Headline: Roell Preston returns kicks for a team record 1,497 yards, but the Pack misses return to the Super Bowl
Regular Season Record: 11 – 5 (Second Place NFC Central Division)
Offseason Highlights: The Green Bay Packers’ 1998 draft yielded only one starter, DE Vonnie Holliday from North Carolina (19th overall). Green Bay acquired the 19th overall pick from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for both the Packers’ 1998 1st round (29th overall) and 2nd round (60th overall) selections.
Holliday had an impressive rookie season, compiling 52 tackles, a franchise rookie record 8 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and 5 pass deflections in 12 games. For his performance in 1998, Holliday was a consensus all-rookie selection and finished second behind Oakland Raiders CB Charles Woodson for AP’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award. In 1999, Holliday played his first full pro season. He was once again impressive, leading all Packers linemen with 67 tackles and finishing second on the team with 6 sacks. He also added a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and 6 passes defensed on the season.
Battling hamstring and ankle injuries, Holliday appeared in 12 games in 2000, starting nine. Holliday played well when he was on the field, totaling 47 tackles, 5 sacks and 4 passes defensed. He also grabbed his first career interception in a September 10 contest against the Buffalo Bills. Back at full health, Holliday had another good season in 2001. On the year, Holliday registered a career high 81 tackles along with 7 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and 3 passes defensed. Just as in 1999, Holliday finished first among Green Bay linemen in tackles and second on the team in sacks.
In his final season with the Packers, Holliday missed 4 games with a torn pectoral muscle and 2 games with a knee injury. In the 10 games he did play, Holliday accumulated 26 tackles, 6 sacks, an interception, 3 forced fumbles, and 4 passes defensed. Holliday posted the best game of his career on December 22 against the Buffalo Bills, when he sacked Buffalo QB Drew Bledsoe 5 times and forced 3 fumbles, a Green Bay single game record. The performance against the Bills earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Though the Packers and Holliday discussed a contract extension prior to the 2002 season, the organization’s decision to retain DT Cletidus Hunt and Head Coach Mike Sherman’s preference for young DE Aaron Kampman spelled the end of Holliday’s tenure in Green Bay after the expiration of his rookie contract. Holliday ended his 5 year Packers’ career having started 63 out of 66 games while garnering 32 sacks and 167 tackles. He would go on to play another 10 seasons, ending his 15 year career with the Arizona Cardinals in 2012.
When star RB Dorsey Levens decided to hold out due to a contract dispute, Green Bay signed free agent RB Raymont Harris from the Chicago Bears. Harris had gained 1,033 yards in 13 games in 1997 but also missed 22 out of 48 games over the previous 3 years. Levens had gained 1,435 yards in 1997, 39 yards short of Jim Taylor’s club record, while making only $785,000. He eventually rejoined the Packers on August 30 after signing a new 5 year contract.
Before the 1998 NFL draft, there was a debate on whether the Indianapolis Colts should select Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf with the first overall pick. Both were considered excellent prospects and future franchise quarterbacks. Leaf was considered to have more upside and a stronger throwing arm while Manning was considered a prospect who was NFL ready and more mature. On draft day, the Colts selected Manning due to Leaf’s disdain for Indianapolis. Manning went on to win the Most Valuable Player award in 5 different seasons, the most of any NFL player ever, whereas Leaf was out of the NFL by 2002 and is considered one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.
Regular Season Highlights: After two consecutive 13-3 seasons, the Green Bay Packers took a step back, compiling a 11-5 record in 1998. And, for the first time in four years, Green Bay did not win the NFC Central Division. That distinction belonged to the Minnesota Vikings, who finished 15-1. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished third at 8-8, the Detroit Lions finished fourth at 5-11, and the Chicago Bears last at 4-12. After winning their first 4 games, the Packers went 5-4 over the next 9 games before finishing with 3 consecutive wins.
Although he didn’t win his fourth MVP award, QB Brett Favre enjoyed another stellar season, completing 347 out of 551 attempts (63.0%) for 4,212 yards, his second 4,000 yard season in 4 years, 31 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, and a QB Rating of 87.8. For his efforts, Farvre finished 1st overall in both passing yards and passes completed, 2nd overall in passes attempted, and 3rd overall in touchdowns. However, Favre also finished 2nd overall in passes intercepted, behind only Indianapolis rookie QB Peyton Manning (28).
The Favre to WR Antonio Freeman connection was deadly, with Freeman catching 84 passes for 1,424 yards (17.0 yards per catch) and 14 touchdowns, finishing 1st overall in receiving yards and receiving yards per game, tied for 2nd in receiving touchdowns, and 5th in receptions. TE Mark Chmura finished second in receiving with 47 catches for 554 yards (11.8 yards per reception) and 4 touchdowns. However, with Dorsey Levens battling injuries throughout the season, no Packers running back was able to gain over 400 yards. Free agent pick-up RB Darrick Holmes led Green Bay in rushing with 386 yards on 93 carries (4.2 yards per rush) followed by Levens with only 378 yards on 115 carries for just 3.3 yards per carry.
For the second consecutive season, K Ryan Longwell led the Packers in scoring with 128 points, finishing 5th overall. Green Bay also found its best kick returner since Desmond Howard in Roell Preston. Not only did Preston set a Packers’ record for kickoff return yardage (1,497), he finished 1st overall in yards per touch (18.6) and total kick and punt return yardage (1,895). Offensively, the Packers finished 25th in rushing, 3rd in passing, and 6th in total offense scoring 408 points. Defensively, Green Bay continued their string of impressive performances, finishing 4th against the run, 10th against the pass, and 11th in total defense allowing 319 points. DE Reggie White once again led the Packers with 16 sacks, tied for 2nd overall, followed by DEs Vonnie Holiday and Keith McKenzie with 8 sacks each.
As mentioned earlier, the Minnesota Vikings finished with the NFL’s best record at 15-1, winning the NFC’s top playoff seed. The 14-2 Atlanta Falcons won the NFC West title and the second seed with the 10-6 Dallas Cowboys winning the NFC East and the third seed. The 12-4 San Francisco 49ers (fourth seed), the Green Bay Packers (fifth seed), and the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals (sixth seed) were the NFC’s Wild Card teams.
Meanwhile, the World Champion Denver Broncos finished with the AFC’s best record at 14-2, winning the AFC West title and the AFC’s top playoff seed. The 12-4 New York Jets won the AFC East title and the second seed while the 11-5 Jacksonville Jaguars won the AFC Central title and the third seed. The first two AFC Wild Card teams, the Miami Dolphins (fourth seed) and the Buffalo Bills (fifth seed), both finished at 10-6 with Miami finishing ahead of Buffalo in the AFC East based on better net division points (6 to Bills’ 0). The 9-7 New England Patriots (sixth seed) was the AFC’s third Wild Card team.
