Thanks to their performance and the overall record of 13-3, the Denver Broncos will not be playing this weekend, but no doubt they will definitely be watching, considering the AFC games will determine their opponent on January 12th. Since their inception, the Broncos have been in a total of eight wildcard games and have a dismal record of 2-6 (the two wins coming at home). For a synopsis of the Broncos and their performance in each of those wildcard games, please continue reading.
Sunday, December 23 1979: Denver at Houston Oilers (Lost 13-7) After a 10-6 season the Broncos made the trip to Houston to face the 11-5 Houston Oilers. Trailing 10-7 at halftime, the Broncos were unable to generate any scoring in the second half and saw their season come to an end. The only scoring after the halftime break was a twenty-yard field goal by Houston’s Toni Fritsch in the fourth quarter. Broncos quarterback, Craig Morton, finished the day completing fourteen of his twenty-seven attempts for 144 yards. The sole score for the Broncos occurred in the first quarter when Morton connected with Dave Preston for a seven-yard touchdown pass, giving the Broncos a 7-3 lead.
Saturday, December 24 1983: Denver at Seattle Seahawks (Lost 31-7) Similar to their first wildcard game in 1979, the Broncos found themselves trailing their opponent 10-7 at halftime. Unfortunately, the Broncos surrendered three touchdowns in the second half, two in the fourth quarter, which brought their 9-7 season to an end. This was Denver’s second trip to Seattle and it was also their second loss; in week ten of the ’83 season the Broncos were defeated by the Seahawks 27-19. The Seahawks, who were appearing in their very first playoff game in the team’s history, scored on their very first possession of the game, as well as their first two possessions of the second half. Starting quarterback for the Broncos was Steve DeBerg, who was replaced midway through the fourth quarter by rookie John Elway.
Sunday, January 9 1994: Denver at Los Angeles Raiders (Lost 42-24) Due to a loss 33-30 OT loss against the Raiders in week eighteen (each team received two byes), the Broncos found themselves making their second trip to Los Angeles in as many weeks. Unlike the regular season game, however, this game had much more riding on it considering the winner would advance to the AFC divisional round, while the loser would see the ’92 season come to an end. While the first half of this game was a passing showcase by John Elway and Jeff Hostetler, the second half was highlighted by the Raiders running game, specifically running back Napolean McCallum. Elway and Hostetler combined for three touchdowns a piece in the first half, making the score all square at twenty one. McCallum then went crazy, scoring three rushing touchdowns in the second half, the longest scoring run being twenty-six yards. Elway finished eight yards better than Hostetler with a total of 302 passing yards. The Broncos leading receiver was Shannon Sharpe, who had thirteen receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown. The loss to the Raiders in the wildcard round was the Broncos third loss to the Raiders in the ’93 season. The Raiders beat the Broncos 23-20 in Denver on Monday night in mid-October, and then again to close out the regular season. The Raiders season would come to an end the following week with a 29-23 loss to the eventual AFC Champions, the Buffalo Bills.
Saturday, December 27 1997: Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver (Won 42-17) A year after the 30-27 divisional playoff loss to the Jaguars following the 1995 season, a huge upset by Jacksonville, the Broncos had revenge on their mind as they continued their quest for the teams’ very first Super Bowl title. The 25 point blowout win over Jacksonville definitely proved the team had exacted revenge. Not only did the Broncos host their very first home wildcard game, they also got the team’s very first wildcard win, improving their record to 1-3 in wildcard playoff games. While John Elway had an “average” performance (16-24, 223 yards, 1 TD), running backs Terrell Davis and Derek Loville carried the Broncos on this day. Davis rushed for 184 yards on thirty-one attempts and two touchdowns; Loville added an additional 103 yards rushing on eleven attempts and two touchdowns. Davis’ touchdowns occurred in the first half, while Loville added his rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Rod Smith scored the Broncos only passing touchdown of the day when he was the recipient of a 43-yard pass from Elway in the first quarter. Vaugh Hebron closed out the Broncos scoring when he rushed for a six-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. A week later the Broncos continued their revenge tour when they traveled to Kansas City and defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 14-10 in the divisional playoff. Following a 24-21 victory in the AFC Championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Broncos won their very first Lombardi Trophy when they defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII.
