Sammy Winder completed a nine-year career with the Denver Broncos by rushing for 80 yards in 15 carries and came within six yards of what would have been a fitting climax as Denver defeated the Green Bay Packers, 22-13, Sunday.
Both Winder and Coach Dan Reeves wanted him to score following a 15-yard run that put the ball on the six-yard line with seconds remaining.
But Reeves instead had backup quarterback Gary Kubiak sit down and run out the clock.
“We would have loved to have gotten him in the end zone at the end,” Reeves said. “But Sammy, as much as anyone else, understood why we didn’t go for the touchdown when we already had the game won.
“His contribution was the yardage that he gained when the game was on the line.”
Said Winder: “I was trying to get in there as hard as I could. That was my goal today, to get in the end zone one more time.”
The game carried little meaning for either team because both had been knocked out of the playoffs earlier. For the record, Denver wound up 5-11. Green Bay finished 6-10.
Quarterback John Elway called it good “to go out on a winning note,” but added, “It doesn’t take the sting out of the season.”
Elway threw a quick slant pass to Mark Jackson late in the third quarter for 15 yards and a touchdown that was the deciding blow against the Packers.
David Treadwell kicked field goals of 22 and 31 yards in the first half to match Green Bay’s Chris Jacke, who had first-half field goals of 37 and 24 yards.
Denver’s other touchdown was scored on a five-yard run by Bobby Humphrey to break a 6-6 tie early in the third quarter.
Winder, who earlier announced he would retire after this season, was a sentimental starter, ahead of Humphrey, and responded with 17 yards on his first three carries.
Winder, who ranks second on the Broncos’ all-time rushing list, brought the Denver crowd to its feet with a 19-yard run midway through the fourth quarter when the game appeared safe for the Broncos.
The crowd was on its feet again a few minutes later when the Packers quickly drove 80 yards for a touchdown with 4:31 left to close the gap to 20-13.
Packer quarterback Anthony Dilweg hit Herman Fontenot on a 59-yard bomb, and Charles Wilson with a 12-yarder to the nine-yard line, then threw to Sterling Sharpe on a nine-yard scoring play.
Then the Green Bay defense held the Broncos on three plays and the offense got the ball back at the Packer 21 with 3:44 left.
But the center snap to Dilweg, playing out of the shotgun formation, sailed over his head and the Packers’ quarterback fell on the ball on the Green Bay three.
On the ensuing play, Denver linebacker Karl Mecklenburg trapped Dilweg in the end zone for a safety.
The Packers had one more opportunity with an onside kick following the safety, but Steve Atwater covered the ball on the Green Bay 39 and the Broncos ran out of the clock.