In only their second season under former New England Head Coach Bill Parcells, the New York Jets won their first division title since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Their 12-4 record was also the best in Jets history. All this success came just two years after New York’s 1-15 record in 1996. Similarly, after 11 seasons in Arizona, the Cardinals posted their first winning record since 1984 and their first postseason appearance in a non-strike season since 1975. Statistics site Football Outsiders calls the 1998 Cardinals “one of the greatest fluke teams of all time who went 9-7 despite getting outscored by their opponents 378-325. They ranked 25th statistically below three different 4-12 teams.” Football Outsiders also stated that Arizona was the third worst playoff team in NFL history since they began calculating ratings.
Lastly, Denver RB Terrell Davis won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award as well as Offensive Player of the Year. In what would be his final season in Green Bay, Packers DE Reggie White won Defensive Player of the Year. Minnesota WR Randy Moss won Offensive Rookie of the Year while Oakland Raiders CB Charles Woodson won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Atlanta Head Coach Dan Reeves won Coach of the Year.
Post Season Highlights: In the AFC Wild Card Playoffs, the fifth seed Buffalo Bills traveled to Pro Player Stadium to play the fourth seed Miami Dolphins while the AFC East Champion and third seed Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the sixth seed New England Patriots in Alltel Stadium. In the NFC, the fourth seed San Francisco 49ers hosted the fifth seed Green Bay Packers in 3Com Park while the NFC East Champion and third seed Dallas Cowboys hosted the sixth seed Arizona Cardinals in Texas Stadium. The winners would advance to their respective Divisional Playoffs.
On January 2 1999, the Miami Dolphins forced 5 Buffalo Bills turnovers, including Buffalo QB Doug Flutie’s fumble at the Miami 5 yard line with 17 seconds left in the game. Bills’ WR Eric Moulds set an NFL postseason record with 240 receiving yards.
Buffalo had a great scoring chance when Moulds caught a 65 yard pass from Flutie on the first play from scrimmage, but CB Terrell Buckley knocked the ball out of his hands and Miami recovered the fumble, returning it 17 yards to the Dolphins 29 yard line. Miami then drove 57 yards in 16 plays to score on K Olindo Mare’s 31 yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. After forcing a punt, the Dolphins went on another long field goal drive, this one covering 66 yards in 11 plays, including a 22 yard reception by WR Ed Perry from QB Dan Marino and 2 pass interference calls against Buffalo totaling 26 yards. Mare’s 40 yard field goal gave the Dolphins a 6-0 lead with over 10 minutes left in the second quarter.
However, a failed surprise onside kick attempt gave Buffalo the ball on the Dolphins 42 yard line. Moulds then caught a 37 yard pass from Flutie to set up RB Thurman Thomas’ 1 yard touchdown run and a 7-6 Bills lead. Near the end of the half, Buffalo drove to the Dolphins 6 yard line, but Miami intercepted a Flutie pass in the end zone with less than a minute left on the clock. The Dolphins also blew a scoring chance as Marino completed a 52 yard pass to WR Oronde Gadsden at the Bills 9 yard line on the next play but Mare missed a 26 yard field goal on the last play of the half.
In the third quarter, Miami got an early scoring chance when the Dolphins forced and recovered a fumble while sacking Flutie on the Buffalo 40 yard line. But the Bills defense only allowed 3 yards over the next 3 plays and forced a punt. Miami’s defense then returned the favor by forcing Buffalo to punt after 3 plays and the Dolphins returned P Chris Mohr’s 39 yard kick 20 yards to Miami’s 48 yard line. The Dolphins went on to take a 14-7 lead with a 12 play, 52 yard drive, scoring on RB Karim Abdul-Jabbar’s 3 yard run and a 2 point conversion on RB Stanley Prichett’s 2 yard run.
However, Buffalo stormed right back with a 4 play, 81 yard touchdown drive to tie the game, 14-14, taking advantage of a 29 yard pass interference call against the Dolphins. On the next play, Flutie’s 23 yard completion to Moulds moved the ball to the Miami 32 yard line and he ended up finishing the drive with a 32 yard touchdown completion to Moulds with less than a minute left in the quarter. On Miami’s opening drive of the fourth quarter, Marino completed 5 out of 5 passes for 54 yards on a 75 yard drive that ended with Mare’s third field goal, giving the Dolphins a 17-14 lead. Then, Miami forced and recovered a fumble while tackling WR Andre Reed at midfield, leading to Marino’s 11 yard touchdown pass to RB Lamar Thomas that made the score a 10 point game, 24-14, with 3:42 left on the clock.
With time running out, Flutie completed a 31 yard pass to Moulds and then threw the ball to Reed, who was tackled on the Miami 1 yard line. Believing he had scored, Reed argued vehemently with the referee Steve Zimmer and bumped into him, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct foul that got the receiver ejected from the game. It also pushed the Bills back 15 yards and left them facing 2nd and goal from the 15 yard line instead of the 1 yard line. Flutie’s next two passes were incomplete, forcing the Bills to settle for K Steve Christie’s 33 yard field goal with 1:47 left, cutting the Dolphins lead to 24-17.
Buffalo subsequently recovered an onside kick and drove 64 yards in 10 plays to the Miami 5 yard line. But, as Flutie stepped up to make a throw, he lost the ball while being sacked by DE Trace Armstrong and DL Shane Burton recovered the fumble, guaranteeing a 24-17 Dolphins victory, their first playoff win since 1994.
Meanwhile, QB Jake Plummer passed for 213 yards and 2 touchdowns as he led the Arizona Cardinals to their first playoff victory since 1947, ending the longest playoff win drought in NFL history. Their victory was especially satisfying coming against the Dallas Cowboys, who defeated them twice during the season. Arizona RB Adrian Murrell rushed for 95 yards and caught 2 passes for 16 yards and a touchdown while their defense sacked Dallas QB Troy Aikman 4 times and intercepted 3 of his passes.
Dallas had a chance to score on their second drive when they returned an Arizona punt 11 yards to the Cowboys 38 yard line. Aikman then led the team to the Cardinals 19 yard line, but the drive ended there and K Richie Cunningham missed a 36 yard field goal attempt. On the first play of the Cardinals’ following possession, Plummer completed a 59 yard pass to WR Frank Sanders, setting up Murrell’s 12 yard touchdown catch from Plummer a few plays later for a 7-0 lead. In the second quarter, Dallas got another scoring opportunity when they picked off a Plummer pass on the Cowboys 37 yard line. Dallas went on to drive to the Cardinals 7 yard line. On 4th and 1, the Cowboys tried to convert with a run by Emmitt Smith, but he was dropped for a 1 yard loss.
