When former Green Bay linebacker Brian M. Williams recalls John Elway's immortalized first-down run in Super Bowl XXXII, he doesn't immediately marvel at the memory of Elway's sideways spin after diving and colliding with Packers defenders. Instead, Williams keeps asking himself one question: How did we let that happen?
"In theory, that play should've never worked out the way it did," Williams said. "We had a spy on [Elway] the entire time."
As Williams remembers, fellow linebacker Seth Joyner's sole responsibility on that play was to shadow Elway wherever he went. Packers defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur had so much respect for the quarterback's mobility -- even though Elway was in his 15th season -- that he wasn't going to risk letting him scramble through hapless defenders all afternoon. So when Elway dropped back, failed to find an open receiver and charged out of the pocket, Williams figured it would be no problem. Seth is there, he thought. He'll make the tackle.
But as Williams covered Broncos running back Terrell Davis on the play, he soon realized Joyner was nowhere near Elway. So Williams raced across the field, fully intent on keeping the quarterback from reaching the first-down marker. Williams knew Elway had lost all three Super Bowls he'd reached before this one. He realized the quarterback would do anything to sustain a drive that could lead to a go-ahead touchdown.
Williams wasn't surprised Elway dived. He just wished he'd delivered a better blow as he went airborne to meet the quarterback. At best, Williams' body glanced off Elway just enough to help spin the signal-caller sideways. The larger result of the play was even harder for Williams to stomach.
Williams said that run didn't break the Packers' backs but "it definitely let us know what kind of fight we were in for." After reaching the sideline, he also learned that Denver's offensive linemen had been sniffing out the Packers' spies and grabbing them illegally whenever Elway dropped to pass. Still, Williams remains baffled by a first down that never should have happened on a 13-play, 92-yard drive that ended with 1-yard touchdown run by Davis.
"To this day," Williams said, "I still have no idea what happened to Seth on that play."
-- Jeffri Chadiha, ESPN.com
John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith
LeRoy Butler, Eugene Robinson, Mike Prior, Brian Williams
Elway, shown diving for a crucial first down in Super Bowl XXXII,
said, "It's certainly my favorite play ever."
Photo: Sporting News/Getty Images