Craig Morton threw two touchdown passes and Jim Turner kicked two fourth-quarter field goals today to carry the Denver Broncos past the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-21, in the first round of the American Football Conference playoffs.
Morton fired a 30-yard scoring pass to tight end Riley Odoms with 1:14 left in the third quarter. He then clinched the win with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jack Dolbin with 1:44 left after Turner's field goals of 44 and 25 yards given Denver a 27-21 lead.
The Broncos, 12-2 in the regular season, will meet Oakland in Denver, Jan. 1, for the AFC title.
Denver and Oakland, both in the AFC West, split their two games this year.
Shortly after it was announced that the Radiers had won over Baltimore in a second overtime period the Broncos took the lead on a seven-yard touchdown run by rookie Bob Lytle of Michigan.
The score was set up when Denver reserve wide receiver John Schultz from Maryland blocked a punt by Rick Engles of the Steelers and recovered the ball on the Pittsburgh 17-yard line.
The Steelers went 56 yards to tie the score 7-7 in the second quarter, on a one-yard sneak by Terry Bradshaw.
Bradshaw passed 19 yards to tight end Bennie Cunningham, on a fourth-and-one gamble at the Denver 27-yard line, Franco Harris ran 14 yards.
A Pittsburgh turnover set up another Brancos' touchdown. Harris fumbled after being tackled for a two-yard loss by defensive end Lyle Alzado. Linebacker Randy Gradisher scooped up the ball, dropped it forward, and then linebacker Tom Jackson picked up the ball and ran 30 yards to the Pittsburgh 10-yard line.
Running back Otis Armstrong scored on the next play, over right tackle. Jim Turner's second conversion put the Broncos ahead, 14-7.
Jim Smith ran the ensuing kickoff 28 yards to the Pittsburgh 34. Bradshaw passed 21 yards to wide receiver John Stallworth.
Harris then ran 20 yards to the Denver two-yard line and two plays later, punched over from a yard out.
Roy Gerela's second conversion tied the score at 14-14 with 101 seconds left in th first half.
Late in the first half defensive tackle Joe Greene appeared to wind up and flatten guard Paul Howard of the Broncos with a right uppercut to the chest. But there was no penalty.
Howard was stretched on the ground and required treatment before being helped off the field. Several plays later, Howard was back was seen to miss a right aimed at Greene's head.
A few minor scuffles broke out as the teams left the field at halftime.
Denver head coach Red Miller appeared to head for assistant coach George Perles of the Steelers, but head coach Chuck Noll of Pittsburgh cut him off.
The Steelers had seven penalties in the first half to three for the Broncos.
In the third quarter, the Broncos went 52 yards to the Pittsburgh one-yard line, where they passed up a field goal attempt on fourth down and gambled for a touchdown on a plunge by Jim Jensen. Jensen was held for no gain by middle linebacker Jack Lambert and cornerback Jim Allen.
The Broncos then went 43 yards to score, the clincher coming on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Morton to tight end Riley Odoms. Turner's conversion gave Denver a 21-14 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Steelers tied the score on a one-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw to reserve tight end Larry Brown. The opportunity was provided on a 48-yard pass from Bradshaw to Stallworth, to the Denver one-yard lie.
Turner kicked a 44-yard field goal with 7:17 remaining to put the Broncos in front, 24-21, after a nice drive led by Morton.
About two minutes later, Turner kicked a 25-yard goal for a 27-21 lead after linebacker Jackson intercepted Bradshaw and ran 32 yards to the Pittsburgh nine-yard line.
Jackson then bedeviled Bradshaw once more, stepping in front of another pass and grabbing it near midfield and returning it to the Steeler 33.
Morton was expected to stay on the ground in an effort to run out the clock and protect the six-point lead. But he crossed up the Steelers and hit Dolbin in the end zone for the wrapup touchdown.