Today the Denver Broncos host the 2013 AFC Championship – the game that will decide which team represents the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos have hosted the conference championship a total of five time in their history, winning four of those games. Please continue reading for the outcomes of those games, as well a comment or two from me regarding each game. In approximately six hours the Broncos and New England Patriots will play the sixth conference championship to be held in Denver, Colorado; get ready Broncos Country – we need to be united in orange because it’s time to ride!
Sunday, January 1 1978: Oakland Raiders at Denver (Won 20-17)
What a way to ring in the new year by beating your arch rival and advancing to the teams very first Super Bowl! In a super season that gave birth to the Orange Crush defense, the Broncos beat the Raiders and won their very first AFC crown. Not only did the win put the Broncos in Super Bowl XII, it also allowed them some revenge on the Raiders given the fact that the Raiders were the only team to beat the Broncos at home in the 1977 season.
Sunday, January 17 1988: Cleveland Browns at Denver (Won 38-33)
One year removed from the AFC Championship in Cleveland that ended in over time thanks to “The Drive”, the Cleveland Browns visited Denver with another Super Bowl trip at stake. Once again, Cleveland’s season would come to a bitter and disappointing end. In 1987 it was “The Drive”, this year the play that most Bronco fans remember is “The Fumble”. With 1:12 remaining in the game and the Broncos holding a 38-31 lead, the Browns had the ball on the Broncos 8-yard line. Earnest Byner took a handoff from Bernie Kosar and appeared to be heading into the south endzone for a game-tying score until Jeremiah Castille stripped him of the football. After recovering the fumble, the Broncos gave the Browns an intentional safety and this game was in the record books.
Sunday, January 14 1990: Cleveland Browns at Denver (Won 37-21)
Meeting the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Championship was getting to be normal for Broncos Country in the late-80s and early-90’s’! While the first two conference championships against the Browns were very close and are now known for “The Drive” and “The Fumble”, this particular game is simply known as “The Blowout”! For once, Bronco fans wouldn’t be in the nail biting stage as this game came to a conclusion. Despite a 21-point third quarter by the Browns, the Broncos took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter and added an additional thirteen points, securing another Super Bowl trip for the Broncos.
Sunday, January 17 1999: New York Jets at Denver (Won 23-10)
A year after the Broncos very first Super Bowl victory, the Broncos were back in the AFC Champîonship – this time at home, unlike the previous year. On a very windy day in Mile High, Bronco fans were somewhat nervous at halftime considering the New York Jets held a 3-0 lead. While a three-point lead is not a massive hurdle to clear, it was not common for an offense lead by John Elway and Terrell Davis to be blanked at home, especially with a Super Bowl birth on the line. Down 10-0, the Broncos clawed their way back into the game. Thanks to an 11-yard receiving touchdown by Howard Griffith, a 31-yard touchdown run by Terrell Davis, and three Jason Elam field goals, the Broncos were heading back to the Super Bowl. While the game lacked some of the drama seen in previous AFC Championships held in Denver, the post-game celebration did not. After the game, many Bronco players went around the stadium high-fiving fans and celebrating with them. A vivid memory for most longtime, die-hard Bronco fans I’m sure is John Elway jogging around the field holding up the Lamar Hunt Trophy. This AFC Championship, would be Elway’s last game played in Denver; following a 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII and being named Super Bowl MVP, John Elway would retire.
Sunday, January 22 2006: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver (Lost 34-17)
Thanks to the Steelers beating the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional playoff, the opportunity to host another conference championship kind of fell into the laps of the Broncos. Unfortunately, the Steelers didn’t care how the Broncos came to host the game, they just knew they were in it and the winner advanced to the Super Bowl. Down 21-3 at halftime, the Broncos really never threatened the Steelers in any way and the 2005 season came to a bitter end for Bronco fans. Considering the Broncos had gone to Pittsburgh in 1998 and came home conference champions, I am sure the Steel City was loving the outcome of this game. For Bronco fans, it was the most lopsided loss in a conference championship in the teams history, and would be the start of a six year playoff drought.
Go Broncos – good luck in the AFC Championship!
Beat the Patriots!