DENVER, JAN. 10 -- The best thing the Houston Oilers could have done today was sneak out the back door of Mile High Stadium at halftime because every time they stepped to the line of scrimmage, the Denver Broncos tore them apart.

The Broncos, taking care of business as usual, advanced to the AFC championship game by blasting the Oilers, 34-10, before 75,968 in the surprisingly warm Rocky Mountain air.

And, in doing so, the Broncos set up a rematch of last year's AFC championship game with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns, who lost last year's title game at home in overtime, will travel to Denver this time for a 4 p.m. EST game Sunday.

"This puts us one step closer to our objective, which is to win the AFC championship," Denver Coach Dan Reeves said. "We're in position to win, and I couldn't be happier."

This might have been the most disappointing playoff game of this postseason because the Oilers (10-7) seemed so unprepared for anything and everything. In the first half alone, they were called for 10 penalties, six for jumping offside.

The Oilers knew full well the Broncos don't have a running game, yet had the audacity to try to guard Denver's receivers one-on-one. Denver quarterback John Elway passed for 170 yards in the first half and led his team to a 24-3 halftime lead that only increased.

For the game, he completed 14 of 25 passes for 259 yards and his two touchdown passes went to a most unlikely receiver, tight end Clarence Kay, who hadn't had a touchdown reception all season, and had heretofore made his living as a good-block, no-hands player.

"I was surprised," Elway said, "but they kept giving us single coverage in the secondary. And Clarence kept getting open."

Pass coverage was just one of a dozen or so problem areas for the Oilers. Penalties, missed blocking assignments, not knowing the snap count and plain old bad judgment were some others.

The Oilers' demise began on their second play from scrimmage when Glanville had quarterback Warren Moon try to lateral to Mike Rozier. Houston took possession on its 5 after a punt, so Rozier was standing in the end zone when he tried to catch the lateral.

He never gained possession of the ball, which hit his chest and bounced away. Because the pass was a lateral, Rozier's mistake was no different than if he had fumbled a pitchout.

Howard University alumnus Steve Wilson recovered for Denver at the 1. It took Denver all of two plays to score; Gene Lang ran it in from the 2 after losing a yard on first down. Denver 7, Houston 0. Houston deflated.

The Broncos were happy, of course, to benefit from such a goofy play. But they were also stunned. "It was definitely the key play in the game," Denver linebacker Jim Ryan said. "I'm sure it's a call they'd want to take back. It's a play that changes the whole complexion of the game."

The way the Oilers played the rest of the way, few people, if any, would say the team would have won had it converted that play into, say, a 15-yard gain. But that play kicked off a series of blunders that couldn't be overcome, because the Broncos (11-4-1) are an opportunistic team if there ever was one.

Moon twice moved his team deep into Denver territory only to throw interceptions.

The second interception and its aftermath revealed everything about the Oilers' effort in this game, just one week after a stirring victory over Seattle in the AFC wild-card game.

Moon's first interception -- picked off by Karl Mecklenburg at the 10 -- ruined what could have been a game-tying drive and led to Elway's first touchdown pass to Kay, which made it 14-0 late in the first. And Moon's second interception seemed to typify Houston's effort and state of mind in the last three quarters.

Trailing by 27-3, Moon passed into the end zone. It was intended for Drew Hill, but cornerback Mark Haynes intercepted.

He started to down the ball in the end zone for a touchback, but no Oilers came after him. Probably in disbelief, he started running along the sideline. Moon, after throwing the pass from about the 10, had the best angle to catch him, but simply stood in the middle of the field and watched him run 57 yards.

The interception itself hardly mattered because the Broncos already had built an insurmountable lead.

Rich Karlis' 43-yard field goal early in the second quarter made it 17-0 in Denver's favor. And the Broncos hardly flinched when Tony Zendejas kicked a 46-yarder that made it 17-3.

The Oilers were already out of their game plan. Glanville came into the game hoping to run the ball about 40 times, alternating between Rozier and fullback Alonzo Highsmith. Instead, the Oilers threw 43 times and ran only 26. Highsmith got five carries and wasn't happy about it.

Mecklenburg said that the Oilers' change of plan wasn't necessarily voluntary. "We put in some specially designed things for their running attack," he said. "Given two weeks {Denver, the AFC West champion, had last week off while Houston beat Seattle}, we had to figure out some way not to let them beat us with the run."

Ryan noticed "that Houston was confused. They hurt themselves with miscues. But all the shifting we did on defense -- moving into the gaps, blitzing in ways we hadn't before -- had them confused. We had several guys come through unblocked, which is how we stopped the running game."

With that accomplished, the rest was relatively easy. Elway led another drive that ended with his one-yard touchdown pass to Kay for a 24-3 lead late in the first half.

Moon (24 of 43, 264 yards and one touchdown) threw to Earnest Givins for a 19-yard touchdown to get Houston within 27-10. But Elway scored on a three-yard run late in the fourth quarter for the last points of the game.