As Tuesday marks the 24th anniversary of the Broncos' Super Bowl XXXIII win over the Falcons, we thought it'd be fun to dive into the local newspaper archives to see what was being said as Denver went back-to-back.
The Broncos were defending champions, and they entered the game favored by about a touchdown. Each team finished the regular season 14-2, but their paths through the postseason were very different. Denver outscored its opponents 61-13 before the Super Bowl, while the Falcons eked out a two-point win over the 49ers and needed a 10-point fourth-quarter comeback over the Vikings in the NFC title game to get an overtime win.
Here's a few of the celebrity game predictions collected by the annual Scripps Howard celebrity Super Bowl poll:
NBA legend Kobe Bryant: "Denver. Because Terrell Davis works so darn hard. He deserves it."
Tennis legend Billie Jean King: "Denver. They're a better team. It's not even close. Broncos. 30-14."
Basketball Hall of Fame coach John Wooden: "My mind says that it will be Denver. They have a better well-balanced team with the greatest running back in the country and one of the great quarterbacks of all time. They've also got fine receivers and a tremendous offensive line that gives Elway a lot of protection. Like many, though, my heart would be with Atlanta, who came out of nowhere to make the Super Bowl. I've known [Falcons head coach] Dan Reeves since he was with the Dallas Cowboys and they were training at Cal Lutheran College at the same time I was doing summer basketball camps there. Sentimentally, I'd like to see him win it. But I think it will be Denver."
Tennis star Andre Agassi: "Denver, 41-23. They'll answer [Falcons RB] Jamal Anderson with Terrell Davis. They'll answer [Falcons QB] Chris Chandler with John Elway. They're playing on grass and it won't be close."
Agassi's prediction wasn't far off, as Denver won 34-19. John Elway and Rod Smith broke the game open with an 80-yard touchdown to push the Broncos to a 17-3 lead, and Denver would stay above Atlanta by double digits from that point onward. Regardless of the margin of victory, though, the achievement of winning back-to-back championships is difficult to understate.
"It's harder the second time," head coach Mike Shanahan said. "But we decided that this season we would be satisfied with nothing less than a Super Bowl. It was our goal from the beginning. It was a high goal, but our players really stayed in there throughout the season. Obviously, this was a dream come true."
A year earlier, Denver beat the Packers for their first Super Bowl win. Green Bay did their best to slow Elway, and in doing so, Davis torched them on the ground. This time around, the Falcons essentially did the opposite, and Elway recorded 336 passing yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown to win Super Bowl MVP honors.
"They said we were going to have to beat them with the pass," Smith said after the game. "Well, we did that. They were saying they were going to make John Elway beat them. Hey, you got what you asked for!"
The game also proved historically significant for more than just being Denver's second world championship. Elway would retire months later, making this the final NFL game in his Hall of Fame career.
"I don't think there's ever been a guy in the NFL who symbolizes his town like John Elway," tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "If you think of Denver, you don't think of skiing. You think of John Elway. It's always been John, and even if he retires, it will still always be John."