Standing in the Oakland Coliseum visitors' locker room at
halftime of Sunday's game against the Raiders, Broncos offensive
coordinator Gary Kubiak came to the aid of backup quarterback
Bubby Brister. After replacing the injured John Elway with 8:15
left in the second quarter, Brister had promptly thrown an
interception that was returned 94 yards for a touchdown by
Oakland strong safety Eric Turner. Now, with his offensive
teammates gathered around and the coaches plotting how to
protect a 17-10 lead in front of a rowdy Raiders crowd, Kubiak
addressed his troops, focusing on the 36-year-old Brister, the
man with the red laser dot between his eyes.
"I know what number 6 is going through," said Kubiak, whose
nine-year career as Elway's backup included more than 100 relief
appearances. "If y'all want to help him, go out and make some
plays so he doesn't feel like he has to do it on his own."
Kubiak's advice concluded a hectic 12-minute intermission that
helped to settle Denver, which went on to a 34-17 victory. Fans
may savor halftime as a chance to restock their nacho plates,
but coaches are pressed to fine-tune game plans they had spent
several days developing.
On Sunday, as the intermission began, Broncos players made quick
trips to the rest room, tinkered with their equipment and
received medical treatment while coaches spent the first few
minutes talking strategy among themselves. Then the players were
divided into units. On one side of the locker room, defensive
coordinator Greg Robinson remarked on Oakland's repeated
attempts to throw the ball downfield and then made slight
alterations to some of Denver's pass-coverage schemes. (One
adjustment would help position cornerback Ray Crockett for a
September 27, 1998
On the other side of the room, offensive players watched as
Kubiak and coach Mike Shanahan scripted the first 10 plays of
the second half. Citing the Raiders' use of "over and under"
fronts in an effort to defend against strongside handoffs to
running back Terrell Davis, Shanahan and Kubiak made several
changes. They put receivers in motion to the weak side, allowed
for audibles to change the direction of Davis's runs and added
play-action bootlegs that called for Brister to roll to his
right after faking weakside handoffs. (On one such bootleg--the
10th play of the second-half opening script--Brister would pull
up at the line of scrimmage and fire a 13-yard touchdown pass to
wideout Ed McCaffrey.)
But on this day, some of the best halftime moves were the ones
the coaches decided not to make. "By sticking with the general
game plan, they gave me confidence," Brister said after the game.
"They were basically telling me, Don't do anything else real
stupid, and we'll be fine."