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Elway, Schottenheimer Go Way Back

December 31, 1997

DENVER (AP) _ Of the six road playoff games in their history, the Denver Broncos have won just once _ a dramatic overtime victory over Cleveland 11 years ago that launched a Hall of Fame career.

John Elway led the Broncos 98 yards in the final five minutes to tie the Browns and force overtime, and Rich Karlis kicked the clinching field goal in a 23-20 win in the AFC championship game on Jan. 11, 1987.

``The Drive″ became an Elway trademark, and Elway became a source of near-constant irritation to then-Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer.

It was Schottenheimer’s first exposure to Elway, but far from his last. Schottenheimer’s Cleveland teams would go 0-3 against Elway, and after Schottenheimer went to Kansas City, the cumulative record was extended to 1-9.

But Schottenheimer has gotten the better of Elway in recent years, going 7-4 since the second meeting of the 1992 season.

And the Chiefs’ coach can exorcise any remaining personal demons when his Chiefs entertain the Broncos in an AFC divisional playoff game on Sunday.

Asked if he felt any sympathy for Schottenheimer because of his success, which deprived two of Schottenheimer’s Cleveland teams of Super Bowl appearances, Elway said, ``I feel bad for him that he’s lost. But better him than me.″

Elway vividly remembers that AFC title game as well as the rematch the following year in Denver.

``It (The Drive) was my coming-out party,″ he said Tuesday. ``It kind of got me over the hill. That was the first time since I’d been here that we would go to the Super Bowl. It’s a great memory for me.

``The following year was different. We got lucky there with (Earnest Byner’s) fumble. It was kind of a gift. That was another great football game. It just so happened that they turned the ball over inside our 5-yard line. The previous year in Cleveland, we felt more like we had earned it.″

Asked if Arrowhead Stadium is any tougher for a visiting team to play in than old Cleveland Stadium, Elway said, ``I don’t think so. That was as tough as it gets. I think they had 80,000 when we played there.″

At 37 and with 15 seasons under his belt, Elway has repeatedly deflected questions about whether this might be his last campaign.

Asked Tuesday if he would consider retiring if he finally wins a Super Bowl ring that has eluded him three times, he said: ``I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. I haven’t thought that far ahead. The Super Bowl is a month from now, and we’ve got a long road before we get there, so I haven’t even started thinking about that.″

He has, however, thought about his place in NFL history.

Even if he never wins the big one, he said, ``I can look myself in the mirror and know I did everything I could to get it done. As long as I know I’ve done everything to prepare myself in the off-season and play as hard as I could during the season, I don’t have to answer to anybody as far as not winning the Super Bowl.″

He also defended the heralded quarterback class of 1983, which also featured Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.

``If we never do win a Super Bowl,″ he said, ``I don’t think it will take away from the accomplishments that class had. We’re all just cogs in a machine. We don’t make personnel decisions. I don’t think anybody has to be ashamed if we don’t win one.″

Referring to the NFC dominance of recent Super Bowls, he said: ``I always root for the AFC, but I’m not sure it bothers me. It’s more an amazement that no AFC team has won since 1984. There are a lot of good teams in this conference. Hopefully, that’s going to get turned around here pretty quick, hopefully this year.″

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