Ex-NFL player/coach, Herm Edwards, once said that “You play to win the game.” Amen! Regardless of the sport, winning is much more fun than losing. Last week, as difficult as it was, I strolled down memory lane and revisited some of the more devastating Denver Broncos losses. This week I have flipped the coin over and am looking at some of the more memorable victories in the team’s history. The games that I have chosen for the list are my opinion only, and have a permanent spot in my memory bank! Enjoy the list and let’s hope the Broncos continue playing at a level that will allow more games to be added to this list.
1. Super Bowl XXXII – Green Bay Packers vs. Denver Broncos (January 25, 1998): Diehard Bronco fans will forever remember the moment John Mobley knocked down Brett Favre’s fourth down pass, securing the win 31-24, and the Broncos very first Super Bowl victory. If Super Bowl XXXII is rebroadcast, in its entirety or just highlights, I will always watch; people or fans who aren’t passionate about the Broncos will never understand how special this victory is. In one game, all the pain and frustration from the previous Super Bowl defeats vanished.
2. Super Bowl XXXIII – Atlanta Falcons vs. Denver Broncos (January 31, 1999): Winning a Super Bowl is special; to do it two years in a row makes it even better. Unlike the Broncos first Super Bowl victory, the Broncos coasted to an easy 34-19 victory in this championship game. John Elway, in his last professional football game as a player, was named MVP.
3. 1997-98 AFC Championship – Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers (January 11, 1998): The Broncos went into Pittsburgh with another AFC Championship at stake and escaped narrowly with a 24-21 win. The victory, which was the team’s fifth conference championship at the time, sent the Broncos to Super Bowl XXXII, ending an eight year drought of Super Bowl appearances for the Broncos. The outcome of the AFC Championship game was still in question late in the fourth quarter until Elway connected with Shannon Sharpe for 18-yards and a first down, keeping the drive alive and allowing the Broncos run out the clock.
4. 1986-87 AFC Championship – Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns (January 11, 1987): Elway elevated himself and the entire Denver Broncos organization to another level when he drove the Broncos 98-yards to score a game tying touchdown pass to Mark Jackson with 39 seconds remaining in the game. The fifteen play drive, which consumed 5 minutes and two seconds off of the clock, tied the score at 20 and is simply known today as “The Drive”. The Broncos went on to win the game 23-20 when Rich Karlis successfully kicked a 33-yard field goal in overtime, sending the Broncos to Super Bowl XXI.
5. Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (October 15, 2012): At halftime the Broncos were down 24-0 and considering it was Monday night, a small part of me wanted to turn this game off and go to bed just to avoid my frustration level increasing. Thank goodness I stayed awake and witnessed what transpired over the next two quarters. Thanks to three Peyton Manning touchdown passes and two defensive scores, the Broncos came all the way back to win their third game of the 2012 season 35-24!
6. 2011-12 AFC Wildcard Playoff – Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (January 8, 2012): After a season filled with improbable come-from-behind victories, it is no surprise this game ended the way it did. The Broncos won the overtime coin toss and obviously elected to receive. After a touchback, Bronco fans were a few seconds away from a play that will be remembered forever as “The Catch”! Tim Tebow dropped back and hit Demaryius Thomas in stride as he came across the middle. One stiff arm, and 80-yards later Thomas crossed the goal line, giving the Broncos a 29-23 victory! Whether you were a Bronco fan in the stadium or watching the game on television, I am sure the play sent you into total hysteria!
7. 1991-92 AFC Divisional Playoff – Houston Oilers at Denver Broncos (January 4, 1992): Trailing 24-23 with just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Broncos got the ball on their own two yard line. Although similar to the Cleveland situation in 1987, this was slightly different because a touchdown wasn’t required given the Broncos only trailed by a point. In typical Elway fashion, the Broncos drove right down the field, giving Bronco kicker David Treadwell an opportunity to put the Broncos ahead. Treadwell was successful on the 28-yard attempt, giving the Broncos a 26-24 win. The scoring drive, which was a total of twelve plays and is now known as “The Drive II”, included two fourth down conversions; a seven yard run by Elway on fourth-and-six and an Elway to Vance Johnson pass that covered 44-yards.
8. Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (October 4, 1992): With just under five minutes remaining in the game and trailing the Chiefs by thirteen points, it appeared that the Broncos were going to face their second loss of the season. Never giving up, and whole-heatedly believing in Mile High Magic, the Broncos scored two touchdowns in the final minutes and escaped with a 20-19 victory. Elway connected with Mark Jackson and Vance Johnson for touchdown passes of 25-yards and 12-yards. The go-ahead touchdown pass to Johnson, which occurred with approximately 40 seconds remaining in the game, was set up by a defensive stop by the Broncos and a 27-yard punt return by Arthur Marshall.
9. 2005-06 AFC Divisional Playoff – New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (January 14, 2006): Having not won a playoff game since Super Bowl XXXIII, the Broncos hoped to return to the winning side of postseason play when they hosted the mighty New England Patriots at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. At the time, the Patriots had won three of the last four Super Bowls and were trying to become the first team to win three consecutive Super Bowls. During the Super Bowl run, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had built an impressive 10-0 playoff record. Although a huge obstacle was in front of them, the Broncos had a definite advantage being at home. Leading 10-6 in the third quarter, the Broncos defense was trying to prevent the Patriots from taking the lead. Facing third and goal on the Broncos five yard line, Tom Brady was intercepted by Champ Bailey in the end zone, who returned the interception 100-yards to the Patriots one yard line. Mike Anderson scored his second touchdown of the evening on the ensuing play, giving the Broncos a 17-6 lead. A total of five Patriot turnovers was one of the main reasons the Broncos ended up advancing to the AFC Championship with a 27-13 victory. The Bronco win also ended the Patriots quest for a three-peat and dealt Tom Brady his first postseason loss ever!
10. 1998-99 AFC Championship – New York Jets at Denver Broncos (January 17, 1999): On a windy day in the original Mile High Stadium, Bronco fans witnessed their favorite team capture their second consecutive conference championship, as well as another opportunity to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. After two quarters the Broncos found themselves behind 10-0, and in somewhat of a funk. The Broncos changed the direction of the game and took back the momentum in the third quarter when they put up twenty unanswered points. The twenty point onslaught consisted of an eleven-yard touchdown pass from John Elway to Howard Griffith, a 31-yard touchdown run by Terrell Davis, and two Jason Elam field goals of 44 & 48 yards. More memorable than the game itself was the post game celebration that occurred on the field after. In what would be Elway’s last professional football game in Denver, John Elway (and other Bronco players) made a victory lap around the stadium with the AFC trophy in hand, while the remaining Bronco fans cheered!