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THE BRONCOS GRIND OUT A COMEBACK ARE SWITZER'S DAYS NUMBERED? 49ERS VENTURE INTO THE PANTHERS' DEN

Sept. 23, 1996
Sept. 23, 1996

Table of Contents
Sept. 23, 1996

Hockey

THE BRONCOS GRIND OUT A COMEBACK ARE SWITZER'S DAYS NUMBERED? 49ERS VENTURE INTO THE PANTHERS' DEN

GROUND CONTROL

This is an article from the Sept. 23, 1996 issue Original Layout

The Broncos trailed the stubborn Buccaneers 23-20 on Sunday
night, when John Elway trotted onto the field with 11:43 left
for what would be the 38th fourth-quarter comeback win along his
road to the Hall of Fame. So much of the scene was familiar: The
crowd rose in anticipation. The floor of old Mile High Stadium
shook. The veins in Elway's neck bulged as he called the
signals, straining to be heard.

Then Elway acted strangely. He wheeled and handed the ball to
sturdy running back Terrell Davis on first down. He pitched to
Davis on second down. He handed off to Davis on a shotgun draw
on third down. Eleven plays later, Davis burst over left guard
for a three-yard score. The Broncos playing smashmouth football?

During the 80-yard drive, Denver ran the ball on all four
third-down plays, and Elway passed just twice, completing both
throws for a meager 16 yards. The Broncos pulled out a game they
should have lost with a 194-yard-rushing night. They are 3-0,
running the ball 55% of the time. "I love it," Elway said,
struggling to be heard above the din as he walked off the field
after the game. His grin was so wide, you would have thought he
had gained all 80 yards himself. "My whole attitude now is: Just
win. I could care less about stats."

Elway noted that the Broncos and the Dolphins, both of whom have
lived and died through the air since he and Dan Marino entered
the league in 1983, are now securely grounded. "We're not the
finesse teams of the league anymore," he said. "We can run
against anybody."

Davis is proving as much. A sixth-round pick out of Georgia in
1995, he carried 22 times for 137 yards against the Bucs. In
three games Davis has 320 yards rushing and a 4.6-yard average.
He's coming off a rookie season in which he ran for 1,117 yards,
despite being sidelined for the season early in the Broncos'
14th game with a hamstring tear.

"In the past we believed if we kept the game close, John would do
something to bail us out," Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe said
Sunday night. "Now we can demoralize teams by running it down
their throats."

Denver fullback Aaron Craver agreed and then got a little
carried away. "We're like the Redskins were with John Riggins,"
he said. "You knew they were going to run it, but could you stop
them?"

The acid test for the Broncos comes this Sunday at Kansas City
(3-0). No team steamrolls the Chiefs, and the road to the top of
the AFC goes through their massive defensive line, which
averages 298 pounds.

BYE, BYE, BARRY?

When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced last week that he
wouldn't exercise the rollover clause in coach Barry Switzer's
contract at the end of this season, he sent a message to the
coaching fraternity that Switzer is a short-timer. Switzer is
under contract through '99, but if, as has been speculated,
Jones gives him a $2 million golden parachute after this season,
look for the following names to lead the list of successors:
Giants coach Dan Reeves, Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz and Dallas
assistant head coach Hudson Houck.

Reeves would make sense, and not just because he's a former
Cowboys player and assistant. He may need a gig if the Giants
(0-3) continue to go down in flames. He's also a favorite of
quarterback Troy Aikman, who thinks Reeves is the type of coach
who would instill the discipline he believes the Cowboys have
sorely missed under Switzer. But to fully suit Aikman, Reeves
would have to leave the Ernie Zampese-run Dallas offense intact.

STATS OF THE WEEK

--Until Sunday's 25-24 loss to the Colts, the Cowboys (1-2) had
never blown a lead as big as 18 points at home in their 36 years.

--The Seahawks (0-3) have allowed 522 rushing yards, while their
own Chris Warren, the AFC's leading rusher over the past four
seasons, has run for 91.

--Those Oakland fans really missed their Raiders. There were more
than 16,000 unsold tickets for the Raiders' home opener at
refurbished Oakland Coliseum on Sunday, a 17-3 win over the
Jaguars.

VIDEO GAMES

With first place in the NFC West on the line, the 49ers appear
to be a little tight about walking into the Panthers' den in
Charlotte this Sunday. After spending time with Carolina players
in the video room for a feature on the Panthers' blitz-from-
all-angles defense, a Fox crew tried to get San Francisco's take
on why the scheme is so effective. The Niners wouldn't let
quarterback Steve Young do similar on-camera analysis.

San Francisco has been busy answering questions about its own
passing game. The NFL's strangest early-season stat: Despite
scoring 61 points in their first two games, the 49ers have no
passing touchdowns with Young, the most efficient passer of the
'90s, at the helm. "This is a building period for us," says Bill
Walsh, the Niners' offensive adviser. "We're doing everything we
can to develop a running game, because great teams have to have
running games to win in the playoffs. We're dominating on
defense, and we're trying to control the game. There's no
question the passing game will be there for us when we need it."

DISPATCHES

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, the chairman of the NFL broadcast
committee, scoffed at Raiders owner Al Davis's recent prediction
that rights fees will double when the league negotiates its next
TV contract, in 1997. Fox, NBC, ESPN and TNT paid $4.4 billion
for a four-year contract in 1994. "Consider the source," Bowlen
said. "Al doesn't know what he's talking about." Bowlen added
that he is opposed to a weekly Thursday-night game--there are
only two such dates in '96--because he believes it would dilute
the product....Indianapolis vice president Bill Tobin, putting
the Colts' win over the Cowboys in perspective: "I figured out
that 25 percent of our salary cap was not in uniform because of
injuries. And we found a way to beat the world champions on the
road."...The Bengals (1-2) talked convincingly about getting
Garrison Hearst some quality playing time when they grabbed him
off waivers in August. In three weeks Hearst has carried 15
times for 21 yards--at a salary of $121,000 a week....One mark
of a good coach is the ability to rally his team after a
lopsided defeat. Since Ray Rhodes became their coach last
season, the Eagles have lost five games by more than two
touchdowns. In the games immediately following those setbacks
Philadelphia is 5-0, including Sunday's 24-17 win over the
Lions. The week before, the Packers had crushed the Eagles
39-13. "One thing Ray doesn't let us do is stay down," says
center Raleigh McKenzie.

THE END ZONE

Saints kicker Doug Brien, who in 1995 was waived six games into
his second season with the 49ers, minored in conservation and
resource studies at Cal. Asked what he was most proud of during
his stint in San Francisco, Brien said, "I got the 49ers
interested in recycling."

COLOR PHOTO: TIM DEFRISCO The durable Davis carried eight times for 39 yards on Denver's winning drive. [Terrell Davis]COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN The 49ers didn't want Young analyzing the Carolina blitz on TV. [Steve Young]