Despite having had limited practice because of the illness of his newborn son in a Houston hospital this week, Gary Kubiak responded when called upon to replace injured John Elway and led the Denver Broncos to a 30-14 victory Sunday over the Atlanta Falcons.
Elway, who passed for 235 yards and a touchdown, went down in the third quarter with a sprained right knee and ankle. The severity of the injuries won’t be known until later in the week.
Kubiak had minimal success on his first 2 series, but ultimately directed Denver to 3 field goals and a 68-yard touchdown pass play to Steve Sewell with 7:30 left.
“The execution between Gary and Steve was great,” Denver Coach Dan Reeves said. “Gary did not get a lot of practice time. He was a little rusty. But I have confidence in him, and he has always come through for us.”
Sewell burst past safety Robert Moore, and Kubiak hit him in stride at the Falcon 30.
“I was rusty,” Kubiak admitted. “Everything looked like it was going 100 m.p.h.
“Dan said to run Steve right by that guy and see if it would work. Steve beat the defender off the line of scrimmage, and I tried to get him the ball as quick as I could, instead of laying it up high and giving the defender a chance to recover.”
Of his son Klay, who contracted pneumonia hours after his birth on Monday but who is recovering, Kubiak said, “When he grows up, I can tell him a little bit about that touchdown pass.”
Reeves said doctors “won’t know until tomorrow how serious either injury is” to Elway. “I was encouraged by the fact that he was walking mostly under his own power when he came off the field.”
Denver (4-3) posted its third straight victory, while Atlanta (1-6) suffered its fourth straight defeat.
Elway drove Denver 81 and 68 yards for a 14-7 lead midway through the third quarter. Elway left the game on Denver’s next series.
Rich Karlis tacked on second-half field goals of 47, 41 and 50 yards, and Kubiak hit Sewell for the clincher.
Falcon running back John Settle, rushing for more than 100 yards for the third game, accounted for both Atlanta scores. Settle capped a 65-yard drive late in the first half with a 1-yard dive, producing a 7-7 tie.
He then caught a 1-yard scoring pass from Steve Dils to conclude an 82-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, drawing the Falcons to within 17-14.
But Karlis countered with his second field goal, Kubiak connected with Sewell and, after an interception by linebacker Rick Dennison, Karlis converted again on the 50-yarder with 3 minutes to play.
Denver dominated the first half and threatened to score 3 times, but one opportunity came undone on tight end Clarence Kay’s fumble at the Falcon 21-yard line and the other fizzled when Karlis was wide on a 35-yard field-goal try.
Denver’s lone score in the half came with 11:12 left. Elway passed 32 yards to Vance Johnson and, on third and 16, 29 yards to Ricky Nattiel to set up his 14-yard touchdown pass to Mark Jackson. Jackson was playing his first game after being sidelined for 4 contests with a broken collarbone.
Elway completed 5 passes for 84 yards on the drive.