Dallas’ three remaining drives of the half would result in an interception and two punts, the second which was returned 10 yards to the Cardinals 38 yard line with less than 2 minutes left in the half. Plummer then completed a 15 yard pass to WR Rob Moore and a 20 yarder to RB Eric Metcalf, setting up a 37 yard Chris Jacke field goal that gave Arizona a 10-0 lead going into halftime. On the second play of the second half, Murrell took off for a 74 yard run to the Cowboys 3 yard line. It was the longest postseason run ever surrendered by the Cowboys in their 52 postseason game history. On the next play, Plummer threw a 3 yard touchdown pass to RB Larry Centers, making the score 17-0.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Cardinals again intercepted Aikman, setting up a 46 yard field goal by Jacke, extending their lead to 20-0. Now desperate for points, Dallas tried to convert a 4th and 1 deep in their own territory, only to see Aikman sacked for a 10 yard loss. A Cowboys’ interception prevented Arizona from scoring but, with only 10 minutes remaining on the clock, there was little hope for a comeback. All Dallas could do was avoid a shutout when Deion Sanders’ 41 yard punt return set up Aikman’s 6 yard touchdown pass to WR Billy Davis with 3:33 left in the game, giving the Cardinals at convincing 20-7 victory.
On January 3, RB Fred Taylor ran for 162 yards and a touchdown as the Jacksonville Jaguars won their first home playoff game over the New England Patriots in team history. Jacksonville K Mike Hollis contributed 4 field goals. New England RB Robert Edwards, who rushed for 1,115 yards and 9 touchdowns during the season, was held to 28 yards on 17 carries.
New England, playing without starting QB Drew Bledsoe, WR Terry Glenn, and LB Ted Johnson due to injuries, could not score any points in the first half. Hollis opened up the scoring with two field goals, 35 and 24 yards, for a 6-0 lead. The second one was set up by a 46 yard Taylor run and followed two overthrown passes by QB Mark Brunell to WR Keenan McCardell and RB George Jones, who were both wide open in the end zone. Brunell struggled throughout most of the game, finishing with just 14 of 34 completions for 161 yards. Later in the second quarter, Taylor’s 21 yard run gave his team a first down on the Patriots 34 yard line. Four plays later, he scored on a 13 yard touchdown run, giving his team a 12-0 lead after a failed 2 point conversion attempt.
Jacksonville got another chance to score when they recovered an Edwards’ fumble on the Jaguars 49 yard line. But New England’s defense managed to force a turnover on downs at the Patriots 23 yard line and the score remained 12-0 going into halftime. In the third quarter, New England QB Scott Zolak managed to spark a rally. First, he led the Patriots’ 85 yards, including a 21 yard completion to WR Troy Brown on 3rd and 9, on a drive that consumed 8:48 off the clock and ended with a 1 yard touchdown run from Edwards, cutting the Jacksonville lead to 12-7. Their defense quickly forced a punt and returned it 17 yards to New England’s 46 yard line, where the team proceeded to drive to the Jaguars 9 yard line.
Following a dropped Zolak pass by TE Lovett Purnell on third down, K Adam Vinatieri’s 27 yard field goal further reduced the deficit to 12-10. But on Jacksonville’s ensuing possession, Brunell threw a pass to WR Jimmy Smith, who made a 37 yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone, increasing their advantage to 19-10. After a punt from each team, the Jaguars forced and recovered a fumble while sacking Zolak on the Patriots 25 yard line, setting up Hollis’ third field goal and a 22-10 lead. He added a fourth field goal to close out the scoring after the Patriots turned the ball over on downs deep in their own territory on their next possession. On New England’s final play, Zolak was intercepted, giving Jacksonville a 25-10 victory.
Later in the day, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers, who had eliminated them from the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, in one of the wildest back and forth games in league history. Green Bay’s Roell Preston would set a postseason franchise record with 198 kickoff return yards.
Both teams took advantage of each other’s turnovers and mistakes throughout the game. In the first quarter, Green Bay’s recovery of a fumble by San Francisco WR Terrell Owens set up a 48 yard drive that ended with K Ryan Longwell’s field goal and a 3-0 lead. But later in the quarter, the 49ers recovered a fumble from RB Dorsey Levens on the Packers 17 yard line. Two plays later, QB Steve Young threw a 1 yard touchdown pass to TE Greg Clark, giving San Francisco a 7-3 lead. The Packers offense responded by driving 62 yards in 9 plays and Levens made up for his miscue with a 22 yard run to the 49ers 2 yard line on 4th and 1. On the next play, QB Brett Favre finished the drive with a 2 yard touchdown pass to WR Antonio Freeman 4 seconds into the second quarter to retake the lead, 10-7.
Later in the second quarter, the 49ers returned a punt 19 yards to their 47 yard line. RB Garrison Hearst then rushed 3 times for 28 yards on a 37 yard drive that ended with a field goal by K Wade Richey, tying the game at 10-10. But before the half ended, the Packers retook the lead with a 9 play, 83 yard drive, aided by two 15 yard penalties against San Francisco. Levens finished the drive with a 2 yard touchdown run, giving Green Bay a 17-10 halftime lead. Early in the third quarter, the 49ers intercepted a Favre pass and returned it 17 yards to the Packers 33 yard line. Four plays later, Owens dropped a pass in the end zone, but Young threw his second touchdown pass to Clark on the next play, tying the score at 17-17.
Then, after forcing a punt, they took the lead, 20-17, by driving 48 yards and scoring with a 48 yard Richey field goal. In the fourth quarter, the Packers drove 60 yards in 11 plays, featuring a 33 yard reception by RB William Henderson, and scored a 37 yard Longwell field goal to once again tie the game, 20-20. But on the 49ers ensuing drive, a 34 yard completion from Young to Owens set up another Richey field goal, putting them back in the lead, 23-20. With 6:16 left in the game, San Francisco intercepted another Favre pass and returned it to the Packers 40 yard line, giving the 49ers a chance to put the game out of reach. But after two runs by Hearst failed to make a significant gain, Owens dropped a potential first down catch, his fourth drop of the day, and San Francisco had to punt.
Taking the ball back at their own 11 yard line with 4:19 remaining, Favre led the Packers back to retake the lead, 27-23, on a 15 yard touchdown pass to Freeman at the end of an 89 yard drive, featuring a 47 yard completion to seldom used rookie WR Corey Bradford. But San Francisco responded with an equally impressive drive, in which WR Jerry Rice visibly fumbled on his first reception of the game, but was ruled down by contact even though replays appeared to show the ball came out before his knee hit the ground. The use of instant replay challenges was not in effect until the following year, allowing the drive to continue behind Young, who completed 7 of 9 passes on a 76 yard drive for the winning score.
