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A TRIO AT THE TOP
Rick Reilly
December 12, 1988
The Raiders edged the Broncos to create a logjam in the AFC's mild mild West
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December 12, 1988

A Trio At The Top

The Raiders edged the Broncos to create a logjam in the AFC's mild mild West

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Just talking about the play was emotional for Townsend, who still feels humiliated by his suspension for drug use in the preseason. "I wanted to redeem the name of Greg Townsend," he said afterward, with a tear running down the side of his nose and a friend rubbing his neck. "I didn't want to be known just for the bad things."

To the Broncos, Townsend was a bad thing right between the retinas. Reeves, who called the interception "huge," said, "We're down 14 and have a chance to get back in the game, and all of a sudden we're down 21."

He shouldn't have been surprised. All told, in its last four road games. Denver has been down 111-0 before it scored. But then things started to go Elway's way. On the Broncos' next three possessions, he got two field goals and completed a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Clarence Kay to make the score 21-13 just as the third quarter ended. There was plenty of time left, especially because L.A. hadn't earned so much as a first down in the second half.

The next time Denver got the ball, Elway used seven plays to go 93 yards for a TD. The finale was a four-yard flip to Kay, and it made the score 21-20. Elway lined up in the shotgun on all seven plays and passed five times. Tony Who?

The Broncos, who 10 weeks before had allowed the Raiders to stage their biggest comeback ever, were now plotting their own Lazarus act. That's when Los Angeles did something outlandish. Taking over at its own five, it simply refused to give Denver the ball. "We knew that if we gave the ball back to Elway, he was going to score," said Schroeder. The Raiders got their only first downs of the half, and they got most of them by running. Strangest of all, the man doing most of the damage was Schroeder; he made two firsts on two naked bootlegs. Fernandez also kept the drive alive with a Nureyev move along the sideline while making a catch 15 yards downfield. L.A. finally relinquished possession, but with only six seconds left and the ball sitting at the Denver five. Go ahead, John. Knock yourself out.

Reeves was understandably grim after the final gun. Here was a ripe chance to take over first place in the division, and his team blew it. "We're not out of it yet," he said. "But we certainly took a big step backward."

In the giddy Raider den, Davis said, "I'm not going to second-guess my coach." Then he added, "I'm just trying to get used to that."

You think 9-7 could get him used to it, Mike?

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