SI Vault
Rick Reilly
January 22, 1990
The Denver Broncos, 0 for 3 in the Super Bowl, earned the chance to try again after beating the Cleveland Browns 37-21 for the AFC crown
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January 22, 1990

Once More...with Feeling

The Denver Broncos, 0 for 3 in the Super Bowl, earned the chance to try again after beating the Cleveland Browns 37-21 for the AFC crown

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"You tell me how he does it," said Denver quarterbacks coach Mike Shanahan of Elway's performance. "How can he be running left, his toe pointed the wrong way, and still throw it the opposite direction and drop it with perfect touch? That's coaching."

Baker couldn't quite believe Elway, either. "I was all over him, and he throws an out-of-the-shoulder-socket pass all the way across the field! All day he was outrunning guys with 4.4 and 4.5 speed! If he keeps this up, I'm going to have to be a John Elway fan."

Stand in line. "What a magnificent performance," said Modell. "It's equal to Unitas, Namath, Graham—anyone over the years."

People say he doesn't win the big ones, but if Mr. and Mrs. Montana had never had Little Joe, wouldn't Elway have been the quarterback of the 1980s? Even Elway admitted this was his best game of the season—he completed 20 of 36 for 385 yards and three TDs—perhaps because, as he had said earlier in the week, "this is the biggest game of my life."

To inspire his troops, several weeks ago Reeves placed Denver's two Lamar Hunt trophies, awarded to the AFC champions, in a team meeting room. But to the Broncos a Lamar Hunt trophy meant about as much as, well, Lamar Hunt. "I need one of those big ones with the football on top," said Elway with a grin.

Across the way, after five straight playoffs without advancing to the Super Bowl, the Browns were thinking that a Lamar Hunt trophy might look just fine in their glass case. "We're Avis," said Modell. "We've gotta try harder."

What killed the Browns this time was six dropped balls, many of them while receivers were staring into the sun; a Bud Carson defense that had turned Bud light in the last three weeks; and a travel agent who keeps sending them to Denver for AFC title games.

As the Broncos ran off the field after their victory, they were surprised to find Reeves standing in the hallway leading to the locker room, beaming and yelling at them to turn around. "Let's go back out and say thank you to the fans," he said.

And so, just as the multitudes were trying to remember where they had parked their cars, out came their heroes again, all of them, in a frolicking Don't Worry, Be Happy lap that featured thrown footballs, Arsenio Hall whoop-fists and semi-strip shows.

Elway, for his part, took off his two wristbands and two elbow pads and, one by one, threw them into the stands.

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