I hope you all enjoy reading through the summary of these games as much as I enjoyed writing some of them. See here for a full description of this greatest games tournament.
In part because I want to give people extra time, and in part because my schedule dictates it, I’m going to leave voting for both Round 1A and Round 1B open until Sunday Evening. So enjoy the extra time to learn about/remember some of the great Broncos memories outlined below, comment on your memories of these games, and vote for your favorites. The new schedule still has us adding in the playoff games middle of next week, and still finishing about a week before training camp.
Again, thanks to RSH for the summaries of the even seeded games.
1 KAN 31-24 9/17/2015
The Broncos defeated Kansas City on a Road Thursday Night game, despite being 3 point underdogs. The Broncos fell behind 14-0 after a Peyton Manning Pick 6, but Peyton rebounded with an 80 yard TD scoring drive. Talib then picked off Smith, setting up the Broncos for another TD to tie the game.
In the 2nd half, both teams added an early FG before trading a few punts back and forth. Harris picked off Smith with 6 minutes to go in a tie game, but the Broncos offense stalled again. A short punt and penalty gave KC good field position, and they quickly drove down and scored on an 8 yard Knile Davis TD. With only 1 timeout, 2:27, and facing a 7 point deficit, Manning lead the team on an 80 yard drive, that ended with a 19 Yard TD strike to Emmanuel Sanders to tie the game.
With only 36 seconds remaining, the Chiefs decided to hand the ball off to Charles. Brandon Marshall forced a fumble which Bradley Roby returned for a TD to seal the miraculous win. In the end, the Broncos D forced 5 turnovers, in one of the most exciting Broncos games ever. Highlights
16 CLE 19-16 10/5/1980
Randy Gradishar’s 93-yard interception return for a touchdown proved to be the difference in the Broncos’ victory at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Gradishar’s interception return for a touchdown is the longest such return in Broncos’ history and was the NFL’s longest for the 1980 season. Since 1975, the Broncos have gone 22-2 against the Browns — and the last time the Browns tasted victory against Denver was in 1990. Why again is Gradishar not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
8 OAK 30-7 10/16/1977
The undefeated 4-0 Denver Broncos headed into this game at Oakland to face a Raiders team, who was on a 17-game winning streak. The Broncos had their way the entire game, blowing out their most hated rival. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NmbtaU2TkE. Highlights commence at the 0:25 mark. And we all know what happened later that season against the Raiders in the 1977 AFC Championship Game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-_m4F_Ru4E.
[A couple more stats about this one. The Raiders entered this game averaging 26 pts/game and finished the year with the number one ranked offense in points, yards, and first downs. But the Broncos #1 D was so dominant, forcing 8 turnovers, that the Broncos only needed 200 yards and 8 first downs to put up 30 points.]
9 BUF 23-20 9/15/1962
Broncos started the season 2-0 thanks to this come from behind win. Broncos were down 20-3 at halftime, before coming all the way back. Al Frazier caught a 96 yard Frank Tripucka TD pass in the 4th quarter to tie up the game. See this cool image I found from the game
5 SEA 37-34 9/23/1979
Broncos were down 34-10 midway through the 3rd quarter before coming back to win this wild game. Broncos forced 4 turnovers, including 3 Jim Zorn picks. Down 24, Craig Morton entered in relief of Norris Weese, who started the game with 2 picks. The Broncos scored 21 points in under 2 minutes 34 seconds, a Broncos record that still stands. Running back Rob Lyte scored the game winning Touch Down, and handed the ball to Bob Peck, the Broncos PR director. Peck had an inoperable brain tumor, and would die a few weeks later. Read this Andrew Mason write up for the complete story.
12 PIT 21-7 11/6/1977
In a defensive struggle at Mile High Stadium, neither team gained more than 216 yards of offense. The Broncos forced two Steelers’ turnovers, while Denver avoided surrendering the ball to Pittsburgh. Rick Upchurch had an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown. For more, see http://www.nytimes.com/1977/11/07/archives/broncos-go-to-71-defeating-troubled-steelers.html.
4 NWE 17-7 9/24/2006
From The Associated Press: Jake Plummer and Javon Walker gave the Broncos enough offense to keep the finicky Denver fans at bay – for another week, at least. The Broncos’ defense did the rest. Plummer, the quick target of Denver boo-birds after two bad performances, threw touchdown passes of 83 and 32 yards to Walker on Sunday night as the Broncos beat The New England Patriots 17-7 at Gillette Stadium.
They were Plummer’s first two TD passes of the season, and just the second and third touchdowns Denver has scored. “There was no difference, just go out and play,” Plummer said. “We had a good game plan … it just happened to work this week.”
