Jacoby Jones (12) catches a pass for a touchdown in front of Denver Broncos free safety Rahim Moore (26) of the AFC divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

The Top 10 Disappointing Losses In Denver Broncos History


The main goal of every NFL football team is to win the Super Bowl.  If you have experienced your favorite team winning an NFL Championship, you know it is a great feeling. Because of that, there is a desire among fans to see their team win the big game every year!  Realizing that this is not possible, losses are just a part of the game. Besides, it wouldn’t be much fun if the Denver Broncos won every game and NEVER lost would it?  Well, it might be, but like I said, that is just not possible.

Losing helps you appreciate the wins more. As we settle into the offseason, I’ve taken some time out to reflect on some past Bronco losses and have rated them from one to ten.  The list is just my opinion and would probably change if I rated these same games next week.  You may ask why I am focusing on the losses. Don’t worry Bronco fans, next week I will focus on the top ten wins!  

1.  2012-13 AFC Divisional Playoff – Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (January 12, 2013):  This game obviously gets the top spot on my list because the wounds and pain caused from this 38-35 double overtime loss is the most recent.  The Broncos had a tremendous opportunity, and with 30 seconds remaining left in the game it went down the drain when the Ravens tied the game with a touchdown bomb.  The Broncos had an opportunity in overtime, but mistakes ultimately prevented them from progressing closer to their third Lombardi Trophy.

2.  1996-97 AFC Divisional Playoff – Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver Broncos (January 4, 1997):  Very similar to the Ravens game, the Broncos were well positioned to advance in the playoffs but they were surprisingly upset 30-27 by the Jacksonville Jaguars – at the time, a recently formed NFL franchise!  This loss hurt because John Elway was aging and the number of years left as him as the Broncos QB1 were rapidly dwindling; a variable that was a non-factor in the multiple Super Bowl appearances in the late 80′s.

3.  Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (October 24, 2010):  I remember former Bronco receiver Rod Smith saying one season that you have got to win at home in the NFL.  The Broncos didn’t win this one and they weren’t even competitive!  At halftime of this debacle, the Raiders held a 38-7 lead.  For any Bronco fan, it is no fun to see the Broncos lose; it is ten times worse when it comes against the rival Oakland Raiders at home, and it is so lopsided.  I was following the game on NFL.com and I thought the website had a glitch because every time I refreshed, the Raiders score changed!  Looking back, this 59-14 blowout loss was probably the beginning of the end for Josh McDaniels as the Broncos head coach.

4.  Super Bowl XXIV – San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos (January 28, 1990):  Of the three Super Bowl losses in the 80′s, this was the hardest one to accept and deal with.  Even though the Broncos were severely outmatched by the high-powered 49ers offense, Bronco fans felt that because the Broncos had previously experienced two Super Bowl losses by the teams core group, they would be able to learn from those prior games and finally capture their first NFL Championship.  Sadly, that was not the case.  In a game that looked like a scrimmage for the 49ers, the Broncos were demolished 55-10 on the largest stage in professional sports!

5.  Super Bowl XXII – Washington Redskins vs. Denver Broncos (January 31, 1988):  The Broncos were making their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance and Bronco fans were hopeful that this year’s game would have a different outcome than Super Bowl XXI.  The majority of that hope was dashed in the second quarter when the Redskins exploded for 35 unanswered points, seemingly putting the game out of reach.  Rather than celebrate a Super Bowl win, Bronco fans would have to deal with a 42-10 Super Bowl loss.

6.  Super Bowl XXI – New York Giants vs. Denver Broncos (January 25, 1987):  The Broncos were back in the Super Bowl and the hype about John Elway, the quarterback from Stanford, was turning into reality.  The Broncos were competitive in their second Super Bowl appearance but didn’t quite have enough weapons to overcome the NFC champions from New York, losing the contest 39-20.

7.  1991-92 AFC Championship – Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills (January 12, 1992):  With another trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the Broncos fell short 10-7 and had to settle for AFC runner-up.  As the score reflected, the game lacked fireworks.  For Bronco fans, the salt in this wound was the fact that was Elway was sidelined early in the second half with a deep thigh bruise, the Bills only touchdown was an Elway pick-six, and kicker David Treadwell missed three field-goals on the day.

8.  2005-06 AFC Championship – Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (January 22, 2006):  Appearing in their first conference championship in the post-Elway era, the Broncos, as well as their fans, were hoping the team could return to the glory days of the 80′s, and have another opportunity to win their very first Lombardi Trophy.  Ben Roethlisberger, in his sophomore season, and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers, had different plans.  The Steelers came into Denver and headed home with the AFC trophy after defeating the Broncos 34-17.

9: 2004-05 AFC Wildcard – Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (January 9, 2005):  Once again, the Broncos season came to an end in Indianapolis against the Peyton Manning led offense as they trounced the Broncos 49-24.  The loss reiterated to Bronco fans how important the quarterback position is and how far behind the team really was compared to the elite teams of the NFL.

10: 2003-04 AFC Wildcard – Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (January 4, 2004):  Peyton Manning, the 2003 co-MVP, and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts trounced the Broncos 41-10 proving they were definitely the stronger of these two horse-named teams.  It’s always hard when the offseason begins due to a loss but it is even harder when your team isn’t even competitive and appeared to have no shot.  In a play that should not occur at the pro level, and was a sign of the afternoon the Broncos had in store for them, Marvin Harrison, after receiving a Manning pass, got up from the ground untouched and ran in for a touchdown while Bronco defenders argued on the missed assignment.  Plays like that are embarrassing and definitely make losing very hard to accept!

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Tags: Denver Broncos John Elway Super Bowl XXI Super Bowl XXII

  • Jay

    Don’t necessarily disagree, but how can a playoff loss be worse that a SB loss. It’s all about the SB, even if the Broncos were overmatched in 3 of the 4 losses.