Owens, who had dropped 4 passes and lost a fumble, caught the 25 yard winning touchdown pass with 8 seconds left in the game, ending Green Bay’s attempt at a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, with a 30-27 victory. The play became known in NFL lore as “The Catch II”, named after “The Catch”, when WR Dwight Clark caught the winning pass from QB Joe Montana against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. After the “Catch II” pass, Young completed only two more touchdown passes in his career at Candlestick Park, and both went to Owens in San Francisco’s 1999 home opening win over the New Orleans Saints. Young sustained a concussion the following week against the Arizona Cardinals and never played another snap in his career.
In the Divisional Playoffs, the NFC West Champion and second seed Atlanta Falcons hosted the fourth seed San Francisco 49ers in the Georgia Dome while the fourth seed Miami Dolphins traveled to Mile High Stadium to play the AFC West Champion and top seed Denver Broncos. Meanwhile, the AFC East Champion and second seed New York Jets hosted the AFC Central Champion and third seed Jacksonville Jaguars in Giants Stadium while the sixth seed Arizona Cardinals traveled to the HHH Metrodome to play the NFC Central Champion and top seed Minnesota Vikings. The winners would advance to their respective Conference Championship games.
On January 9, Atlanta Falcons RB Jamal Anderson rushed for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns while the Atlanta defense intercepted 3 passes from QB Steve Young as they barely escaped with a victory in the first playoff game ever played at the Georgia Dome.
On the first play of the game, San Francisco suffered a major setback when RB Garrison Hearst, who rushed for 1,570 yards during the season, suffered a broken ankle. This turned out to be a devastating injury that would prevent Hearst from playing another game until the 2001 season. Without Hearst, the 49ers would rush the ball only 19 times the rest of the game, finishing with just 47 yards on the ground. Hearst’s 7 yard carry on his injury play would be San Francisco’s longest run of the day. The 49ers were unable to get a first down on their first three possessions. At the end of their second one, Atlanta returned Reggie Roby’s 51 yard punt 36 yards to the San Francisco 38 yard line.
The Falcons then drove 38 yards in 6 plays to take a 7-0 lead on Anderson’s 2 yard touchdown run. The key play of the drive was a 19 yard completion from QB Chris Chandler to WR Terance Mathis on 3rd and 8 from the 49ers 22 yard line. Midway through the second quarter, Atlanta drove 82 yards in 8 plays to go up 14-0 on a 34 yard burst by Anderson. On San Francisco’s next drive, backup RB Terry Kirby fumbled a pitch from Young. After several players scrambled for it, the ball bounced up in the air and was picked up by Falcons’ S Chuck Smith, who returned it for an apparent touchdown. However, line judge Ron Baynes ruled that Kirby briefly gained possession of the ball and his knee was down when touched by Atlanta, giving the 49ers possession of the ball.
A few plays later, faced with 3rd and 23, Young picked up the first down with a 34 yard completion to RB Chuck Levy on the Falcons 26 yard line. His next pass went to TE Greg Clark for 9 yards and then he threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to WR Jerry Rice, cutting the score to 14-7. On the Falcons ensuing possession, San Francisco intercepted a Chandler pass, returning it to the Atlanta 36 yard line. A 16 yard completion from Young to WR J. J. Stokes set up K Wade Richey’s 36 yard field goal to cut the 49ers deficit to 14-10 on the last play of the half.
In the third quarter, San Francisco drove all the way to the Falcons 3 yard line. But Atlanta intercepted a Young pass and returned it 77 yards to the 49ers 20 yard line, leading to K Morten Andersen’s 29 yard field goal, extending their lead to 17-10. Later in the quarter, San Francisco drove deep into Falcons territory again, only to have Young throw another interception, with a personal foul on the 49ers adding 15 yards. Atlanta got the ball on San Francisco’s 36 yard line and a 16 yard reception by WR Tony Martin from Chandler on 3rd and 8 got the team close enough to score on Andersen’s second field goal of the day, this one from 32 yards out, giving the Falcons a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The 49ers responded with an 87 yard, 13 play drive, featuring a 33 yard completion from Young to Stokes. On the last play, Young ran the ball into the end zone for an 8 yard touchdown. Backup QB Ty Detmer fumbled the snap on the extra point attempt but picked up the ball and threw it to Clark for a successful 2-point conversion, making it 20-18 with 2:57 left in the game. San Francisco managed to force a Falcons’ punt, but P Dan Stryzinski pinned the 49ers back at their own 4 yard line with only 34 seconds and no timeouts left. Young threw a 24 yard completion to Levy on the second play of the drive. But on the next play, CB William White’s interception at midfield as time expired sealed a 20-18 Atlanta victory.
Later that day, the Denver Broncos blew out the Miami Dolphins, outgaining Miami in rushing yards 250-14, and scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions.
On their opening drive, Denver took 7:55 off the clock with a 14 play, 92 yard drive on the way to a 1 yard touchdown run by RB Terrell Davis and a 7-0 lead. Then, after forcing a punt, the Broncos moved the ball much faster, driving 66 yards in 4 plays, including QB John Elway’s 33 yard completion to WR Ed McCaffrey, and scoring with Davis’ second touchdown on a 20 yard burst, for a 14-0 lead. Miami managed to respond with a 76 yard scoring drive in which QB Dan Marino completed 3 passes to WR O. J. McDuffie for 45 yards. The possession ended on a 22 yard field goal from K Olindo Mare, making the score 14-3.
However, the Broncos stormed right back, with Davis carrying the ball 4 times for 47 yards, including a 28 yard rush on the first play, on an 11 play, 87 yard drive that ended with RB Derek Loville’s 11 yard touchdown run, giving Denver a 21-3 lead by halftime. On the first play of the second half, Davis had a 62 yard run, setting up K Jason Elam’s field goal to make it 24-3. Miami prevented Denver from scoring for the rest of the third quarter but, in the fourth quarter, Denver drove 52 yards and scored on Elway’s 28 yard touchdown pass to WR Rod Smith, extending their lead to 31-3. On Miami’s ensuing drive, DE Neil Smith closed out the scoring by returning a fumble 79 yards for a touchdown and a 38-3 Broncos victory.
This was the only time Hall of Famers Elway and Marino, both members of the famous 1983 draft class, faced each other in the playoffs.
On January 10, QB Vinny Testaverde passed for 284 yards as the New York Jets held the ball for 39:16 to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. WR Keyshawn Johnson caught 9 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 28 yards and a touchdown, recovered a fumble, and intercepted a pass on defense near the end of the game when he was brought in as an extra defensive back. Jets RB Curtis Martin rushed for 124 yards, caught 6 passes for 58 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns.
