Raider-Bronco game," said Denver linebacker Tommy Jackson, who's been
playing in them for 12 years. "Usually the second and third quarters are
when things get intense. By the fourth it settled down to just
Alzado and Bronco
tight end Clarence Kay traded punches in the second quarter, then Kay and
Raider linebacker Rod Martin had a go. Another time there was a near fight on a
kickoff that was downed in the end zone, and there was even a fight on
Plunkett's kneeldown that ran out the clock in the first half. This one was
between Los Angeles center Dave Dalby and Denver rookie middle guard Scott
"They came up
to the line in falldown formation," Jackson said, "and I said to Jim,
'You going to sit on it?' and he said, 'Yeah.' Next thing I knew they snapped
the ball and Scott just ran over Dalby, and then they were punching. When we
were walking off, Dalby said to me, 'What's with that guy?' and I said, 'He's
just a rook.' Maybe it's partly my fault. We've got a young team, awfully
young. Twenty-one guys are first-or second-year players, 19 of them are younger
than Elway. During the week I kind of preached to them, 'Don't block down. It
doesn't mean anything that they're the Raiders. If you have to fight, then
fight. If they kick you, kick 'em back.' They're so young they took it to
Jackson is one of
five remaining starters from the 1977 Orange Crush Super Bowl defense that
still has its same coordinator, Joe Collier, and line coach, Stan Jones. At 33,
Jackson is enjoying a rebirth as one of the game's premier outside linebackers,
the leader of a high-powered unit that at times plays in a kind of frenzy. The
previous week it had shut out Kansas City 21-0. Sunday the tone was set in the
first quarter on a thundering hit by Karl Mecklenburg, a 250-pound second-year
linebacker. On first down Plunkett threw his worst pass of the day, a check-off
under pressure to Marcus Allen that floated a bit too high and made Allen
stretch, thereby exposing his rib cage to permanent displacement. Mecklenburg
obliged. "That hit," Jackson said, "told everyone in the stands
what the game would be like."
survived, but on the next play Plunkett called Allen's number again—a sweep
that ended six yards behind the line, after Allen made an impromptu lateral to
fullback Kenny King. The tone was indeed set. It was going to be one of the
Raiders' screw-up days offensively.
game netted 70 yards, 30 of them on a single run by Allen. Two Bronco runners
beat that by themselves, Winder (16-for-91) and Willhite (21-for-82). Parros
(7-for-45) would've done it, too, if he'd been in longer. Plunkett, coming off
a magnificent game against the Chargers, couldn't get much of anything going.
Tight end Todd Christensen, one of the best possession receivers in the
business, dropped two passes. One side of the field was completely denied to
the Raiders—left cornerback Louie Wright's side. The pregame publicity was all
about how L.A. cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes had shut out San
Diego's James Lofton and Charlie Joiner and held Wes Chandler to two puny
catches. But there was only one shutout pitched Sunday and that was by
Wright—three passes to wideouts in his area, no completions.
offense, meanwhile, didn't back off from Haynes's and Hayes's coverage.
"Teams have been afraid to challenge them," said Watson, the game's top
receiver with six catches for 79 yards. "Clubs seem to go into games
figuring, 'Well, we're not going to get anything done over there.' It's a
mistake. You've got to challenge them."
On the game's
first play Elway challenged Haynes with a 19-yard sideline pass to Butch
Johnson. Haynes was out of bump-and-run and playing back. It got tougher for
the Broncos after that, although not impossible. Hayes and Haynes tightened up.
Collectively they allowed eight completions to Denver wideouts, the most
they've given up this season, but the Bronco receivers had to work for what
they got. Haynes made the Raider defensive play of the day, swooping in on
Johnson to pick off a pass and cut off a second-quarter threat. And Hayes made
almost as significant a play in the third quarter when he cut Parros's legs out
from under him on the one-yard line and held the Broncos to a field goal.
gave Elway very high marks. "The most fascinating thing is that the fear
factor no longer exists in John Elway," he said. "Last year his poise
quotient was negligible. But today he looked like the second coming of Goose
Gossage with that 95-mile-an-hour fastball. I was all over Watson today, and
logically, a young quarterback such as Elway shouldn't have the intestinal
fortitude to try and throw some of the passes he completed to him. But based on
his arm he could throw them. He reminds me of a young Bert Jones."
With a gang of
runners behind him and an offensive line to make the whole thing work.