The real Terrell Davis showed up Saturday, making John Elway and Dan Marino irrelevant and the Miami Dolphins history.
On the day he was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player, Davis ran for 199 yards in 21 carries to lead the Denver Broncos to a dominating 38-3 victory over Miami that put the league's defending champions in the AFC championship game next Sunday.
"He's the best," Elway said. "That's why he is MVP of the league. I'm glad he's on my team, it makes my job easier."
Davis, who scored twice, had 129 yards on 16 carries in the first half, 100 yards more in the same number of carries than the 16-for-29 he had in a 31-21 loss in Miami Dec. 21. He left with a leg cramp early in the fourth quarter Saturday and still fell only 1 yard short of 200.
"Any time you come out with 29 yards, everybody takes it personally, particularly the offensive line," Davis said.
"They were great today. It starts up front. I had great room to run. Their job was to get me to the secondary. Once I got there, I tried to create."
He did it against a Miami defensive line that was missing two starters, Pro Bowler Tim Bowens and Jason Taylor. As a result, Denver scored three rushing touchdowns in the first half against a defense that had allowed just six TDs on the ground in the regular season.
But the game also demonstrated that after a week ff, Denver had regained the form it showed in winning its first 13 games. Like last season, when the Broncos won the Super Bowl, they lost two straight before beating Seattle and then getting a bye week to rest. Among other things, the Broncos had a 250-14 edge on the ground.
"It's tough to win 13 games and then play two games that don't mean anything," Davis said.
| Denver's running game took the pressure off John Elway and gave him plenty to celebrate. (AP) |
Added Coach Mike Shanahan: "When you're playing for something, the juices are flowing a little bit more."
The Broncos will be at home again next weekend against the winner of Sunday's game at the Meadowlands between Jacksonville and the New York Jets. The winner of that goes on to the Super Bowl, to be played in Miami Jan. 31.
The Broncos (15-2) scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, taking 7 minutes and 55 seconds to score the first time on a 1-yard run by Davis, then using just four plays to go 66 yards for the second score, a 20-yard run by Davis in which he left Miami's Ray Hill grasping for air.
Miami (11-7) closed to 14-3 on Olindo Mare's 22-yard field goal, but Denver came back with another long drive, 87 yards in 11 plays capped by Derek Loville's 11-yard run that made it 21-3 at halftime. At one point, the Broncos had outgained Miami 155-15.
Then Davis went 62 yards on the first play from scrimmage of the second half to set up Jason Elam's 32-yard field goal.
All the running overshadowed just the third meeting in 16 seasons between Elway and Marino, the most illustrious members of the quarterback class of 1983. Marino beat Elway in the first two meetings -- in 1985 and last Dec. 21.
Elway finished 14-of-23 for 182 yards and a 28-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith early in the fourth quarter that made it 31-3. Defensive end Neil Smith closed out the scoring with a 79-yard return of a fumble Darius Johnson knocked loose from Miami's Oronde Gadsden.
Johnson also had a 44-yard interception return.
Marino was 26-of-37 for 243 yards and was intercepted twice.
The game was vindication for the Broncos.
"We played poorly last time, and we were ready to go," Elway said. "This was as focused as we have been, and we played our best game all year."
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