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Focal Point: Super backs

Broncos: Terrell Davis' 18 flip

Falcons: Jamal Anderson's sprint draw

Griffith the unsung solider for Broncos

  Thursday, Jan. 28 8:06pm ET
Birds plan to get dirty with TD
By Susie Kamb,

MIAMI -- If Atlanta cornerback Michael Booker has his way, Falcons defenders will come calling on Denver's Terrell Davis early in Super Bowl XXXIII. And they won't be bearing gifts.

  If the Falcons are going to stop Terrell Davis, they'd better be prepared for the play, "18 Flip."

Check out one of Davis' favorite plays in's Inside the Playbook. Analyst Sean Salisbury explains how the Falcons can prevent Davis from getting big yards off the cutback on this play.

"Well, you go in there and hit him in the mouth early," says Booker when asked how the Falcons will try to stop the 1998 NFL MVP and rushing champion. "You intimidate him a little bit. You don't want him to think he's going to be running up and down the field without getting some blows, taking some big hits."

Booker, who started and had a total of eight tackles in the Falcons' playoff wins over San Francisco and Minnesota, says safety Eugene Robinson also would "come up there, and we'll just take him out a couple of times. Even when he doesn't have the ball, (we'll) twist him by the arm and hit him a little bit -- just to make him think somebody's going to be on him every play."

That's a lot of smash-mouth talk from a second-year player, but Booker has it figured.

"I see a Terrell Davis everyday in practice. We have Jamal Anderson. I'd rather face Terrell Davis every day than Jamal Anderson. Jamal Anderson will run to you just to run over you," Booker says. "Terrell Davis is strong, he's fast, and all these things but we're going to go in there and put two to three guys on him, and we're going to hit him and we're going to hit him early. He's going to know that he's going to take it every play. If today he thinks he's not going to be hit all day, he needs to get into the weight room and get ready."

Booker obviously has been talking to Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan, a sixth-year player who loves to boast in his own right. Coach Dan Reeves often refers to Buchanan as one of the keys to Atlanta's success this year. Buchanan echoes Booker's plan for slowing down Terrell Davis.

"Slap him around, with our hogs (defensive line) we have upfront. Hit him in the mouth, make him lose his will, and just have fun with him," Buchanan says. "He's been the one who's been punishing defenders. We definitely know we have to hone in on him."

 Terrell Davis
 Terrell Davis has made a habit out of making defenders miss.

Buchanan introduces the "crazy" factor, too.

"We don't need to do anything different because we have some great guys up front, and we have Jessie Tuggle, who is just crazy anyway. He runs into a brick wall whenever he gets a chance. When you've got crazy guys like that, you have a real good chance of winning games," Buchanan says.

Other members of the Falcons defense were less graphic in describing how to stop Davis, who scored three times, rushed for 157 yards on 30 carries and was named Super Bowl MVP in last year's 31-24 upset over Green Bay.

"You have to play aggressive, don't play on your heels. Attack the line, attack the gaps, and believe in your teammates," Tuggle says. "Discipline yourself to sit there even if the ball is going the other way, because Terrell is one of the best cutback runners in the league. It may seem like you put yourself in a bad situation, but you have to be aggressive, patient and at the same time have gap control."

Davis' renowned cutback running is a concern for the Falcons. How do they plan to stop that? "That I can tell you, but then I'd have to kill you," laughs defensive end John Burrough.

"You've got to be able to maintain the gaps on the front with your defensive line, and squeeze his frontside off to make him cut back. But then the backside has to be squeezed off, and everyone has to fit into that defense right for that to work," he says.

In other words, it's football's version of everyone into the pool. Second-year cornerback Chris Bayne explains, "Basically we're just going to swarm to the ball and attack him. The key is to get penetration up front to make sure he doesn't get to the secondary. Just have all 11 men swarm to the ball."

While there's no way to arm-tackle the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Davis, the Falcons are confident it doesn't always take more than one player to bring him down.

"You just got to get in position. You can't be out of position, you have to be in the gap. You can't be diving for him as he's coming through," Burrough says.

Falcons defensive coordinator Rich Brooks sounds in awe of Davis' quickness. "When he decides to take it downhill, I haven't seen anyone accelerate into and through the hole as well as he does. We're not necessarily talking about a hole all the time, sometimes it's a sliver," Brooks says.

So to keep Denver's running game from becoming a Super Bowl-sized nightmare, the Falcons must clamp down on Davis. "Well, you don't let him get through there because if he gets into the backend of your defense, you've got problems. If he gets there very often, he's going to be gone, and that's why Denver leads the league in runs over 20 yards," Brooks says.

But there's more to the story. Brooks adds this footnote: "The reason we're second in the National Football League is that we lead the league in not allowing 20-plus yard runs. So we don't let the backs into the backend so often, and we've got to do that with this guy or he'll kill us."

Everyone into the trenches for Super Bowl XXXIII. The Falcons' run defense is ready for company and Terrell Davis is the featured guest.

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