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NEW CARD IN THE DECK
It figures that the first game of the new Bronco era would be won by a Stanford man—although not the one you might think. Denver's best-known former Cardinal, John Elway, flawlessly executed the new short-passing offense devised by another Stanford alumnus, offensive coordinator Jim Fassel. But it was all-purpose back Glyn Milburn, Stanford '93, who made the difference in the Broncos' 26-20 win over the Jets.
At least we think it was Milburn, though we can't be sure, because he was a blur. "He's the NFL's new stealth bomber," said Denver guard Dave Widell. "We can see him, and the other guys can't." Milburn touched the ball nine times and the ball moved 148 yards: 38 yards on five rushes, 75 yards on two receptions and 35 yards on two punt returns. On the first series of the third quarter, Milburn grabbed a pass, pirouetted past linebacker Kyle Clifton, faked safety Ronnie Lott out of his shoes and outran corner Eric Thomas for a 25-yard TD that gave Denver a 20-6 lead, effectively ending the game.
"I haven't seen a back like him come out in a long time," a weary Lott said later. "He won them the game."
"He said that?" a grinning Milburn said. "Wow. How am I going to come down to earth from that?"
Milburn, Denver's second-round pick in the April draft, is the latest in a recent spate of small backs whose impact has been felt most keenly in third-down and kick-return situations. Since 1989, the Giants have had 5'7", 180-pound Dave Meggett, and the Browns, 5'10", 190-pound Eric Metcalf. Now Denver has the 5'8", 177-pound Milburn, who looks like an eighth-grader and plays like a skinny Barry Sanders. On Sunday, Milburn's runs were all of the it's-never-over-till-it's-over variety.
"I've been hearing the stuff about being too small all my life," Milburn said. "But what helped me a lot was working out this off-season in northern California with players like Jerry Rice, Jamie Williams, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott and Barry Sanders. Barry and Jerry told me things like 'Keep on playing like this and you'll go far. Don't let anybody bother you about size.' " They won't, if he keeps having 148-yard days.
Milburn's play wasn't the Broncos' only reason for cheer Sunday. Elway played the new Denver touch-passing game perfectly. Only two of his 20 completions were to wideouts. Before the game, Fassel, who was Elway's position coach at Stanford, told him, "Remember what we've said. Don't try to do everything yourself. Just go out there and play catch." If it keeps playing catch as it did Sunday, Denver should ride its new offense all the way to the playoffs.
GAME OF THE WEEK