On the opening drive of the game, New York drove 70 yards in 7 plays to score on Testaverde’s 21 yard touchdown pass to Johnson for a 7-0 lead. The rest of the first quarter would be scoreless but, on the second to last play, the Jets started a 59 yard drive that ended on K John Hall’s 51 yard field goal, increasing their lead to 10-0. New York would go on to dominate the second quarter, holding the ball for all but 51 seconds of it. On their next drive, Martin lost a fumble that was initially recovered by Jacksonville on the Jaguars 18 yard line. But during the return, Jacksonville fumbled the ball while attempting a lateral and Johnson recovered the ball for the Jets on New York’s 34 yard line. New York then drove back into Jacksonville territory and scored with Johnson’s 10 yard run for a 17-0 lead.
However, Jaguars QB Mark Brunell threw a 52 yard touchdown pass to WR Jimmy Smith on the last play of the half, cutting the score to 17-7. Early in the third quarter, the Jets intercepted a Brunell pass on third down and returned it 40 yards. On the ensuing drive, Testaverde’s 23 yard completion to Johnson set up a 1 yard touchdown run by Martin for a 24-7 lead. However, Jacksonville returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to the New York 4 yard line, setting up a 3 yard touchdown pass from Brunell to WR Keenan McCardell and cutting their deficit to 24-14. New York struck right back, with Testaverde throwing for 70 yards on a 6 minute drive that ended with Martin’s second touchdown run to put them up 31-14 going into the fourth quarter.
But the Jaguars refused to give up. First, a 29 yard run by RB Fred Taylor set off a 64 yard scoring drive that ended on Brunell’s 19 yard touchdown pass to Smith, narrowing the Jets lead to 31-21. Then, Jacksonville forced a fumble from Jets WR Wayne Chrebet that was recovered on New York’s 41 yard line, setting up a field goal from K Mike Hollis and bringing the Jaguars to within one touchdown, 31-24. The Jets responded by driving inside the Jacksonville 20 yard line.
With 2:30 left in the game, the Jaguars intercepted a Testaverde pass in the end zone. But, instead of kneeling down for a touchback, rookie S Donovin Darius attempted to return the ball and was tackled at the 1 yard line. Jacksonville was unable to get a first down on their ensuing drive and turned the ball over on downs. A few plays later, Hall kicked a field goal to put the game away. Johnson then put the finishing touch on his exceptional performance by intercepting Brunell on the next play, insuring a 34-24 New York victory. It would be the first time the Jets played for an opportunity to advance to the Super Bowl since 1968 when Hall of Famer Joe Namath lead New York over the Oakland Raiders, 27-23, in the AFL Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl III.
Meanwhile, RB Robert Smith led the Minnesota Vikings to a victory over the Arizona Cardinals as he ran for a team playoff record 124 yards. RB Leroy Hoard scored a franchise playoff record 3 touchdowns while QB Randall Cunningham completed 17 of 27 passes for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns with an interception. Arizona QB Jake Plummer threw for more yards than Cunningham but was intercepted twice.
Minnesota opened up the game with a 12 play, 80 yard scoring drive, featuring a 21 yard completion from Cunningham to WR David Palmer on 3rd and 6. Hoard’s 1 yard touchdown run finished the drive, giving the Vikings a 7-0 lead. Later in the quarter, Minnesota drove all the way to the Cardinals 7 yard line but, on the first play of the second quarter, Arizona intercepted a Cunningham pass intended for WR Randy Moss in the end zone and returned it 47 yards. However, the Vikings returned the favor a few plays later by intercepting Plummer and returning the ball 31 yards to the Minnesota 38 yard line. On the next play, Cunningham completed a 45 yard pass to Moss and eventually finished the drive with a 15 yard touchdown pass to TE Andrew Glover, making the score 14-0.
On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, the Vikings intercepted another Plummer pass, returning this one 15 yards to the Cardinals 16 yard line, setting up a 34 yard field goal by K Gary Anderson. That gave Minnesota a 17-0 lead before Arizona had made a single completion or gained a first down. Aided by four Vikings penalties, the Cardinals managed to respond with a 12 play, 80 yard drive to score on a 1 yard touchdown run from RB Mario Bates to narrow Minnesota’s lead to 17-7. But Smith’s 3 carries for 42 yards on the ensuing drive set up Hoard’s 16 yard touchdown reception, increasing the Vikings’ lead to 24-7 by halftime.
Arizona regrouped on their opening drive of the second half, driving 80 yards in 14 plays, including a 23 yard reception by WR Rob Moore from Plummer on 3rd and 4, to score on another Bates’ 1 yard touchdown run, cutting their deficit to 24-14. However, Minnesota would go on to dominate the rest of the half, starting with Cunningham’s 45 yard completion to WR Chris Carter that set up a 20 yard Anderson field goal for a 27-14 lead. The next time the Cardinals got the ball, Plummer fumbled a snap that was recovered by the Vikings on the Arizona 10 yard line, leading to Cunningham’s third touchdown pass of the day, a 3 yarder to Moss, and a 34-14 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals took advantage of a 36 yard punt return that gave them a first down on Minnesota’s 25 yard line, converting it into Bates’ third 1 yard touchdown run, making the score 34-21. But the Vikings subsequently put the game away with a 12 play, 73 yard drive to score on Hoard’s 6 yard touchdown with 4:33 left on the clock, sealing a convincing 41-21 victory. Arizona’s 9-7 record and wildcard win in Dallas ultimately did not signal a turnaround for the long troubled franchise. The Cardinals fell to 6-10 in the following year and would not make the playoffs again until the 2008 season.
On January 17, the Minnesota Vikings hosted the NFC Championship at the HHH Metrodome against the Atlanta Falcons while the New York Jets traveled to Mile High Stadium to play the Denver Broncos for the AFC Championship and the right to represent their respective conferences in Super Bowl XXXIII.
In the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons came into the game as 11 point underdogs but managed to overcome a 13 point deficit, the largest comeback in an NFC Championship Game to date, winning an extremely competitive game late in overtime, making the Minnesota Vikings the first 15-1 team ever to fail to reach the Super Bowl. Minnesota had set an NFL record with 556 points and won their 9 previous home games by an average of 23 points but they could not win this game despite maintaining a lead for nearly all of the time in regulation.
