. "After he hit me, he screamed at me. I couldn't decipher it, but I think it was something like, 'Yaaaaahhhh!' So I screamed back, 'Yaaaaaaaahhhhhh!' " In the NFL this passes for witty repartee.

Anyway, Boz ended up with eight solo tackles and nine total, second highest on the team. He still comes out on most nickel defenses, and he can use work on the Seattle defensive schemes, but Boz versus Elway figures to be an E-ticket ride for years to come.

In fact, Boz and the Seattle D played so well early on that the Seahawks had Denver down 17-7—on two Dave Krieg touchdown passes and a Norm Johnson field goal—and had just recovered a fumble with six minutes left in the first half when...uh-oh...the Replay Man struck. The fumble, Willhite's at the Seattle 30, was ruled an unfumble. Denver kept possession and got a Rich Karlis field goal to cut the lead to a touchdown.

The irony is that Denver wouldn't have thought to call a timeout to ask for a replay if Willhite hadn't been injured on the play. That gave Reeves time to contemplate the option on the sideline. "I probably wouldn't have done it, otherwise," he said.

Karlis (4 for 4) got another field goal with about a minute left, and then the sky fell in on Seattle. Karlis kicked off, and suddenly a 30-mph gust kicked back, sending the ball straight up, leaving two Seahawks to clobber each other going for it, leaving Bronco Marc Munford to recover, leaving Denver to get the ball at the 21, leaving Elway to find Steve Watson standing alone in the corner of the end zone six plays later for cash money. In six minutes the Seattles had gone from leading by 10 to trailing by 3, 20-17. "It was somewhat discouraging," said Krieg, a graduate of the No-Knox School of Understatement.

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