But the credit goes as much to a Denver defense that shut down Tom Brady and a Patriots offense that was without several of its few options — rookie receiver Chad Jackson, the team’s only deep threat, was out with a hamstring problem and running back Corey Dillon left in the first half with an arm injury.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL74kEvs7W0. Highlights of Walker’s two touchdown receptions are available starting at the 0:34 mark. As an aside, it looks like the media’s excuses for every Brady loss has now lasted for over a decade.
13 MIN 23-20 10/4/2015
Ronnie Hillman rushed for a 72 yard TD run, and TJ Ward had a strip strap to end the game. Highlights
6 NWE 34-13 10/6/1997
Terrell Davis ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns, as the Broncos soundly defeated Pete Carroll’s Patriots at Mile High Stadium on Monday Night. John Mobley scored on a 13-yard pick-six of an errant Drew Bledsoe pass, and John Elway scored on a one-yard touchdown run.
11 BAL 27-13 11/27/1977
The 9-1 Broncos hosted the 9-1 Colts on this November afternoon. Craig Morton connected with Upchurch early in the game for a 41 yard TD pass, and would later add 2 more scores. Tom Jackson added a 73 yard interception return to extend a 14-13 lead to 21-13.
Legwold Nominated this interception as one of the Broncos three most memorable moments.
This game was key in securing the Broncos first AFC West Championship (they finished 12-2, the Raiders finished 11-3), and first playoff birth. This game also helped earn Home Field advantage over the Raiders and Colts, which the Broncos leveraged to earn their first AFC Championship title.
3 WAS 31-30 12/13/1986
Surprised to see you could find this entire game on youtube (2nd half). The Redskins jumped out to a 13-0 lead, but Elway rallied the team with 2 TDs. The Broncos clinched the AFC West with this win. The Redskins would go on to lose the NFCC 17-0 to the Giants, who would beat the Broncos in super bowl XXI, 39-20.
14 NOR 38-23 12/3/2000
At the New Orleans Superdome, Mike Anderson ran 37 times for a Broncos’ franchise game record of 251 yards and four touchdowns, while the Broncos only passed the ball 16 times. After the game, Anderson, said, “We ran two base plays all day, handoff left, hand off right.” http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/04/sports/nfl-week-14-yesterday-s-games-broncos-anderson-runs-over-saints.html.
Dwayne Carswell rumbled for a 43-yard touchdown reception to round out Denver’s touchdown output on the day. The Broncos’ defense also got in on the act by forcing three turnovers.
7 SDG 23-7 12/31/2005
The Broncos entered as 7 point underdogs since they had already locked themselves into the 2 seed, and the Chargers needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Broncos however, flexed their muscles heading into the playoffs, forcing two turnovers near the goaline, and forced Rivers’ first pick (in a sign of things to come). 330 pound Gerard Warren dove into Drew Brees’ shoulder going for a fumble and knocked him out of the game, in a play that might have changed NFL history. Bradlee Van Pelt threw his only NFL passes in this game, going 2/8 but with 41 rushing yards. Highlights
10 KAN 27-17 11/17/2013
From The Associated Press: Peyton Manning walked off (of Sports Authority Field at Mile High) showing no trace of a limp and hardly a spot of dirt. Manning threw for 323 yards and a touchdown Sunday night and was barely touched by the Kansas City Chiefs’ sack-happy defense in Denver’s 27-17 victory over the NFL’s last undefeated team. . . . And it puts the Broncos and Chiefs in a tie atop the AFC West at 9-1, with a rematch set in two weeks. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000283719/GameDay-Chiefs-vs-Broncos-highlights.
[I (Jeremy) will add in the hype to this game was incredible. The Chiefs had played a joke of a schedule, facing numerous bad teams with injured QBs, but fans were convinced their team was finally for real. I felt so satisfied when we put them in their place.]
2 CHI 31-29 11/16/1987
From The Associated Press: John Elway won a game of dueling quarterbacks with Jim McMahon in Denver, throwing for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns Monday night as the Denver Broncos twice erased deficits to beat the Chicago Bears, 31-29. Elway brought the Broncos back from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit and from eight points back in the fourth, finally running the drive that culminated in Steve Sewell’s four-yard touchdown run with 4:58 left for the winning points. The final margin was two missed extra points by the Bears. Kevin Butler kicked one wide left, and another failed when holder Mike Tomczak fumbled the snap. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwkwYUqlZ3A.
15 BOS 31-24 10/23/1960
In the Innagural AFL season, the Broncos beat the Patriots for the second time, in a sign of things to come. The Broncos were down 24-0, but came all the way back to win 31-24. The Broncos forced 5 turnovers, to overcome their 6 turnovers, in what I’m sure was a wild game.
This game is mentioned on the HOF website. “QB Frank Tripucka woke up the Broncos offense late in the third quarter and took just 18 minutes to erase the Patriots 24-point lead. Tripucka fired four touchdown passes on the day to lead the comeback win during the AFL’s inaugural season.”
