Remember, this is a guy whose passes don't look too good With five fingers. Kosar started 1 for 8 for three yards in the first 18 minutes. He had tried to patch together a throwing motion out of his Blue Cross bag of tricks, but nothing was working. "He said he was all right," said Carson, "but, hell, Bernie always says he's all right."
Denver took a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter, on David Treadwell's 29-yard field goal, and should have had more. On the Broncos' first possession of the game, they looked at a first-and-goal from the two and came away with zilch when tailback Bobby Humphrey fumbled Elway's broken-play pitch after having been stopped twice on plunges up the middle.
But then came Elway's revenge on Minnifield. Minnifield tried to jam Young at the line and got jammed himself, stumbling and falling flat on his face. Elway rolled right, with linebacker Clay Matthews on his heels, and heaved the ball off the wrong foot, sidearm, from here to Colorado Springs, for a 70-yard touchdown. "I guess Frank was pretty quiet today, wasn't he?" said Elway afterward.
At halftime, Denver led 10-0, but even one-armed, Kosar can be a bandit. He opened the second half by finding wide receiver Brian Brennan on a zigzag pattern. 27-yard touchdown to make the score 10-7. Why should the Broncos have covered Brennan? He hadn't scored in his last 30 games.
Elway answered Kosar's strike with a touchdown of his own, a perfect spiral as soft as a baby's blanket to tight end Orson Mobley, who was in for the injured Pat Kelly, who had been in for the injured Clarence Kay. "Can you believe it, a touch pass!" said Elway, making fun of writers who say he possesses no such thing.
After Denver got the ball back less than a minute later, forgotten halfback Sammy Winder (two touchdowns after replacing Humphrey, who left with broken ribs) scored on a seven-yard, USC-style sweep, and Denver led 24-7. You could hear Denverites thinking up excuses not to go to Super Bowl parties all over town.
But the Browns chose not to go away quietly. Two minutes and seven seconds later, Kosar hit Mr. Touchdown, Brennan, who made a marvelous diving catch in the end zone. Barely two minutes after that, Cleveland scored again, off a fumble by Denver running back Melvin Bratton and a two-yard touchdown run around left end by Tim Manoa. Uh-oh, 24-21.
"I could just see it," said Elway, conjuring up a twist on past meetings between these two teams. "The Drive. The Fumble. The Comeback."
Wrong. Meet The Throw. On third-and-10 from his own 43, in the most important Denver drive of the day, with the momentum seeping out of the stadium, Elway spun away from the relentless Cleveland rush—if Montana had Elway's offensive line, he would be a life insurance salesman by now—fled to his left, chose not to visit with Browns defensive end Al (Bubba) Baker, who was eager to speak with him, saw only one receiver even remotely lonely and threw the ball on the run, across his body at least 25 yards east-to-west and another 20 north-to-south, over the hungry digits of—guess who?—Minnifield and into the hands of Johnson. Two plays later, Elway connected with Winder for a 39-yard touchdown, on which Winder eluded two tacklers, one of whom was—you guessed it—Minnifield.
Kosar was intercepted on each of the Browns' next two possessions, Tread-well added two more field goals, of 34 and 31 yards, and the Broncos started to think about making their dinner reservations at Antoine's in New Orleans.