Garber: Friends and runners

Birds plan to get dirty with TD

Focal Point: Super backs

Did 'wrinkles' make it in time?

Broncos: Terrell Davis' 18 flip

Falcons: Jamal Anderson's sprint draw

Griffith the unsung solider for Broncos

  Thursday, Jan. 28 8:04pm ET
Broncos ponder how to jam Jamal
By David Kull,

MIAMI -- The Denver Broncos have no reason to fear Jamal Anderson based on his performance against them last season. It's what he's done since that scares them.

  If the Broncos are going to stop Jamal Anderson, they'd better be prepared for the Falcons' sprint draw.

Check out one of Anderson's favorite plays in's Inside the Playbook. Analyst Sean Salisbury explains how the Broncos can avoid getting punished by one of the NFL's toughest runners.

"The Dirty Bird" had yet to be hatched when the Broncos held Anderson to 46 rushing yards in a 29-21 victory over the Falcons on Sept. 28, 1997. But heading into Super Bowl XXXIII, what the Broncos have seen on film from the Falcons' dirtiest bird is as incessantly horrific as any attack since Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

Anderson has throttled opposing defenses this season with acute vision, power and surprising quickness from his thickly muscled legs. His 1,846-yard season was second only to Terrell Davis' MVP effort of 2,008 yards.

Every week the Broncos see the difference Davis makes when he's allowed to run wild. Unlike the other 29 teams in the league, Denver is spared Davis' assault. That won't be the case Sunday against Anderson, who has rushed for more than 100 yards 13 times this season.

The Broncos will see Anderson up close and personal, feathers and all.

"He does a great job at cutting back and finding the open space," Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski said. "If you don't have two guys there to wrap him up and do a great job of tackling him, he'll run over two guys. He'll run over three guys."

In the playoffs the Broncos defense has had a lot of people around the ballcarrier, but they haven't been getting run over. Ranked third in the NFL against the run during the regular season, they've held the Jets' Curtis Martin and the Dolphins' Karim Abdul-Jabbar to 14 rushing yards apiece in their two playoff wins.

"Usually, if you don't have a good rushing defense, you aren't in the spot we're in now," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Certainly, the Broncos have studied well what the Minnesota Vikings did against Anderson in the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings might have lost the game in overtime, but they stymied Anderson, holding him to 67 yards on 23 carries.

The Vikings were able to slow Anderson down at the line of scrimmage and remove his running lanes. It's the same disciplined approach Denver hopes to employ Sunday. The Broncos realize the punishing result of Anderson breaking uninhibited through the line of scrimmage.

 Jamal Anderson
 Jamal Anderson usually hits the defense with a full head of steam.

"We have to do the same things we've been doing as far as being sound in our gap control and not trying to do too much, as has happened in times past, where guys are wanting to go out and make the big play," Broncos linebacker John Mobley said. "What we have to do is stress the importance of doing your job."

And if Anderson happens to find a hole and full head of steam?

"I'm just going for the ankles," Mobley said.

A few of the Broncos have described Anderson as a faster, more elusive version of Jerome Bettis. Defensive tackle Trevor Pryce, however, is even more in awe of Anderson's talents.

"What impresses me is the way he starts and stops on a dime," Pryce said. "That's the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life. He's so big, at 240 pounds. He's built like a brick, and he can run. He can make a dead stop and go sideways. Then looking forward he runs like a bull through the hole. It's amazing."

The Broncos can marvel at Anderson now, but they also know stopping him isn't the end-all solution to beating the Falcons. The Vikings found out the hard way; they committed eight defenders to shackling Anderson, while quarterback Chris Chandler was allowed to pick apart the vulnerable and short-handed Minnesota secondary for 340 yards.

That's why Shanahan is especially wary of remaining too concentrated on Anderson. He sees similarities between the Falcons offense and Broncos attack; while Denver has John Elway to step up if Davis is slowed, Atlanta has Chandler, who proved his comeback capability against the Vikings.

"They believe in running the ball," Shanahan said. "That controls the tempo of the game. (But) if you commit too many people to stop the run, they can throw for 350 yards and find a way."

Still, regardless of Atlanta's success throwing the ball against Minnesota, Anderson is the player the Falcons rode to the bulk of their 11 consecutive wins.

And he's the focal point of Denver's defensive game plan. It's Anderson or bust.

"We're going to have to go out there and go after him like a pack of wolves," Broncos safety Steve Atwater said.

If that's the case, Denver had better develop a palate for "Dirty Bird."

Copyright 1995-98 ESPN/Starwave Partners d/b/a ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form. Privacy Policy (Updated 01/08/98). Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Service (Updated 01/12/98).