1 RAI 22-19 10/28/1984
The 7-1 Broncos visited the 7-1 Raiders, and the Broncos entered the game as 6 point underdogs, despite beating the Raiders 16-13 a few weeks earlier. Elway was out, so Kubiak was called upon to face the tough Raiders defense. The Raiders sacked Kubiak for a safety early on, and built up a 12-0 lead. But Kubiak put up the best performance of his career, threw two 4th Quarter TD passes to tie the game, and drove the Broncos into position for the Game winning OT FG. The Broncos would finish the season 13-3, with an AFC West title. Boxscore
16 KAN 45-27 12/7/2003
From The Associated Press: Clinton Portis had already scored four touchdowns, so Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer figured it was time to pound the ball into the line and salt away the win. But receiver Rod Smith had other ideas. He wanted Portis to score and finish things off right. That’s just what he did. Portis scored from 53 yards for his team-record fifth touchdown and finished with 218 yards, helping Denver stay in the AFC playoff hunt . . . . He had touchdown runs of 11 and 1 yards in the first half, then added scores of 59, 28 and the final 53-yarder in the second. Portis had 188 yards after halftime and finished with his fifth consecutive 100-yard game — third straight with at least 160 yards. Portis’s touchdowns from this game are available for view starting at the 2:48 mark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGWNJdEaTGY.
8 SEA 40-17 9/13/1987
Prior to this season opener, rookie Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth made disparaging remarks about John Elway. The Mile High Stadium crowd was full of fans wearing, “Ban the Boz,” t-shirts. The Broncos went on to crush the Seahawks, with Elway throwing for 338 yards and four touchdowns. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nublTle0cZw; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9flG7ks6OQ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1ta5n6WePU.
9 NWE 27-20 9/28/1986
In a preview of the Broncos first playoff matchup against the Patriots, the 3-0 Broncos welcomed the 2-1 Patriots to mile high. After the Patriots jumped out to a 13-3 lead, the Broncos went on a 24-0 run thanks to TDs by Elway, Widmer, and Willhite. The Broncos defense held the Patriots to only 224 yards of offense.
5 NWE 20-17 10/11/2009
McDaniels beat his mentor, Bill Belicheck, in Denver, to push the Broncos to 5-0 and help convince people the Broncos weren’t a product of their soft schedule. The Broncos forced OT with a Brandon Marshall 11 yard TD pass from Kyle Orton, and Matt Prater hit his first game winning FG. This was Brady’s first OT loss ever. Film Breakdown. Highlights
12 JAX 20-7 10/2/2005
From The Associated Press: Dwayne Carswell has caught more than a dozen touchdown passes in 12 seasons. None of them was this special. Carswell, a Pro Bowl tight end in 2001 who switched to offensive tackle this season, caught two TD passes in his hometown (of Jacksonville) . . . . Several other Broncos also put on a show. Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell combined for 175 yards rushing, and Denver’s defense harassed Byron Leftwich and Fred Taylor all afternoon. Leftwich was sacked twice, knocked down even more and committed three turnovers, a fumble and two interceptions. Taylor ran eight times for 14 yards, part of a franchise-low 12 yards rushing for the Jaguars.
4 KAN 35-28 12/1/2013
From The Associated Press: In the words of Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Peyton Manning does not discriminate. If you’re playing wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, and you manage to get yourself open, you can bet that Manning is going to find a way to get you the ball. On Sunday, he rewarded Eric Decker all afternoon. Manning threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns, four of them to Decker, and the Broncos held off a rally to beat the Chiefs 35-28 (at Arrowhead Stadium) and seized control of the AFC West. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000291066/Week-13-Broncos-vs-Chiefs-highlights.
13 SEA 24-21 10/22/1989
The Broncos entered as 2 point underdogs in Seattle, and fell behind early, 14-0. Down 14-7 in the 4th quarter, Elway threw a 49 yard pass to Jackson to set up his 2 yard scrambling TD pass to Clarence Kay, tying the game 14-14. Seattle answered to go back up 21-14.
With 2 and a half minutes to go, Elway threw a 54 TD pass to Vance Johnson to tie the game, and then threw another 47 yard bomb with seconds to go to set up what should have been the game winning kick. But Treadwell missed the 28 yard FG, his 3rd miss of the game. Krieg threw his 2nd interception in OT, to set up Treadwell for redemption and the Game winning FG in OT. See this detailed write up I found.
