The 2011 season offered Denver Broncos fans a wild ride they won’t forget for quite some time. They finished 9-9 overall which was good enough to win the AFC West and make a run in the postseason. There were many ups and downs, several exciting finishes and big wins, and the season ended in the Divisional Playoffs after winning one of the most memorable NFL playoff games ever the week before. Let’s take a look at how the 2011 season will be remembered in a historical context:
- The Broncos finished the 2011 regular season with a scoring differential of -81. It was only the 2nd time in franchise history that Denver qualified for the playoffs despite being outscored by their opponents (1983; Outscored by 25 points and lost their playoff opener to the Seahawks), and it was the Broncos 11th worst season all-time in regards to point differential.
- The Wild Card Playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers was only the 2nd ever Broncos victory on Wild Card weekend. The only other Wild Card playoff win occurred after the 1997 season when Denver beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 42-17 en route to their 1st ever Super Bowl championship. Even though the Broncos have had a ton of success in the playoffs over the years, the most successful playoff runs (except for ’97) all started in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
- In the long histories of both the Broncos and the Steelers, they have played each other more times in the playoffs than either team has against any other franchise. In 7 playoff matchups all-time the Broncos now hold a 4-3 advantage.
- Of the 4 teams that Denver has played 3 or more times in the playoffs, they have a winning record against all 4. Those teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3), Cleveland Browns (3-0), New England Patriots (2-1), and Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans (2-1).
- Denver won their 11th AFC West Championship in 2011. Out of those 11 championship seasons the Broncos have won at least 1 playoff game in 8 of them.
- The 2011 Broncos finished the season ranked 25th in points scored and 23rd in yards gained. The 25th ranking in points is the worst ever by a Broncos playoff team. Defensively, Denver finished the year ranked 24th in scoring and 20th in yards given up. The 24th ranking in points allowed is also the worst ever by a Broncos playoff team.
- The 80-yard overtime touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas will go down as one of the most remarkable moments in franchise playoff history. The Broncos have finally produced a victory that can join the magical moments of playoffs past (the Super Bowl victories, the Divisional win over Houston in the ’91 playoffs, the Conference Championship wins over Cleveland in the ’86 and ’87 playoffs, and the Conference Championship victory over the Oakland Raiders in the ’77 playoffs).
- This season’s Division Championship ended a 5 year playoff drought. That was the longest non-playoff stretch since before the 1st Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after the 1977 season.
- 2011 will be remembered around the league as the year Tim Tebow took over the NFL. There has never been anything like the Tebow media circus that took place this season. It is clear that Tebow stirs the emotions of almost every fan out there, but the Tebow Train was spurred on by his constant late-game heroics and the relentless media machine led by ESPN. I’m predicting (and I hope) that the media scrutiny of Tebow will subside a bit as we move forward. He will always be the lead story for this team as long as he remains the Broncos quarterback, but I think it will be impossible to reach the manic levels we saw this season again. Of course, a Super Bowl run would probably change all that!
- This season will also be remembered as the 1st after John Elway returned to the organization to once again take them to the top, as well as the beginning of the end for Pat Bowlen as the man in front of the organization. Bowlen receded from public view and enabled Elway and the rest of his staff to run every facet of the operation. Some have speculated that Bowlen will sell the team in the near future, and although I’m not sure if that is the case, I do know that the times are changing at Dove Valley. The Broncos have reverted back to a classic organizational structure and now rely heavily on the scouting department and General Manager Brian Xanders (as they should). It resulted in what looks like a fantastic 2011 draft class that brought in several starters and the 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in Von Miller. Gone are the days when the Head Coach and the GM were the same person, and gone are the days when the Broncos got themselves into trouble with expensive misses in free agency.
- Denver regained organizational stability in 2011. From Bowlen to Elway, Xanders to Head Coach John Fox, the organization is being run by a stable of veterans who operate with steady hands. After years of floundering through front office changes, a coaching carousel, and on and off the field player issues, the Denver Broncos finally look to be a team on the rise. For a change it is their division rivals Oakland and Kansas City who are making wholesale changes while Denver is going to return all of their key organizational figures and most of their coaching staff in 2012.
- At the end of the day, this season will be remembered as a successful one for the Denver Broncos. It is certainly one of the most unique seasons I can remember, especially when you consider the wild momentum swings throughout the year and the exhilarating finish in the playoffs. It is not often when you can say your team exceeded all expectations and went as far as they possibly could. Hopefully it will be known as the beginning of a new era of success for the franchise.
- 2011 was also an extremely memorable year for those of us here at Predominantly Orange, and we expect that to continue in 2012. Stay with us for inside access to the NFL combine, Draft, and all news and events leading into training camp in 2012. Go Broncos!
Topics: Afc West, Brian Xanders, Cleveland Browns, Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers, Jacksonville Jaguars, John Elway, John Fox, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, NFL Playoffs, Oakland Raiders, Pat Bowlen, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Tim Tebow, Von Miller