Having guided his side to 34 final drive victories you might think there was nothing more for John Elway to experience in the nerve-shredding world of fourth-quarter heroics. However, even the king of the comeback broke new ground when he threw the winning score with the last play of the game as the Denver Broncos beat the Washington Redskins at Mile High Stadium.
Sixty-seven seconds earlier the Redskins had tied the game at 31 apiece when Scott Galbraith caught a one-yarder from Gus Frerotte. Elway promptly marched his troops downfield, but with six seconds remaining and on fourth down he still had 43 yards to go. Playing from the shotgun, Elway stepped in front of the pass rush and zipped a dart to the rookie Rod Smith, who caught the ball in front of Darrell Green on the one-yard line and fell into the end zone.
"I had great protection, I put a little heat on it and Rod made a great catch," Elway said. "He'll remember his first pro catch for a long time and I will remember it too. In all the years I've been playing football that's the first time I've ever thrown a touchdown pass on the last play of the game."
Elway's spectacular meant that the game did not need overtime, but three others did in a season that is rapidly becoming punctuated with fifth quarters. The most surprising was in Minnesota, where the Vikings forced the extra period against the Dallas Cowboys, who normally have the game won by half-time. A shock result was avoided by Emmitt Smith, who galloped 31 yards for the winning TD 2min 26sec into the additional 15 minutes.
In the other two overtime games it was a case of happy reunions. Art Shell was with the Raiders for 27 years and was their head coach until his sacking last year. Now he is an assistant coach with Kansas City, and he saw his new side beat his old thanks to James Hasty's 64-yard interception return.
Typically, Shell refused to gloat. "I have a lot of love for some of those guys on the other side of the field, so it was a little bit different. But I'm with the Kansas City Chiefs now and my loyalty is totally with them."
Morten Andersen, a fixture in New Orleans for 13 years until he refused to take a pay cut this summer, was rather less gracious. Andersen kicked the winning field goal for Atlanta in their 27-24 triumph in the Big Easy, and not for him the Denis Law look of regret.
"This was a big one," Andersen said. "It was against the team I planned on getting old with. I couldn't have scripted it better."
NFL (home teams first): NY Jets 27 Jacksonville 10, Houston 7 Cleveland 14, Green Bay 14 NY Giants 6, Tampa Bay 6 Chicago 25, San Francisco 28 New England 3, Philadelphia 21 San Diego 27, Detroit 17 Arizona 20, Carolina 10 St Louis 31, Denver 38 Washington 31, Seattle 24 Cincinnati 21, Kansas City 23 Oakland 17 (OT), Buffalo 20 Indianapolis 14, New Orleans 24 Atlanta 27 (OT), Minnesota 17 Dallas 23 (OT).Reuse content