6 ATL 24-20 11/16/2008
From The Associated Press: The Denver Broncos have come up with all sorts of ways to deal with their injuries, from starting a player on both sides of the line to relying on a guy with plenty of baggage. . . . Jay Cutler threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Graham with 5 1/2 minutes remaining, the Denver defense held off Matt Ryan’s last-gasp drive and the gritty Broncos rallied for a 24-20 victory Sunday, handing the Falcons their first loss of the season at home. . . . The first-place Broncos (6-4) played without star cornerback Champ Bailey and all three of their projected starters at linebacker. Spencer Larsen started at both middle linebacker and fullback, the first player in team history to pull off that double. http://www.denverbroncos.com/multimedia/videos/NFL-Network-Broncos-Falcons-Highlights/c41259ef-72c0-11df-a3b6-528cc843f916; http://www.denverbroncos.com/multimedia/videos/Broncos-Falcons-Recap/c41261b2-72c0-11df-a3b6-528cc843f916;
11 KAN 19-3 8/31/1997
Fresh off the loss to Jacksonville, the Broncos opened the season against Neil Smith’s former team. The D was stout, allowing only 241 total yards, and only 3 points. The Broncos would meet the Chiefs twice more this season, with both games being classics.
3 GNB 29-10 11/1/2015
This Sunday Night home matchup featured two undefeated rivals. People thought the Broncos were a product of their soft schedule, and they entered as 2.5 home point underdogs. The entire team put their best foot forward as the Broncos sent a statement to the rest of the league.
The Broncos D put up their best regular season performance, holding the high powered Packers offense to an amazingly low amazing 140 yards, and Rodgers was held to just 77 yards. DT put up his best game of the season with 168 yards and 8 receptions. Ronnie Hillman had 2 TDs and CJ broke out of his slump with 100 yards rushing. Peyton put up his best performance of the year, with 340 yards passing on 21/29.
Additionally, Pat Bowlen was inducted into the ring of fame. I feel pretty lucky to have been at this game. Highlights
14 SEA 27-24 12/20/1985
Elway threw for 432 yards, and the Broncos overcame a 17 point deficit for a surprising win at the Seattle Kingdome. The rally commenced when Elway connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Steve Watson.
7 KAN 20-19 10/4/1992
The 3-1 Broncos hosted the 3-1 Chiefs at Mile High. The Chiefs were up 16-6 with 6 minutes to go when Neil Smith forced and recovered an Elway fumble, leaving the Broncos with grim odds. The D held KC to just a FG, but the Broncos were still down 13 with 5 minutes left to play.
But Elway did what he does best, leading a 14 play, 80 yard TD drive that was capped with a 25 yard TD pass to Mark Jackson. With the crowd buzzing, the Chiefs started deep in their own territory and the defense forced a quick 3 and out. A good punt return gave the Broncos the ball at the 27, and Elway needed only a few plays to find Vance Johnson for 6 points. Treadwell bounced the go ahead XP off the upright.
Elway had 311 yards passing and 2 TDs, with Sharpe coming down with 9 catches for 118 yards. See this awesome write up of the game I found on Predominately Orange.
10 SDG 7-0 10/7/1979
Broncos’ safety Billy Thompson had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the Broncos’ shutout win over the Chargers at Mile High Stadium. The Broncos’ defense forced four total turnovers to stymie the Chargers’ Air Coryell passing attack, which featured three future Hall of Famers in quarterback Dan Fouts, wide receiver Charlie Joiner, and then-rookie tight end Kellen Winslow.
2 PIT 14-10 9/4/1983
From The New York Times: When Ron Egloff caught the fourth-quarter touchdown pass that gave the Denver Broncos a victory (at) Pittsburgh . . . today, John Elway, Denver’s rookie quarterback, leaped high into the air with his arms over his head. That Elway was injured at the time and standing on the sideline, and that the pass was thrown by Steve DeBerg, his replacement, were of little consequence to him. “All I wanted to see was a big ‘W’ up there,” Elway said after the Broncos held on to win, 14-10, on the first Sunday of the National Football League season. . . . The Broncos took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Sammy Winder, ending a 20- yard drive set up by a Franco Harris fumble. Harris’s fumble was the second of seven Pittsburgh turnovers – four fumbles and three interceptions by the quarterback Cliff Stoudt, who started in place of the injured Terry Bradshaw [who had been highly critical of Elway that off-season].
Elway had a rough start to his career. As you may recall in this game, Elway mistakenly lined up under an offensive guard instead of the center on one offensive play. His stat line finished as 1 for 8, with 1 interception, 4 sacks, and no positive rushing attempts.
15 RAM 27-24 12/12/1982
In the strike shortened season, the Broncos traveled to LA where they were 2.5 point underdogs. The Rams jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, before Upchurch hauled in a 51 yard TD pass from Deberg. The Broncos D forced 3 interceptions to help complete the comeback, and the team went on to win 27-24. This game was ultimately the last win they had as a franchise, before Elway became their QB.