For the third year in a row, the NFL will have games on Christmas Day on the schedule. The Denver Broncos will be a part of that.
The Broncos, who have played on Christmas Day three times in their history, will face the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in a battle of 4-10 teams. Interestingly, it is the Rams that have the worst record of a defending Super Bowl champion since the 1999 Broncos.
After winning back-to-back Super Bowls, John Elway retired and the following season, the Broncos stumbled to a 6-10 while having Terrell Davis suffer a season-ending and career-altering knee injury.
Following the 1971 season, the NFL actually had two playoff games take place on Christmas Day. One of those games between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins is the longest game played in NFL history to this day and because of how long that game took, the league received numerous complaints from around the country for how the game intruded on a religious holiday.
As a result, the league would go 17 seasons before scheduling a game on Christmas again. To this day, only 24 games have ever been played on Christmas. Here is a look at how the Broncos have fared on the holiday.
December 25, 1999: Broncos 17, Lions 7
In their first-ever game on Christmas, the Broncos went into the Pontiac Silverdome during that dreadful 1999 season and got a win over the Lions. The game was tied at zero at halftime but the Broncos used a big game from Olandis Gary to earn a 10-point victory.
The Broncos used five sacks from the defense to fuel the effort and Brian Griese managed the game from the quarterback position to hold on for the victory.
Player of the game, Olandis Gary: The Broncos’ rookie running back, who would later sign with the Lions as a free agent, rushed for 185 yards on 29 carries. That included a 45-yard touchdown run.
December 25, 2004: Broncos 37, Titans 16
The Broncos went to Nashville on this day to face a poor Titans team and they jumped on them right away, scoring on the opening drive en route to a 21-point win.
Reuben Droughns rushed for three touchdowns and Jason Elam kicked three field goals as the Broncos improved to 9-6 on the year which led to a Wild Card berth after finishing second in the AFC West behind the San Diego Chargers.
Player of the game, Reuben Droughns: Part of a 1,200-yard rushing season in 2004, Droughns scored two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown in this game for the Broncos.
December 25, 2016: Chiefs 33, Broncos 10
This game turned into a true Christmas nightmare for the Broncos as they were still in the hunt for a playoff spot and were the league’s defending champions, but they were thoroughly embarrassed by the Chiefs on national television.
The Chiefs used a 70-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill and an 80-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce to overwhelm the Broncos early and then later, with less than two minutes remaining in the game, defensive tackle Dontari Poe threw this touchdown (video) pass despite the game being well in hand for the Chiefs.
This loss essentially ended the Broncos’ playoff hopes that season and of course, the team has yet to return.
Player of the game, Todd Davis: There weren’t too many positives for the Broncos in this 23-point defeat but linebacker Todd Davis had 13 tackles and a forced fumble in the game.
The Broncos will now face the Rams in the fourth Christmas Day game in team history, all of which have been on the road. This will be the first time the Rams have ever played on the holiday.