Broncos Clinch Title in 41-14 Rout

From Associated Press

Thirty minutes of nearly perfect football lifted the Denver Broncos to an early clinching of the AFC West title Sunday and moved them a step closer to securing the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Quarterback John Elway threw four first-half touchdown passes--two to Vance Johnson and one each to Steve Sewell and former Ram Michael Young--as Denver crushed the Seattle Seahawks, 41-14.

The victory gave the Broncos their fourth division title of the decade.

Denver (10-2) joined the 1988 Buffalo Bills as the only AFC teams to clinch division titles after just 12 games of a 16-game season.

It was Denver's fourth straight victory while Seattle (4-8) suffered its fourth loss in a row. The Broncos need two victories in their last four games to guarantee themselves the postseason home-field advantage.

The Broncos led 38-0 at halftime in a dominating first half that saw them outgain the Seahawks 313 yards to 90.

Denver converted two Seattle turnovers into 10 points and the defense sacked Kelly Stouffer four times, including a fourth-down sack near midfield by Karl Mecklenburg and Warren Powers that set up Denver's final score just before intermission.

"I thought the first 30 minutes of the game was the first time this season that we really had everything working together," Denver Coach Dan Reeves said. "John was extremely sharp. He executed well, threw the ball well and showed a lot of poise.

Denver's defense forced four turnovers and sacked Seattle quarterbacks Stouffer and Dave Krieg eight times.

Seattle was victimized by numerous dropped passes in the first half, including two by Brian Blades on deep routes after he had beaten Denver defenders.

"If Kelly hits those, it's a whole new ballgame," Seahawk Coach Chuck Knox said. "If you can't make the plays, you don't win ballgames. Denver made the plays and we couldn't make a play on offense, defense or special teams in the entire first half. When you're down 38 points, it's hard to come back."

One of the few bright spots for the Seahawks was Steve Largent's 31-yard touchdown reception with 1:10 left. It was the 99th career touchdown catch for Largent, tying Don Hutson's NFL record.

"I'm relieved about catching the touchdown pass," said Largent, who plans to retire after this season. "But ideally, I would have liked to have had it in the closing seconds of the game with us winning."

Elway, who didn't play in the second half, had his first four-touchdown day since the 1987 opener, also against Seattle. He completed 10 of 19 passes for 217 yards. Johnson had six catches in the first half for 154 yards.

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