Atlanta took the opening kickoff and moved the ball 76 yards in 12 plays to score with QB Chris Chandler’s 5 yard pass to RB Jamal Anderson for a 7-0 lead. Aided by a 30 yard pass interference penalty on the Falcons, Minnesota struck right back on their first drive with QB Randall Cunningham’s 31 yard scoring strike to WR Randy Moss, tying the score 7-7. In the second quarter, the Vikings recovered a fumble from RB Harold Green on the Minnesota 40 yard line, which the team converted into a Gary Anderson field goal for a 10-7 lead. Then, on the first play of Atlanta’s following drive, the Vikings forced and recovered a fumble from TE O. J. Santiago on the Falcons 33 yard line.
Cunningham completed an 18 yard pass to Moss on the next play and eventually finished the drive with a 1 yard touchdown run that increased Minnesota’s lead to 17-7 with 5 minutes left in the half. Atlanta had to punt after three plays on their ensuing drive and P Dan Stryzinski’s 42 yard kick gave the Vikings good field position on their own 43 yard line. The Vikings blew a chance at another touchdown when Moss dropped a pass in the end zone but Anderson kicked another field goal to make the score 20-7. After forcing another Atlanta punt, Stryzinski’s 44 yard kick sent the ball back to Minnesota on their own 18 yard line with 1:17 left in the half.
Rather than simply run out the clock, the Vikings decided to attempt to make a drive for points. But their gamble backfired horribly as the Falcons forced a Cunningham fumble that they recovered on Minnesota’s 14 yard line, setting up Chandler’s 14 yard touchdown pass to WR Terance Mathis to cut their deficit to 20-14 by the end of the half. It was the turning point for Atlanta as the game’s momentum began to shift their way. The Falcons forced Minnesota to punt on the opening drive of the second half and two plays by WR Tim Dwight, a 26 yard punt return and a 21 yard run, set up K Morten Andersen’s 27 yard field goal to cut their deficit to 3 points, 20-17.
The Vikings countered on their ensuing possession, driving 82 yards in 15 plays and scoring on WR Matthew Hatchette’s 5 yard reception from Cunningham to make the score 27-17 with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter. WR Chris Carter made two big receptions on the drive, converting a 3rd and 10 with a 12 yard catch and later hauling in a 17 yard gain on 3rd and 8. Atlanta responded with Chandler’s 70 yard completion to WR Tony Martin, setting up a score on Andersen’s 24 yard field goal that narrowed the gap to 27-20 with 11:02 left in the game. After a punt from each team, the Falcons got a chance to tie the score when they recovered a fumbled Cunningham snap on the Vikings 30 yard line.
However, Atlanta turned the ball over on downs with Chandler’s incomplete pass on a 4th and 4 attempt with 6 minutes left in regulation. Minnesota then drove to the Falcons’ 20 yard line, setting up a 38 yard field goal attempt for Anderson, who had not missed a field goal all season. Another successful kick would wrap up the NFC title for Minnesota but Anderson’s kick sailed wide left, giving the ball back to Atlanta with 2:07 left. Chandler then led his team down to the Vikings 16 yard line, including a 29 yard completion to seldom used WR Ronnie Harris. Following a near interception, Mathis’ 16 yard touchdown catch tied the game, 27-27, with 49 seconds left. Minnesota Head Coach Dennis Green then chose to kneel down and sent the game into overtime.
By this point, the Vikings had lost five starting players to injury, including Hall of Fame DT John Randle. After the first three possessions of overtime ended in punts, Minnesota P Mitch Berger’s 52 yard kick gave Atlanta the ball at their own 9 yard line. Chandler, now visibly limping due to an ankle injury, completed 2 passes to Santiago for gains of 15 and 26 yards on a 70 yard drive to the Vikings 21 yard line. Andersen then kicked a 38 yard field goal to win the game, 30-27, advancing Atlanta to the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.
In the AFC, Denver Broncos QB John Elway completed only 13 of 34 passes. However, RB Terrell Davis, the NFL MVP, ran for 167 yards and a touchdown and Denver capitalized on 6 turnovers by the New York Jets to overcome a 10-0 deficit. Jets RB Curtis Martin was held to just 14 rushing yards on 13 carries. New York QB Vinny Testaverde threw for 356 yards, but no touchdowns and was intercepted twice.
Both teams blew scoring opportunities throughout the first half. New York took the opening kickoff and drove deep into Denver territory only to have K John Hall miss a 42 yard field goal attempt. The Jets forced the Broncos to punt on their ensuing possession and KR Dave Meggett gave his team good field position with a 33 yard return. However, Martin lost a fumble on the Denver 44 yard line and the Broncos recovered it. Denver then took the ball and drove all the way to the New York 1 yard line, only to give it back when Elway’s pass was deflected on a fourth down conversion attempt. In the second quarter, Broncos’ P Tom Rouen fumbled a snap and was downed on the Denver 43 yard line.
New York subsequently drove to the 18 yard line but RB Keith Byars fumbled the ball and Denver once again recovered it. The Broncos had to punt on their next drive and Meggett returned the punt 10 yards to the Jets 40 yard line. This time, New York was finally able to take advantage of good field position as Testaverde’s completions to WR Wayne Chrebet and RB Dedric Ward for gains of 20 and 26 yards set up Hall’s 32 yard field goal, giving the team a 3-0 lead on the last play of the first half.
In the third quarter, the Jets blocked a punt and recovered it on the Broncos 1 yard line. On the next play, Martin scored a 1 yard touchdown run to increase New York’s lead to 10-0. However, Denver stormed back with 23 unanswered points. On their ensuing kickoff, the Broncos returned the ball 28 yards to their 36 yard line. Elway next completed a 47 yard pass to WR Ed McCaffrey on the Jets 17 yard line. Two plays later, his 11 yard touchdown pass to RB Howard Griffith cut the score to 10-7. Then, Denver caught a lucky break when the ball bounced back in their direction on the ensuing kickoff and they recovered it, setting up K Jason Elam’s 44 yard field goal to tie the game, 10-10.
After forcing a punt, the Broncos returned the ball 11 yards to their 44 yard line. Denver subsequently moved the ball 27 yards in 8 plays, including a 20 yard run by Davis, to score on Elam’s 48 yard field goal, giving the Broncos their first lead of the game, 13-10. With time running out in the third quarter, KR Darrien Gordon’s 36 yard punt return resulted in Denver having great field position on the Jets 38 yard line. A few plays later, Davis’ 31 yard touchdown burst 18 seconds before the fourth quarter gave the Broncos a 20-10 lead.
Denver went on to dominate the fourth quarter, forcing three turnovers. On their first possession of the quarter, the Broncos forced and recovered a fumble from WR Alex Van Dyke. After the next three drives ended in punts, Gordon intercepted a Testaverde pass and returned it 18 yards to the Jets 18 yard line where Elam kicked a 35 yard field goal for a 23-10 lead. On New York’s next drive, Gordon recorded his second interception of a Testaverde pass with 2:47 left on the clock, sealing Denver’s 23-10 win.
