In a new book, Broncos radio play-by-play broadcaster Dave Logan looks back on his historic career as the longtime voice of the team. Since 1990, Logan has been a member of the Broncos' flagship radio partner's radio team. In 1997, he took the play-by-play reins after six years doing color commentary, and in the years since, he's called four Broncos Super Bowls, including three wins.
In this excerpt, Logan and several players recount what that first Super Bowl victory was like — both the game itself, and what it was like for him, as someone who grew up in Colorado, to call the team's first championship win.
This excerpt from If These Walls Could Talk: Denver Broncos by Dave Logan with Arnie Stapleton is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, or www.triumphbooks.com/WallsBroncos.
John Elway was right. He had an inkling Super Bowl XXXII wouldn't be like the Denver Broncos' four previous flops in the big game, three of which came on his watch when the fourth quarter was an excruciating exercise in waiting out the anguish of watching another team celebrate their overwhelming victory.
He had displayed that confidence in the pregame interview do-over with Dave Logan, and now instead of talking about another devastating defeat, Elway was at long last a champion, something he always figured he had to be if he was to go down as one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. Elway set the tone for victory by scrambling and diving into two defenders for a first down to set up a Denver touchdown late in the third quarter.
"You wonder if you're going to run out of years," Elway said shortly after Brett Favre's fourth-down pass to Mark Chmura was batted away by John Mobley with 28 seconds remaining, clinching the Broncos' 31–24 upset in what many immediately dubbed the greatest Super Bowl ever. The Broncos had taken down the powerful Packers and the mighty NFC.
In many ways, Elway's Broncos getting blown out in the Super Bowl had come to define the AFC's 13-year losing streak, at least as much as Jim Kelly's Buffalo Bills reaching four consecutive Super Bowls and losing each one. "I've been hearing it a long time, that AFC streak—13 years is a long, long time—and it's great that I'm not going to hear it anymore," Elway said. "I'd hear question after question if my career would be complete if I didn't win a Super Bowl. I no longer have to answer that one: it can be complete, and it's hard for me to believe I am saying that."
The Broncos had been installed as an early 13½-point underdog and the betting line was still 11½ points at kickoff. "No one gave us a chance, and look what we did," tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "We shocked the world. But we didn't shock the Denver Broncos."
Favre threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns, but a pair of turnovers gnawed at him. "I think I played okay, but not great," Favre said. "We got three touchdowns and I thought going in that would be enough to win. But they got 10 points off turnovers and that was the difference."
Elway didn't do nearly as much to help—or hurt—his team this time. He completed just 12 of 22 passes for 123 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. But a trio of takeaways by Denver's defense and a ground game that produced 179 yards made Elway's stat line a moot point.
The MVP of the game was Elway's wing man, running back Terrell Davis, who rushed for 157 yards and a Super Bowl–record three touchdowns despite missing most of the second quarter with a migraine. He was even used as a decoy on one play even though he couldn't see. Coach Mike Shanahan implored him to go in because otherwise the Packers would realize Elway was keeping the ball on third-and-goal from the 1.
Davis knew that whenever he had a migraine his vision would return with crystal clarity, and because halftime at the Super Bowl is an hour, he knew he'd be good by the third quarter. And he was, but on the first play of the second half, Packers cornerback Tyrone Williams punched the ball out of Davis' hands and smothered it at the Denver 26-yard line. Denver's defense held and Ryan Longwell's field goal tied the game at 17.
Davis' second one-yard touchdown run put the Broncos back on top 24–17 heading into the fourth quarter. Then Antonio Freeman tied it at 24 with a 13-yard touchdown catch, his second of the game (he also had an 81-yard touchdown catch in the prior year's Super Bowl to put Green Bay ahead for good).
Davis' third touchdown, again from a yard out, put Denver ahead 31–24 with 1:45 left. The Broncos' undersized O-line, which didn't have a single member over 300 pounds, had dominated the Packers' bigger defensive line that sported defensive end Reggie White and massive defensive tackle Gilbert Brown, whom his coach had once quipped was "as big as two men put together."
When Davis scored his third touchdown, Shanahan thought it was just another example of his undersized underdogs coming up big, but he soon realized Packers coach Mike Holmgren was simply playing the odds. "I thought we did a heck of a job blocking, but obviously they really let us score," Shanahan said. "I thought that was one of the bigger holes I've seen for a while. I thought our offensive line really knocked them off the ball. But after looking at the replay, I could see I was wrong."
Holmgren had decided just after the two-minute warning to let Denver score so that he could give Favre as much time as possible for a game-tying touchdown drive to send the game into overtime. The next day, Holmgren would acknowledge he mistakenly thought it was first-and- goal when Davis scored, instead of second-and-goal.
Maybe it didn't matter, but had Green Bay stopped Denver on the next two plays and used its two timeouts, it theoretically could have forced a field goal and gotten the ball back with about 90 seconds remaining. The Packers would reach the Denver 31 before Favre's fourth-down pass was batted down. Had they only trailed by three, it would have been an easy field goal try for Ryan Longwell to send the game into overtime.
