Elway must overcome Favre's Packer-attack to earn first ring

James Beltran

SPORTS EDITOR

Since the Raiders claimed the title over the Redskins in 1983, the NFC has been about as willing to share Super Bowl glory with its counterpart as a toddler is willing to share candy.

The NFC is married to the Lombardi trophy, which makes the impending task of wresting it away from the Packers' Brett Favre even more difficult for John Elway and the Broncos.

Although Super Bowl Sundays over the past decade have earned the alias of "Super Bore Sunday," the 1998 duel in San Diego presents an intriguing matchup: three-time MVP winner Favre against future Hall of Famer Elway.

This has the potential, despite the wide point-spread, to be a memorable game.

Elway, making his fourth Super Bowl appearance, may be feeling the pressure to break out of the Jim Kelly mold.

Kelly, who also stands a chance to become a Hall of Famer, quarterbacked the Buffalo Bills to four Super Bowl berths in his 10-year career. Like Elway, however, he is criticized as a player who thrives in the non-pressure atmosphere of the regular season, only to flop in the big game.

Elway's career may be nearing the end of the line after 15 years in the NFL, making the game against Green Bay possibly his last chance to taste the champagne of an NFL championship.

A loss on Sunday and Elway not only gives his critics more ammo, but elongates an

ever-exasperating 14-year Super Bowl drought for the AFC.

Favre, who is on the fast track to follow Elway into the Hall of Fame, is in search of consecutive titles for his Packers.

The seven-year veteran had another impressive season, following his NFL-record 39 touchdowns in 1996 with 35 this season. Favre completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 3,867 yards, helping his team to its third straight NFC Central Division crown with a 13-3 record.

Since breaking Green Bay's 11-year string of postseason inactivity, Favre has guided the Packers to a 9-3 playoff record since 1993.

Elway hasn't won a Super Bowl, but his four AFC Championship victories show he doesn't always fold in the later rounds of the playoffs.

The Broncos quarterback is one of only three NFL players to pass for over 3,000 yards in the postseason. He has connected on 54.2 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards and 21 touchdowns. In 14 games, though, Elway has thrown 18 interceptions.

History dictates a close game would doom Green Bay's chances of repeating. In Elway's 202 starts in the NFL, he has engineered an NFL record 41 game-saving drives (four of which were playoff

comebacks).

Houston fans may remember fondly the embarrassment Elway made of the Oilers' prevent defense in the 1992 AFC Divisional Playoff. After trailing 21-6 through three quarters, Elway guided the Denver offense back into the game to set up a decisive scoring-drive in the final two minutes. He converted three fourth-down plays in the final drive which capped off one of the most dramatic comebacks in NFL playoff history.

The problem for the Broncos, however, has been staying close enough to allow their quarterback to work his

magic. In Denver's last three Super Bowl appearances, the opponent holds a 136-40 edge. The Broncos latest appearance (1989) was a 55-10 dismantling by Joe Montana and the 49ers.

Certainly it would not be fair to place all the blame on Elway for Denver's Super Bowl disasters, but coincidence can only plague a franchise for so long. Elway's storybook career is closing in on its last pages, and all of Denver is waiting to see what twist the plot will take. Sunday will tell the story.

This story originally appeared in Houston News Today (www.houstontoday.com)

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