The Denver Broncos didn't need their custom-fitted earplugs today in the Kingdome.
Instead, they pulled the plug on the noise from the Seattle Seahawks' fans as they wrapped up the AFC West championship, 31-14. Denver quarterback John Elway passed for a touchdown and ran for another in the National Football League regular season finale for the playoff-bound teams.
"A lot of the guys took their earplugs out after the first series," Elway said.
The Broncos scored on their first series and never looked back.
"It never got too loud," added running back Sammy Winder. His coach, Dan Reeves, said, "The earplugs helped during the week at practice, but the noise never bothered us today."
The Broncos were fitted with special $100-a-pair earplugs and practiced with turned-up crowd noise in anticipation of a roaring welcome at one of the NFL's most boisterous stadiums. Instead, they quieted the Kingdome crowd of 64,411 in a hurry.
"They just made the plays," said Coach Chuck Knox after his Seahawks' first home defeat this season. "They deserve to be the champs."
"We were ready to play," said his quarterback, Dave Krieg. "That's what hurts the most."
Denver, which lost to Seattle, 27-24, at home three weeks ago, finished its regular season at 13-3. The Broncos will play the AFC Central winner, to be decided Sunday (either Cincinnati or Pittsburgh), in Denver in two weeks.
Seattle (12-4) is in the playoffs as an AFC wild-card team. If the Los Angeles Raiders, the defending Super Bowl champions, win Sunday at home against Pittsburgh, the Seahawks will play in Los Angeles next weekend. If the Raiders lose, the game will be in Seattle.
Elway had a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 14-yard scoring pass to Jim Wright in the third period.
He was intercepted four times in the first half, but it was the Broncos who made two key takeaways in a pivotal third quarter to wrap up their third AFC West title.
Special teams player Tony Lilly and free safety Steve Foley made the Broncos' big plays in the third quarter as they went from a 10-7 halftime edge to a 24-7 lead. Lilly recovered Randall Morris' fumble on the opening second-half kickoff and Denver went 34 yards in four plays for a touchdown with 2:34 gone in the second half. The Elway-Wright score completed the 34-yard drive. Foley ran back an interception of a pass by Krieg 40 yards for a score with 10:35 gone in the third quarter.
Rick Parros scored on a four-yard run in the fourth quarter and Rich Karlis kicked a 34-yard field goal in the opening period for the Broncos.
Krieg passed four yards to Dan Doornink in the second quarter and 14 to Charle Young in the third period for Seattle's touchdowns.
It was Krieg's 32nd touchdown pass this season, second in the league only to Miami's Dan Marino, who has 44.
At halftime, the Broncos led, 10-7, despite the four interceptions of Elway, two of them by cornerback Keith Simpson.