Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

San Francisco and Denver Top Super Bowl List

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

San Francisco and Denver Top Super Bowl List

Article excerpt

The ninth week of the National Football League season may appear no more significant than any other. Certainly the results of Sunday's games don't weigh more heavily in the standings.

Nevertheless, keen-eyed NFL watchers know that Week 9 begins the second semester of a 16-week regular season, and thus can be a revealing indicator of where teams are physically and mentally as they make the turn for home.

On that basis, the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos are the favorites to land in Super Bowl XXXII, to be played in San Diego Jan. 25. They are the only teams with 8-1 records, and each has a prerequisite for any serious contender - seasoned leadership at quarterback. Steve Young guides the 49ers, John Elway the Broncos. Although both are superlative passers (Elway, in fact, moved into second place in career passing yards Sunday with 47,019 yards), their teams have very clearly not neglected the run. Entering Sunday's game against Dallas, San Francisco's running game had accounted for 42 percent of the team's offense and led the National Football Conference with a 138-yard rushing average. The Broncos, meanwhile, have gotten consistent production from Terrell Davis, who compiled more than 100 yards in Denver's 30-27 win over Seattle. Anyone who figured that San Francisco's hopes clung desperately to Young's throwing arm had to think again after seeing Garrison Hearst churn out 104 yards against the slumping Cowboys, whose failures are reflected in Emmitt Smith's frustrations. Smith, who left the game with an injury, has scored only one touchdown all season, as Dallas dipped below .500 (4-5). At one point earlier in the campaign, word circulated around the league that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was contemplating coaching the team himself. He might be seriously tempted now, especially given the team's repeated frustrations in the so-called red zone - the territory near the goal line where Dallas has been forced to settle for field goals over touchdowns with disturbing regularity. It happened again Sunday, when the 49ers mounted a critical goal-line stand to deny Dallas a third-quarter touchdown in a 17-10 defensive struggle. …

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