As the 1990s drew to a close, time was quickly running out for quarterbacks such as Troy Aikman, John Elway and Dan Marino to win a Super Bowl. 1998 represented their last best chance to grab the brass ring.
1998 also represented the rookie year of Randy Moss and I completely expected him and reborn quarterback Randall Cunningham to dominate the sim as they did in real life until kicker Gary Anderson clanged the upright in the NFC Championship Game.
The 1998 simulation throws some curveballs.
- As in real life, the AFC East became a grudge match between the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots and Bills. Peyton Manning also arrived on the scene in 1998, he and fellow draft choice Ryan Leaf would go on to dominate the 2000s – well at least Peyton did.
- While the Packers and Cowboys surprisingly cruised to the NFC’s best records at 15-1 and 14-2, Minnesota surprisingly staggered to a 10-6 campaign and the Purple’s bid for a sixth simulation championship quietly died in the Wild Card round.
- The Arizona Cardinals earned a rare playoff berth in real life with a 9-7 record and proceeded to upset the Cowboys in the Wild Card round. The Cardinals also finish 9-7 here but squeezed out in the tie-breaking procedures by several other teams.
In real life, Dan Marino’s career ended unceremoniously at the hands of Jacksonville in the 1999 Divisional playoffs. In the 1998 sim, the Dolphins win in North Florida to advance one step closer to hosting another Super Bowl in Souuth Florida. The Broncos and Jets, who met in the actual 1998 AFC Championship, met in the Meadowlands for the fictional divisional round. The Broncos won behind 196 rushing yards and 2 TD’s from Terrell Davis.
In the NFC, the Packers suffered yet another devastating home upset, this time at the hands of Atlanta. In the other game Dallas faced a familiar nemesis in the St. Louis Rams. Behind 140 yards by Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys advanced to their 12th conference championship game.
For the first time since a snowy late-September Sunday in 1985, Dan Marino and John Elway met at Mile High Stadium. The weather would be warmer that late-January day, about all you need to know about Denver weather. Terrell Davis rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown to give Denver its second AFC Championship in three years. In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys broke a 30-year Super Bowl curse behind four Troy Aikman touchdowns in a 31-21 victory over the Falcons.
The Broncos and Cowboys traveled to Miami for Super Bowl XXXIII, and per league rules someone must win. Terrell Davis turned the game into his personal showcase with a Super Bowl record 199 yards and three touchdowns while Emmitt Smith was held to 33 yards on 17 carries. Ed McCaffrey also caught a 38 yard TD pass in the 34-8 rout and John Elway and owner Pat Bowlen finally delivered their championship – the first time since the 1985 Bears that a team replicated its Super Bowl championship in the sim.