Sunday, December 31 2000: Denver at Baltimore Ravens (Lost 21-3) After finishing the 2000 season with an 11-5 record, the Broncos found themselves on the road again to play the organizations fifth wildcard playoff game. Unfortunately, the road woes the Broncos have faced over the years in wildcard games continued, and Baltimore coasted to a playoff victory. The Ravens went onto win Super Bowl XXXV by defeating the New York Giants 24-7. A difficult play for Bronco fans to swallow was when Trent Dilfer connected with former Bronco Shannon Sharpe in the second quarter. Sharpe caught a pass that was intended for Jamal Lewis but ultimately ended up in Sharpe’s arms after a couple of deflections. Sharpe scampered down the sideline for his third playoff touchdown of his career and a 14-3 lead for the Ravens. Even though the play occurred in the first half, the Broncos were not able to overcome it, or the Ravens smothering defense, and saw their season come to a disappointing end. The Broncos ended the day with a total of only 177 total yards; forty-two on the ground and 135 through the air.
Sunday, January 4 2004: Denver at Indianapolis Colts (Lost 41-10) To simply put it, the Broncos were soundly thrashed by the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning in the Broncos sixth wildcard game in the team’s history. Manning, who was 0-3 in playoff games up to this point, ended the day with twenty-two completions on twenty-six attempts for 377 yards and five touchdowns. Manning’s quarterback rating at the end of the day was an astonishing 158.3. Manning was not the only Bronco-killer during this game; Brandon Stokely and Marvin Harrison destroyed the Broncos porous defense by combining for eleven receptions that racked up 277 yards and four of the five Touchdowns put up against the Broncos. Near the midpoint of the fourth quarter, the Broncos scored their only touchdown of the day when Jake Plummer connected with Rod Smith for a seven-yard score. Obviously, there weren’t many highlights for the Broncos in this game but the low point of the game came in the first quarter when Marvin Harrison caught a pass from Peyton Manning and laid on the ground untouched while Bronco defenders showed their frustration by arguing over the missed assignment and/or completion. Alertly, Harrison got up off the turf and scampered thirty-yards for the touchdown and a 14-3 lead. Game, set, match – the Colts never looked back. The Broncos suffered their fifth wildcard playoff loss, while the Colts advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game and were beaten by the New England Patriots, who went onto to beat the Carolina Panthers, who were coached by John Fox, in Super Bowl XXXVIII
Sunday, January 9 2005: Denver at Indianapolis Colts (Lost 49-24) For the second consecutive year, the Broncos season came to an end in Indianapolis against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Despite keeping Brandon Stokely and Marvin Harrison in check, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark teamed up with Manning to rip apart the Broncos defense. Manning had twenty-seven completions for 458 yards and four touchdowns. Wayne had ten receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns, while Clark had six catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos basically had no answer for the Colts high-powered offense and it was very evident that if the road to any Super Bowl went through Indianapolis, it would probably not end well for the Broncos. Just like the previous season when the Colts ended the Broncos season, New England beat the Colts again, this time, however, it was in the divisional playoff and not the conference championship.
Sunday, January 8 2012: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver (Won 29-23 OT) Because this game is so recent, I probably don’t have to remind most readers when and how this game ended! Not only does every die-hard Bronco fan remember how this game ended, they probably remember where they were at and who they were with. The memory of this game will be forever etched in our memory bank. If for some crazy reason, you don’t recall the ending of this game let me take a minute of your time to refresh your memory: first play of overtime – Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown pass – game over! The week before this playoff game the Broncos ended the season with a weak performance against the Chiefs that saw the Broncos lose 7-3 but still giving them a division championship at 8-8; basically backing into the playoffs with three straight losses. Tim Tebow arguably had one of his better performances of the season on this wildcard Sunday, throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns. For loyal Bronco fans, it was not ordinary in this particular season to have a comfortable lead but that is exactly what the Broncos had done – they had built a two touchdown lead and were leading 20-6 at halftime. The Steelers began chipping away and the momentum the Broncos gained in the first half eventually dissolved when Ben Roethlisberger connected with Jerricho Cotchery for a 31-yard touchdown with just under four minutes remaining in regulation, tying the score at twenty-three. The Broncos won the overtime coin toss and elected to take the ball first. Following the Shaun Suisham kick, one of the greatest plays in the history of the Denver Broncos occurred! The overtime win sent the Broncos to New England the following week to face the Patriots in a divisional playoff. Unfortunately, New England won easily 45-10, bringing the exciting 2011 season to an end.
Go Broncos – good luck in the divisional playoff round!