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Los Angeles 27 at Denver 351984 Week 7 - Monday, April 9, 1984
Attendance: 19,115, TV: ESPN
David Martin erases an Express lead.
DENVER (AP) - A pair of fumbled Los Angeles kickoff returns late in the first half helped complete a 25-point second quarter flurry that lifted the Denver Gold to an improbable 6-1 record.
Denver, everybody's choice to be an also-ran in 1984, posted its fourth straight victory and raised its Pacific Division lead to three games with Monday night's 35-27 United States Football League victory over Los Angeles before 19,115 rain-soaked fans in Denver.
"We're on an emotional roll," said Denver Coach Craig Morton. "We're playing with great intensity and nothing seems to discourage us. We don't panic."
Panic might have set in after the Express jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Steve Young, Los Angeles' $40 million rookie quarterback, set up the first score, beating the blitz by dumping a short pass over the middle to Mel Gray, who went 52 yards. Kevin Nelson scored four plays later. With 5:23 left in the opening period, Los Angeles safety Dwight Drane intercepted a Craig Penrose pass and returned it 22 yards for the second Express tally.
The Gold rebounded with a vengeance in the second period. First, Penrose lofted a 73-yard bomb to Kevin Williams, then David Martin scored returned a punt 79 yards. But the extra point attempt failed and Denver trailed 14-13. Then came the two crucial fumbles on kickoff returns. Gray, trying to negotiate a muddy area of the field, coughed up the ball at the Los Angeles 17.
Penrose hit Vincent White on a five-yard pass for the go-ahead TD with 1:31 left. Tony Boddie fumbled away the next kickoff return, giving Denver possession at the 10, and Bill Johnson's five-yard run made it 25-14 with 30 seconds left in the half.
Los Angeles never fully recovered from that second-period onslaught. Nelson took a short pass and turned it into a 69-yard scoring play early in the third period. But Denver used its ball control offense to eat up the clock and countered with a field goal and a touchdown before Young ran for the final score in the closing seconds.
"You can't fumble that many times (four) and win," said Express Coach John Hadl, whose team fell to 2-5. Young, who completed 16 of 37 passes for 267 yards and ran for 34 more yards in his second pro game, wasn't satisfied. "I'm still learning," he said.