Even though this season is over for the Broncos, an exciting day of football is ahead as four teams are set to battle for the right to represent their conference in Super Bowl XLVI. As a Bronco fan, I thought it would be interesting to reflect back on the playoff games that the Broncos have participated in with the Ravens and Patriots; the teams that will square off against each other today to see who will be crowned AFC Champion. Including last week’s 45-10 loss against the Patriots, the Broncos are even at 2-2 in playoff games against Baltimore and New England.
January 14th, 1987 AFC Divisional Playoff: New England at Denver. Field goals from Rich Karlis and Tony Franklin served as first half bookends around a touchdown from each team. Tony Eason connected with Stanley Morgan on a 19-yard pass to score the first touchdown of the game. The Broncos matched the Patriots touchdown with a 22-yard, Tim Tebow-like rushing touchdown by John Elway. Fireworks erupted somewhat in the third quarter when Tony Eason threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Stanley Morgan, hooking up for a 45-yard score. Not to be outdone, John Elway went deep as well, and completed a 48-yard pass to Vance Johnson for a touchdown. Thanks to a 22-yard field goal by Karlis early in the third quarter, the Broncos held a three point lead going into the last fifteen minutes of play. The Bronco
defense stood up, and Mile High Magic made an appearance when Eason was sacked in the end zone by Rulon Jones, giving the Broncos a five point lead, securing the playoff win 22-17. This win catapulted the team to their second conference championship appearance, which was in Cleveland, Ohio and is basically the game that put Mr. Elway on the map thanks to what is now known as “The Drive”.
December 31st, 2000 AFC Wild Card: Denver at Baltimore. Despite a scoreless first quarter, the Broncos could not find an answer for the strong Raven rushing attack and were unable to generate any offense against the always powerful Baltimore defense. Mike Anderson, fresh off a season that saw him rush for 1,487 yards and earn NFL Rookie of the Year, was held to forty yards on fifteen carries. Not only did the 21-3 loss bring the 2000 season to an end, more salt was rubbed in the wound for Bronco fans when ex-Bronco great, Shannon Sharpe caught a bobbled, then deflected pass and took it 58-yards for a touchdown. The Ravens playoff journey continued all the way to Super Bowl XXXV, which they won 34-7 over the New York Giants, while the Broncos were sent back to the drawing board to prepare for the next season. The playoff loss was the first time the Broncos were prevented from scoring a touchdown in 28 postseason games that covered a span over three decades.
January 14th, 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff: New England at Denver. With the Broncos leading the Patriot’s 10-6 late in the third quarter, Champ Bailey put a stop to a New England drive by intercepting Tom Brady’s pass in the south end zone and returning it 100 yards inside the Patriot’s one yard line. The interception set up a one yard touchdown run by Mike Anderson giving the Broncos a 17-6 lead. The Broncos went on to win the playoff game 23-13 giving Tom Brady his first playoff loss of his career. The win allowed the Broncos to advance to the AFC Championship the following week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
January 14, 2012 AFC Divisional Playoff: Denver at New England. Denver won the coin toss and unfortunately, it went downhill from there. Tom Brady had a total of six touchdown passes, five of which came in the first half setting an NFL record, while Tim Tebow and the rest of the Bronco offense sputtered the entire evening against the New England defense. Even though the season ended in a disappointing way with the 45-10 loss to New England, it did not overshadow a magical Bronco season that started 1-4 and ended with a division championship.