"Second-and-goal from the 1?" Holmgren said. "If that was the case, then we made a mistake. I thought what would happen if they used their timeouts, kick the field goal, we would have had about 25 seconds. But at any rate, we made the decision. I wanted the ball back."
No matter the down, Packers safety Eugene Robinson said he thought it made perfect sense to concede the touchdown and not burn any timeouts, giving Favre and the rest of Green Bay's star-studded offense as much time as possible to go tie it up.
"At least we made it interesting," Holmgren said. "It was a strategy I felt was our only chance to win."
Robinson said linebacker Bernardo Harris brought in the play from the sideline right after Davis reeled off a 17-yard run on first-and-goal from the 18 following a Denver penalty.
"He said, 'We got to let them score.' And I said, 'Let them score?' And I looked at the clock and I said, 'Okay, this is right,'" Robinson recalled. "I wasn't surprised at all. I thought it was pretty smart. The real estate was this much to get," Robinson added, holding his hands a foot apart. And when Elway threw his arms up and celebrated T.D.'s third touchdown, Robinson walked past him and said, "Yeah, we're trying to get the ball back."
No matter. Elway had a seven-point lead and the Broncos were 1:45 away from the franchise's first Super Bowl triumph. Robinson said he doubted the Packers could have held Denver to a field goal anyway "because the ball was on the one-foot line and the way they were running the ball, they would have scored."
On the ensuing drive, Favre threw four consecutive passes to running back Dorsey Levens for 39 yards, giving Green Bay the ball at the Denver 31-yard line with 42 seconds remaining. But a short gain and three consecutive incompletions knocked Green Bay from its throne and crowned Elway. Favre's pass to Chmura on fourth-and-6 was batted away by Mobley, sending Denver's sideline into delirium.
"I was very confident," Favre said afterward. "We moved the ball down again, but we didn't make the plays when we had the chance."
What ate at Favre was Green Bay's three turnovers, which led to 10 points by the Broncos. Safety Steve Atwater's blitz led to an interception of Favre and a subsequent touchdown by Denver, and later in the first half, he hit Favre so hard he fumbled the ball and Denver recovered at the Green Bay 33, leading to Jason Elam's 51-yard field goal and an early 17–7 lead.
Favre responded with a brilliant 17-play, 95-yard drive to pull the Packers to 17–14 at halftime—and that was the kind of drive they needed again after intentionally allowing Davis to score his final touchdown with 1:45 remaining.
"After T.D. scored, we went to a commercial break. Scott Hasting, the color commentator, had already left the booth to head down to the field for postgame interviews," Logan recalled. "And it hit me: if they can hold on for 1:45, they're going to win a Super Bowl! I thought about all those years in the '60s when the Broncos were so bad. But as a kid, I would watch them every Sunday. I thought about the fans from all those years who had lived and died with this franchise, and now…they're one defensive stop from wiping out all those bad memories."
Before Favre's final pass hit the grass, Logan momentarily turned off his mic to compose himself. "I got so emotionally wrapped up in the moment that it almost got the better of me," he said. "I did something that normally I would never do: without realizing, I was openly rooting for the team on the air."
After Favre's final pass hit the grass, Elway trotted out and took a knee as the seconds ticked away for the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. His teammates spilled out onto the field and carried him off like the conquering champion at long last he was.
On the postgame stage, team owner Pat Bowlen jubilantly proclaimed, "This...one's...for...John!"
Elway, the only member of the vaunted Class of '83 quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl after nine losses, relished in the moment. "I know that I've been labeled as the guy who's never been on the winning Super Bowl team," Elway said. "Boy, am I glad to get rid of that."
Elway was peppered with questions about retirement now that he'd finally won a Super Bowl after three ugly losses in the big game. This wouldn't be a bad way to go out, really, but Elway needed time to ponder his future. "I am going to really enjoy this, because I worked 15 years in the NFL and through college for it," Elway said. "They made this game for quarterbacks and you've got to win this game to be up there with the elite." His legacy secure, his future in doubt, Elway walked off to celebrate the championship that had eluded him for so long.
"Like I said all week, if we were unfortunate enough to lose this ball game, I'd be happy for John, and I am," Favre said. "He's played a long time for this and I know the feeling he's going through right now, because it's a wonderful feeling to win this game. I know he's worked very hard."
Favre said if Elway did retire, what better way to go out than on the shoulders of your teammates?
As for himself, Favre said he was confident he'd get another shot or two. "I'm 28," he said. "I think I'll be back to several Super Bowls." He wouldn't, of course.
Shanahan said he figured Elway would put off retirement for at least another year, but he cringed when asked about another R-word: repeat. "You always worry about having the same work ethic, about remembering what kind of dedication it took to get to this point," Shanahan said. "But how about giving me a chance to enjoy this one before we start talking about a repeat?"
Not far away, Sharpe wasn't holding back like Elway and Shanahan were. He talked freely about defending the title Denver had just won. "We can do this again," Sharpe said. "We were a wild card. We had to go to Pittsburgh and win, we had to go to Kansas City and win, then we had to play Green Bay in a neutral site. We'd already been to hell and back. This was the easy part."