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At 33 Carson is the motivational leader, just as Joe Greene was for the Super Bowl Steelers.
Carson is on his way to his eighth Pro Bowl, Taylor his sixth. The Giants have put at least one, and sometimes two, linebackers in the Pro Bowl for the last 11 years. Linebacking is a great tradition in New York, beginning with Sam Huff in 1956. And under Parcells, collector of toy elephants and man-sized linebackers, it has now reached its zenith.
That must be a disquieting thought for El way. It has been four seasons since he crashed the NFL scene with much fanfare, the flag-carrier for the great Year of the Quarterback parade. He showed flashes of brilliance from the beginning, 50-yard strikes on the dead run, nifty scrambles and 20-yard sideline passes that hissed like snakes, but somehow the act never was complete. Every year people would bring up his ability to lead, to inspire the confidence of his teammates. They mentioned it so many times that it became suspect.
But now the act is complete. He's playing the best football of his career, and the team has rallied round him. Both Elway and the Giants' Phil Simms are at the absolute top of their games, which adds another intriguing touch to the Super Bowl.
Elway became a Denver legend during that great 98-yard march to the Super Bowl against the Browns in the AFC championship game. He hadn't converted a third down in the second half, but he was 3 for 3 on that drive, including a third-and-18. He scrambled for yards, he bought time, and when his throws had to be perfect, he made sure they were. It was the finest moment any quarterback has had this season, but it wasn't a surprise—the signs were already there.
People forgot Elway's game against the Giants in November. New York had kept Denver out of the end zone for four straight drives in the second half, but the fifth one, the money one, which started with 5:15 to play, was a 73-yard march for the tying touchdown. Elway was 5 for 6 in that series; he threw for 336 yards and ran for 51 more against the Giant defense that day, a performance that was overshadowed when Simms pulled the game out with some last-minute heroics of his own.
Elway seems exactly the quarterback you would want against the Giants' defense—overpowering along the front seven but not very speedy in the secondary, a unit that's well protected in the zone. Bold, unpredictable Elway is always looking to go downfield, and the scary thing is that he can do it with accuracy on the dead run. Schroeder had the same kind of credentials, but the Giants' defense, and the gusty winds, ate him up. The Skins' only moments occurred when Schroeder went deep. He got one 48-yard completion, throwing a quick-up to Art Monk. Gary Clark dropped one long pass, and the rest were blown away in the wind. Afterward, Clark said the only chance you have against the Giants' defense is to hit it with the long ball when the backs are not expecting it.
"They play so much zone," he said, "that when you do catch them in an occasional man coverage, you've got to take the shot and come up with something deep."
If it's not there at first, then Elway is nifty enough to scramble and shake free until something opens up, provided he can escape containment from Banks and Taylor, whichever one is rushing, or from the defensive ends, George Martin and Leonard Marshall.
On passing downs the Broncos will operate out of a four-wideout set—Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson, Clint Sampson and Steve Watson. The first three are deep threats and the fourth, Watson, is the possession receiver. Recently, though, the Broncos have come up with an exotic new weapon, 256-pound Orson Mobley, who lines up as a second tight end and has made some acrobatic clutch catches in the playoffs.