Top billing in Super Bowl XXXII, played 23 years ago today, was given to the two quarterbacks, of course. John Elway was the longtime legend hoping to finally win the big one, while Brett Favre was the emerging superstar already with one Lombardi Trophy to his name. Both would end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
They also led the league’s two highest-scoring offenses, which was not unlike the Super Bowl matchup from a year earlier, when the Packers beat New England. In that game, the Patriots’ No. 2-ranked offense was wrecked by defensive lineman Reggie White, another future Hall of Famer. White wrapped up Drew Bledsoe for three sacks, all in the second half, as Green Bay shut down New England’s offense.
Green Bay’s chances to go back-to-back would have been buoyed by an encore performance to disrupt Elway and running back Terrell Davis — but White would not find that success.
Pregame predictions when it came to the trenches hardly predicted the Broncos would win in that area; much was made of how Denver’s offensive line was the lightest in the league and Green Bay’s defensive line was the heaviest.
In spite of that so-called mismatch, the Broncos made mincemeat of the Packers in pass protection and on the ground. Elway wasn’t sacked and Davis ran 30 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
“We work it so that if the defensive line goes in, Terrell goes out,” said right tackle Tony Jones. “If he went out, Terrell went in. So, they were playing a guessing game with Terrell.
“It’s not easy to do, and not too many tackles do it. It takes good quickness and good strength, and it also takes good balance because sometimes you have to go inside to pick a defensive lineman up.”
Most surprising may have been White’s ineffectiveness, though. Jones, who recently died at the age of 54, was almost single-handedly credited for keeping the eight-time first-team All-Pro in check. White registered just one tackle and one hurry “despite being single-blocked on 78% of pass plays, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“I didn’t want him to get no sacks,” Jones later said. “I didn’t want him to knock me over. I didn’t want to hear his name. At the end of the game, when I knew we had won, I was so relieved, so happy. I had played one of the best defensive ends in football. I shut him down. I know a lot of people didn’t believe I could do it.”
A week later, Jones told Lynn DeBruin of the Rocky Mountain News, he and White sat next to one another on the flight back from the Pro Bowl.
“You played a heck of a game,” White said.