Thus, for the second consecutive season and the sixth time in franchise history, the Denver Broncos would play for the World Championship, this time against the Atlanta Falcons, in Super Bowl XXXIII. This was the third Super Bowl in history that featured two teams with two losses or less. The first was Super Bowl XII, featuring two 14-2 teams, the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos. The only Super Bowl featuring a better matchup record wise was Super Bowl XIX, when the San Francisco 49ers had a 17-1 record and the Miami Dolphins had a 16-2 record.
Super Bowl Highlights: On January 31 1999, at Pro Players Stadium in Miami FL, the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, led by second year Head Coach Dan Reeves, played the AFC Champion Denver Broncos, led by fourth year Head Coach Mike Shanahan, in Super Bowl XXXIII. This was the eighth time that the South Florida area had hosted the game and the third at Pro Player Stadium, formerly Joe Robbie Stadium.
Following Denver’s victory in Super Bowl XXXII the previous season, many wondered if 15 year veteran QB John Elway would retire after finally winning a Super Bowl. But Elway decided to stay with Denver and see if he could lead them to a second consecutive championship. Under Shanahan’s leadership, the Broncos stormed to the top of the AFC, winning their first 13 games before suffering their first loss to the New York Giants.
Denver’s offense, under the leadership of Elway and RB Terrell Davis, had another outstanding regular season, ranking 2nd in the NFL with 501 points and 3rd in total offense with 6,276 yards. Davis had one of the greatest seasons of any running back in NFL history, rushing for 2,008 yards on 392 attempts (5.1 yards per rush), catching 25 passes for 217 yards, and scoring 23 touchdowns to earn him both the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards. However, Davis’ rushing numbers did not reduce Elway’s passing production. The 38 year old quarterback made the Pro Bowl for the 3rd year in a row and the 9th time in his career, completing 210 out of 356 attempts for 2,806 yards, 22 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions for a QB Rating of 93.0, becoming the first quarterback to start 5 Super Bowls.
A big reason for Elway’s passing success was that he had two Pro Bowl wide receivers and a Pro Bowl tight end to throw to. WRs Ed McCaffrey (64 receptions, 1,053 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Rod Smith (86 receptions, 1,222 yards, 6 touchdowns) provided the team with outstanding deep threats, while TE Shannon Sharpe (64 receptions, 786 yards, 10 touchdowns) provided a sure handed target over the middle. The Broncos also had three Pro Bowlers anchoring their offensive line; C Tom Nalen, OG Mark Schlereth, and OT Tony Jones. On special teams, RB Vaughn Hebron returned 46 kickoffs for 1,216 yards and a touchdown, giving him a 26.4 yards per return average.
Denver’s defense typically did not get as much attention as their offense, but it was still effective, giving up 308 points, 8th fewest in the NFL. Up front, the line was anchored by DTs Maa Tanuvasa and Trevor Pryce, who each recorded 8.5 sacks. Behind them, Pro Bowl LB Bill Romanowski recorded 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions. The secondary was led by Pro Bowler Steve Atwater and Darrien Gordon, who led the team with 4 interceptions, which he returned for 125 yards and a touchdown. Gordon was also a great punt returner, returning 34 punts for 379 yards.
Atlanta advanced to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Like Denver, they finished the regular season with a 14-2 record, including wins in each of their last 9 games. But, unlike the Broncos, the Falcon’s success was very surprising to many because they had a 7-9 record in 1997 and a 3-13 record in 1996. In fact, the team recorded just 4 winning seasons in the last 20 years prior to 1998 and only two in the 1990s.
However, Atlanta’s fortunes began to improve after Dan Reeves became their head coach in 1997. During Reeves’ first season with the Falcons, they finished the season 6-2 after starting out 1-7. Reeves was Denver’s head coach for 12 years, from 1981 to 1992, leading the Broncos to Super Bowls XXI, XXII, and XXIV. But they lost each one, including a 55-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Reeves’ last appearance. After that, Reeves was in constant conflict with his coaching staff and some of his players for the next three years, leaving Denver in 1993. Reeves in fact angered Shanahan with his pregame assertion that Shanahan and Elway had conspired to have him fired towards the end of his stint in Denver. Reeves spent the next four seasons as the head coach of the New York Giants before joining the Falcons.
Pro Bowl QB Chris Chandler led Atlanta’s offense extremely well, completing 190 out of 327 attempts for 3,154 yards, 25 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions for a QB Rating of 100.9. WRs Tony Martin and Terance Mathis provided the team with a superb deep threat, each recording over 60 receptions and 1,100 receiving yards, while also combining for 17 touchdowns. TE O.J. Santiago added 27 receptions for 428 yards and 5 scores. But the biggest threat on offense was Pro Bowl RB Jamal Anderson, who rushed for 1,846 yards on 410 attempts (4.5 yards per rush), caught 27 passes for 319 yards, and scored 16 total touchdowns. Rookie WR Tim Dwight gave the team a great special teams attack, gaining a total of 1,236 yards and scoring a touchdown on kickoff and punt returns. Overall, the Falcon’s offense finished fourth, scoring 442 points.
Atlanta’s defense ranked 2nd in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,203), 8th in fewest total yards allowed (5,009), and 4th in fewest points allowed (289). DTs Lester Archambeau (10 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries) and Chuck Smith (8.5 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries) excelled at pressuring quarterbacks and stopping the run. Behind them, the Falcons had two outstanding linebackers, Pro Bowler Jessie Tuggle (65 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery) and Cornelius Bennett (69 tackles, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries). Bennett played with the Buffalo Bills when they suffered their four consecutive Super Bowl losses and thus was determined to finally get the championship ring that had eluded him in the past.
Atlanta’s secondary was led by Pro Bowl CB Ray Buchanan (7 interceptions and 102 return yards) and Pro Bowl S Eugene Robinson (4 interceptions), who was with the Green Bay Packers when they appeared in Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII. Unfortunately for both Robinson and the Falcons, on the night before the Super Bowl, he was arrested for solicitation of prostitution. While driving alone in a rented car along a downtown Miami street, Robinson approached a female undercover police officer posing as a prostitute and offered $40 for oral sex. Although he was released from jail and allowed to play the game, he was widely denounced by the press and fans for the incident. Ironically, on the morning of the day Robinson was arrested for the incident, he had received the Bart Starr Award for his “high moral character”.
