There wasn't any title on the line, but the way the Denver Broncos won Monday night reminded quarterback John Elway of the Drive.
Elway's fourth-down, 49-yard pass play to Vance Johnson from the Bronco 17-yard line led to David Treadwell's 22-yard field goal as time ran out, and Denver beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 24-23.
Elway didn't have great numbers--he finished 14 of 30 for 163 yards--but he compared the finish to the 98-yard drive he engineered to beat the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC title game.
"It ranks right up there with the Drive, especially coming against a good team like Kansas City and with the way things went for us last week," Elway said, referring to a 14-9 loss to the Raiders.
"In that situation, the way I look at it, you have nothing to lose."
It came after Steve DeBerg, who passed for 395 yards, threw an 83-yard touchdown pass play to Stephone Paige with 1:44 left to give Kansas City its first lead of the game, 23-21. DeBerg and Paige had hooked up on a 16-yard scoring pass with 8:01 left as Denver appeared it would blow a 21-9 fourth-quarter lead.
"We made a couple of big plays, they came back and made the last one," Chief Coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "Neither team had quit in them tonight. I don't think we had a losers' locker room."
The teams spent most of the first three quarters matching each other score for score. The problem for Kansas City was that their scores were Nick Lowery field goals and Denver's were touchdowns--runs of 37 and six yards by Bobby Humphrey, who finished with 19 carries for 132 yards, and a two-yard quarterback draw by Elway.
The defense, meanwhile, was holding Christian Okoye to 69 yards in 20 carries and keeping DeBerg out of the end zone even though he moved well between the 20s.
But then Albert Lewis blocked Mike Horan's punt with 9:30 left, and after it rolled 40 yards, Kevin Porter recovered at the Denver 17. Two plays later, DeBerg threw his first touchdown pass to Paige, who finished with 10 catches for 206 yards, and Denver led by 21-16.
On its next possession, Kansas City was thwarted when Michael Brooks sacked DeBerg and Denver moved into position for a clinching field goal with two minutes left. But Treadwell's 38-yarder was wide to the left and that gave the Chiefs one more chance.
After an illegal procedure penalty, DeBerg passed to Paige at the Chief 40 and the Kansas City receiver broke a tackle by Kip Corrington and ran down the right sideline into the end zone.
Now it was Elway's turn.
After the kickoff and a penalty, three passes fell incomplete--giving him 10 consecutive incomplete passes.
Then, with 1:11 left, he found Johnson across the middle and the Denver receiver, who caught six passes for 150 yards, ran to the Kansas City 35. Elway passed to Mark Jackson at the 18, Humphrey went up the middle to the four and all that remained was for Treadwell to convert.
Kansas City was kept at bay by a defense led by Steve Atwater, Simon Fletcher and Brooks. Fletcher had two sacks, both of which forced fumbles. Brooks had the key sack of DeBerg, with four minutes left after the Chiefs had pulled within five points. Atwater stopped Okoye for a one-yard loss on third and two at the Denver 10 in the second quarter.