ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos prepare to travel to Atlanta for a Week 9 matchup with the Falcons, Broncos fans will surely reminisce on a meeting from two decades ago that still lives in franchise lore.
A year after beating the Packers for their first world championship, the Broncos met the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami with a chance to become just the sixth franchise to earn back-to-back Super Bowl wins.
Unlike in their game against the Packers, the Broncos were favored by more than a touchdown after rolling to a 14-2 regular-season record. Wide receiver Rod Smith remembers the Broncos being all business when they arrived for the big game.
"It was crazy, because when we were playing the Falcons, I remember going out for warmups at the Super Bowl and you saw a bunch of their guys with camcorders," Ring of Fame wide receiver Rod Smith said this week. "This is when camcorders [were used] instead of cell phones — a bunch of their guys with camcorders and they were filming everything, and I remember talking to [Shannon] Sharpe and I said, 'They're just happy to be here. We're about to blow these boys off the field.'"
Smith said during a playoff run that included wins over the Dolphins and Jets, the Broncos remained focused on their ultimate goal.
"We didn't really celebrate a lot throughout the playoffs or anything like that," Smith said. "We expected to win, and we came with a mentality of dominating the game. The previous Super Bowl, they didn't really give us a chance. [Oddsmakers] had us 14-point underdogs. In this one, we said, 'Nah, we're going to show them we're the best team on the planet.' As we went out there and performed in all three phases, that's how you win games. That's what it's going to take all the time. It's going to take all three phases."
Smith said he believed the Broncos' success began during the week, as they weren't awed by the theatrics that accompany the Super Bowl. Instead, they focused solely on their preparation.
"I think it was their first time being in the Super Bowl, so they were caught up in the limelight part," Smith said. "We weren't caught up in that part, because we'd already experienced that part and we were caught up in X's and O's, knowing our assignments. I remember we had already had our whole game plan pretty much in. When we got there, we were just fine-tuning. We really were just fine-tuning, and I think that week we got closer as a group at the right time. As a group, we're going for something that was [relatively] unprecedented. Back-to-back championships hadn't been done [much]. I think eight times now — [and] we were one of those teams. As we always said, we were going to leave no stone unturned in our preparation to go out there and be the best."
The Broncos took a 17-6 lead to the locker room at halftime and eventually earned a 34-19 win. After not recording a catch against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, Smith caught five passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. He had two receptions of more than 40 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown catch that he now calls his second-favorite play of his career. It was also the final touchdown pass of Elway's career.
"The previous Super Bowl, I didn't have a catch at all," Smith said. "Most people don't know, in Super Bowl XXXII, that's the only game that I was a starter [and played the full game] that I didn't have a catch — playoff or regular season. A little trivia for you. That's the only game I didn't have a registered catch. In the first half [against the Falcons], I had 150 yards, so it was awesome to contribute. I blocked my tail off in the last one to actually make some catches, make some plays and help us drive down the field and come out on top. Man, it was special."