Lastly, Atlanta’s season was punctuated by Reeves receiving emergency coronary bypass surgery after Week 14. Doctors said he could have been “within hours of a catastrophic heart attack”. Although asked to rest for at least 6 weeks, Reeves returned to the sidelines for Week 17. Defensive Coordinator Rich Brooks substituted for Reeves as head coach in Weeks 15 and 16, winning both games.
Atlanta’s Tim Dwight returned the opening kickoff 31 yards to the Falcon 37 yard line. Then, aided by a 25 yard pass interference penalty and 31 rushing yards from Jamal Anderson, Atlanta drove to the Broncos 8 yard line. But Denver sacked Chris Chandler for a 7 yard loss on third down, forcing the Falcons to settle for K Morten Andersen’s 32 yard field goal, giving them a 3-0 lead. The Broncos then responded with an 80 yard scoring drive. John Elway’s 41 yard completion to Rod Smith and 2 receptions by Shannon Sharpe for a total of 26 yards set up RB Howard Griffith’s 1 yard touchdown run for a 7-3 lead. Unfortunately for Denver, Sharpe was injured on that drive. He did play the next drive, but was taken out after that.
Later in the first quarter, Atlanta intercepted an Elway pass and returned it to the Broncos 35 yard line. But Denver’s defense made a great stand in the opening minutes of the second quarter, tackling Anderson for no gain on 3rd and 1, and then stopping him for a 2 yard loss on fourth down. The Broncos reached the Falcons 8 yard line on their ensuing possession but were forced to settle for K Jason Elam’s 26 yard field goal, increasing their lead to 10-3. Atlanta came right back, advancing to the Denver 8 yard line on their next drive, but failed to score when Andersen’s 26 yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
Immediately after the Broncos got the ball back, Smith caught an Elway pass and took off for an 80 yard touchdown reception, beating Eugene Robinson and breaking the game open by giving Denver a two touchdown lead, 17-3. TV viewers did not see most of the play as Fox was still airing a commercial for The Matrix at the time. Aided by Dwight’s 42 yard kickoff return to the 49 yard line, the Falcons responded by driving to Denver’s 11 yard line and scored on Andersen’s 28 yard field goal to cut their deficit to 17-6 going into halftime. However, this would be as close as Atlanta would get for the remainder of the game.
The Broncos opened the second half by driving 74 yards to the Atlanta 20 yard line but ended up scoring no points after Elam’s 38 yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. Chandler responded on the next two plays with a 29 yard completion to Tony Martin and a 12 yard scramble to advance the ball to the Denver 41 yard line. But then the Broncos sacked Chandler for a 6 yard loss and subsequently intercepted his pass, returning it 28 yards to the Falcons 42 yard line on the next play. Denver drove to the 29 yard line but Elam missed another field goal attempt, this one from 47 yards.
After the missed field goal, Atlanta drove to the Broncos 21 yard line with Anderson’s 13 yard run, Terance Mathis’ 13 yard catch, and a 15 yard run from Anderson, giving them a chance to cut their deficit to within one touchdown. However, Denver intercepted a second consecutive Chandler pass and returned it 58 yards to the Falcons 24 yard line. Two plays later, on 3rd and 6, Elway’s 15 yard completion to Ed McCaffrey gave the Broncos a 1st and goal from the 5 yard line. Griffith took the ball to the end zone from there with two consecutive running plays, the second a 1 yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, to increase Denver’s lead to 24-6.
Atlanta reached the Broncos 26 yard line on their ensuing drive but Denver intercepted a third Chandler pass, returning this one 50 yards to the Atlanta 48 yard line. On the next play, Elway completed a short pass to Terrell Davis, who turned it into a 39 yard gain. Two plays later, Elway finished the drive with a 3 yard touchdown run, giving the Broncos a 31-6 lead. Dwight returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to cut the Falcons deficit to 31-13, but the Broncos recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt. Two plays later, a 25 yard completion from Elway to McCaffrey set up Elam’s 37 yard field goal with just over 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, further extending Denver’s lead to 34-13.
Atlanta’s offense advanced inside the Broncos 30 yard line for the third consecutive time, with Chandler completing 8 of 14 passes for 67 yards and rushing for 6 yards, and finally scored this time on a 3 yard touchdown pass from Chandler to Mathis, making the score 34-19 after a missed 2 point conversion attempt. However, by then there was only 2:04 left in the game. The Falcons failed to recover the onside kick but got the ball back on their own 30 yard line with 1:34 left after Denver failed to go for it on fourth down. But Anderson fumbled at the Broncos 33 yard line and Denver recovered the ball, allowing the Broncos to run out the clock and win the game, 34-19, for their second consecutive World Championship.
The two teams combined for a Super Bowl record 30 fourth quarter points. Atlanta’s offense gained a total of 337 yards, were not penalized once, and had driven inside Denver’s 30 yard line seven times. Unfortunately, they were only able to score 13 points while committing 4 turnovers. Meanwhile, Denver’s offense gained a total of 457 yards and scored 34 points. Dan Reeves became the fourth head coach to lose four Super Bowls, joining Bud Grant (Minnesota Vikings), Don Shula (Miami Dolphins), and Marv Levy (Buffalo Bills).
At 38 years old, QB John Elway became the oldest player to be named Super Bowl MVP. In the final game of his career, he completed 18 of 29 passes for 336 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception while also scoring on a 3 yard rushing touchdown. Terrell Davis rushed for 102 yards and caught 2 passes for 50 yards. Davis’ 102 rushing yards in the Super Bowl gave him over 100 rushing yards for the 7th consecutive postseason game and he became only the third player to run for 100 yards in back to back Super Bowls, the others being Larry Csonka in Super Bowls VII and VIII and Emmitt Smith in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII.
On May 2 1999, John Elway announced his retirement from professional football. He is regarded as one of the top quarterbacks ever to play the game, has one of the best winning percentages in league history (148-82-1), and is tied for second most Pro Bowl selections for a quarterback (9). As of 2016, Elway is sixth to Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady in career passing attempts, passing yards, and completions. He also ranks seventh in career passing touchdowns, with 300. His four total rushing touchdowns in his Super Bowl games are the most ever by a quarterback. Elway is also the second player ever to score a rushing touchdown in four different Super Bowls. On August 8 2004, Elway was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
For Green Bay Packers’ fans, 1998 was a step back after enjoying back to back 13-3 seasons, winning three straight NFC Central titles, and advancing to two consecutive Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997. Yet, despite the drop-off, Green Bay had earned a 6th straight playoff berth in 1998 and remained a talented football team. However, unbeknownst to Packers’ fans, 1999 would see changes in coaching and personnel that would end Green Bay’s winningest era since Vince Lombardi roamed the sidelines in the 1960s.
Attached is the NFL Films Super Bowl XXXIII Highlight video. Enjoy!!
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