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Determined Davis Leads Broncos

January 11, 1998

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Stuffed on the ground in their first visit to Three Rivers Stadium, the Denver Broncos were determined to prove they could run the ball against the NFL’s best rushing defense.

From Terrell Davis’ 43-yard run with his first carry of the game to his 19-yarder in the final minute that iced the game, the Broncos kept pounding at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Davis ran for 139 yards and a touchdown Sunday, becoming the first back to rush for 100 yards against the Steelers since New England’s Curtis Martin did it in the playoffs last year, and the Broncos prevailed 24-21 in the AFC championship game.

``We like to think we have an NFC-style running game,″ Davis said. ``When I’m running well and the fullback and the line are blocking, we’re unstoppable.″

So the Broncos will head to San Diego, Davis’ home town, where they will try to prove their running attack, after three Super Bowl failures in the late 1980s, finally matches up against an NFC foe.

Davis wore a slimmed-down version of the flak jacket he wore in last week’s divisional playoff win over Kansas City to protect ribs that were bruised in a wild-card game against Jacksonville the week before.

``I didn’t want to risk getting my ribs hurt again,″ Davis said. ``I didn’t want to get them hurt and say, `I should have worn the jacket.′ It was a thinner jacket, and I felt comfortable wearing it.″

He escaped without further damage to his ribs, but did remain on the sideline with a minor eye injury for the last nine plays of a second-quarter drive that culminated in Jason Elam’s field goal.

``I got poked in the eye is all,″ he said. ``They beat me up today. That’s a physical defense, probably the toughest defense to run against. We knew it was going to be tough, but we stuck with it.″

In Denver’s 35-24 loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 7, the Broncos _ among the league leaders all season in rushing _ were held to a season-low 89 yards. Davis, who led the AFC with 1,750 yards, was limited to 75 yards on 21 carries.

``When I came here the last time, they shut me down pretty good,″ Davis said. ``Looking at the tape, I didn’t think I had hit the holes fast enough. I think I was waiting for things to happen instead of trying to make things happen. That was the difference in this game. I wanted to give a little extra effort, go in there and run as hard as I could.

``We knew we had to run the ball to even have a chance today. We were committed to the run. And that’s what it takes in a Super Bowl. We do play a little smash-mouth football. I think that’s what some of the AFC teams in the past have lacked.″

Davis’ first carry of the game helped swing the momentum to Denver after Pittsburgh linebacker Levon Kirkland intercepted John Elway’s pass at the Denver 43. Five plays later, Norm Johnson was wide on a 38-yard field goal attempt, and on the next play Davis burst through the line and was dragged down from behind after the 43-yard run.

That play started a drive that ended five plays later on Davis’ 8-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

Davis fumbled later in the quarter after the Broncos reached the Pittsburgh 32, and the Steelers promptly drove for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.

Davis’ 10-yard run on a pitchout helped the Broncos drive for their second of two touchdowns during the final two minutes of the half.

After Kordell Stewart passed 14 yards to former Colorado teammate Charles Johnson for a touchdown that made it 24-21 with 2:46 left, the Broncos needed to eat up time. On third-and-6 after the two-minute warning, Elway completed a clutch 18-yard pass to Shannon Sharpe. Three plays later, Davis’ 19-yard run on a counter play put the game out of reach.

Going to the Super Bowl, Davis said, ``is going to take a while to sink in. But I do know I’m going to get a million calls for tickets tonight. All I can say is I’m going to get 10 tickets. The rest of you will have to find your own way.″

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