The Denver Broncos got a long-overdue Super Bowl win in 1997 by going the wild-card route and then winning the Super Bowl itself as a double-digit underdog. The 1998 Denver Broncos completed a back-to-back run and they did it with considerably more authority, as John Elway completed his illustrious career.
Denver won their first thirteen games behind running back Terrell Davis, who would end up rushing over 2,000 yards, en route to the MVP award. John Elway made a Pro Bowl at age 38, had a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Ed McCaffrey and Rod Smith, along with tight end Shannon Sharpe. Three more Pro Bowlers dotted the offensive line and the Broncos were second in the league in points scored.
There wasn’t as much raw talent on defense, but the Broncos were still a Top 10 defensive unit. They didn’t lose until December 13 in the Meadowlands, when a mediocre New York Giants’ team pulled out a 20-16 win on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Kent Graham. Denver lost again the next week, but they already had the 1-seed for the AFC playoffs in hand and won their final game to re-establish momentum.
Two teams from the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, came west for the playoffs. Each team was led by a coaching legend, Jimmy Johnson for Miami and Bill Parcells for New York. Each coach believed in the importance of a good running game, which makes the defensive display Denver put on all the more impressive—they held the Dolphins and Jets to a combined 28 rush yards.
Denver hammered Miami 38-3 in the divisional round, and though it took until the third quarter to get rolling against the Jets, the Broncos ripped off 23 unanswered points and turned a 10-0 deficit into a 23-10 win and an AFC crown. Beating Johnson and Parcells only added to the rising star that was the career of Bronco coach Mike Shanahan.
The Super Bowl was anti-climactic–the nation had anticipated a big battle with the Minnesota Vikings, who had gone 15-1 and had an offense for whom the word “explosive” is not sufficient. But Minnesota had been stunned in the conference championship game by the Atlanta Falcons.
What we were left with was a nice storyline–the Falcons were coached by Elway’s original mentor, Dan Reeves–but a bad football game.
Denver scored 17 straight points in the first half, highlighted by Elway’s 80-yard scoring strike to Smith, and the lead grew as high as 31-6. Elway finished with 336 passing yards and was named Super Bowl MVP in a game whose 34-19 final score doesn’t do justice to Denver’s dominance.
After a career in which media morons said he couldn’t win the big one, Elway retired in triumph, with two consecutive Super Bowl titles and leading a truly great team in the 1998 Denver Broncos.