John Elway and the offense had problems, but the Denver Broncos' defense experienced its worst game of the season Sunday in Super Bowl XXIV.
The San Francisco 49ers rolled up 461 yards and 55 points in a record victory.
The 55-10 result was Denver's worst defeat under Dan Reeves, who became head coach in 1981. The Broncos once lost a game to the Kansas City Chiefs, 59-7, in the old American Football League.
It was a nightmarish New Orleans experience for Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who once coached here on the staff of his father, Bum, with the New Orleans Saints.
Phillips made no excuses and no alibis.
"They didn't do anything different, the same things they have been doing all season, especially the last two games," said a crest-fallen Phillips. "The 49ers just controlled the football. They executed and we didn't. They got the turnovers (four) and we didn't get any.
"Once or twice, we might have gone into a panic but it wasn't over something we hadn't seen. Two quick touchdowns and we're almost out of it. We played the run all right, but we couldn't stop the pass."
Denver lost two linebackers with injuries during the game. Karl Mecklenburg suffered a hyper-extended knee when he was leg-whipped by 49ers guard Bruce Collie in the first half. Mecklenburg tried to play with a knee brace, but later was forced to retire in favor of Scott Curtis.
Michael Brooks suffered a pinched nerve in his shoulder and left in favor of Tim Lucas.
"That certainly didn't make a difference in the ball game," Phillips said of the injuries.
What did was the Broncos' inability to cover 49ers receiver Jerry Rice and to tackle him when they did have him covered. Also, Denver failed to put much pressure on 49ers quarterback Joe Montana.
"We just couldn't handle him," Phillips said of Rice, who caught seven passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
"When we used a three-man rush, Montana would just hold the ball and look for somebody to get open," Phillips said. "If we rushed four, he'd kill you with his quick release to (Roger) Craig or (Tom) Rathman. If it wasn't Rice, it was (John) Taylor or (Brent) Jones."
Montana was sacked only once and that was on a play when he ran away from the rush and went out of bounds. Since the play gained no yardage, it officially was scored as a sack, but one in which the quarterback absorbed no punishment.
Until Sunday, the most yards gained against Denver this season was 413 by the Buffalo Bills. The only quarterback to pass for more than San Francisco's 317 yards against the Broncos was the Bills' Jim Kelly (319).
"The 49ers just dominated our team," said Phillips, whose defense wasn't helped at all by the failures of Elway and the Denver offense.
The Broncos won the toss and received the opening kickoff. Elway and the offense held the ball only 55 seconds before giving it up to Montana and the 49ers.
A first-down fumble by Bobby Humphrey in the first quarter came on a first-down play immediately after the best stand of the game by the Broncos' defense.
To start the second quarter, Denver put the ball in play, first and 10 from its own 25. Again Elway and the offense went three-and-out. Only 38 seconds into the second quarter, Montana and the offense were on the field ready to operate again.
By the end of the first half, the Denver defenders looked tired and heavy-legged. The problem became compounded when Elway threw an interception on the first Denver play in the second half.
"We knew we were going to have to keep the ball away from them to be successful. We didn't do that," Reeves said. "I knew that defensively we had to keep them from making the big plays. So the two things we had to do to win the ballgame, we didn't do."