On to Round 4. I decided to keep it simple and reseed the regular season games based upon their vote count in the last round. The 8 regular season games that get to advance are: NWE 30-24 11/29/2015; OAK 30-7 10/16/1977; RAI 22-19 10/28/1984; GNB 29-10 11/1/2015; SDG 35-24 10/15/2012; CHI 31-29 11/16/1987; OAK 27-24 11/13/2000; DAL 42-23 9/13/1998.
I did not make another spreadsheet, but the bracket is in order below.
16 HOU 34-10 01/10/88
The Broncos jumped to a 14–0 early lead by converting two turnovers into two touchdowns. On the second play of the game, Denver defensive back Steve Wilson recovered a fumbled lateral pass by running back Mike Rozier at the Houston one-yard line, setting up Gene Lang’s one-yard rushing touchdown. Then on the Oilers’ next drive, linebacker Karl Mecklenburg intercepted a pass from Warren Moon in the end zone. The Broncos drove 72 yards and scored on John Elway’s 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Clarence Kay. Both teams exchanged field goals in the second period before Elway threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Kay.
In the fourth quarter, Moon completed a 19-yard touchdown to wide receiver Ernest Givins, but it was countered with Elway’s three-yard touchdown run. Broncos’ receiver Vance Johnson caught four passes for 105 yards, but he was injured in the game and had to miss the AFC Championship Game and saw limited action in Super Bowl XXII. NBC Sports’ game introduction is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjIKJHMOg08. Limited game highlights are available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb5IUW9aKLk.
17 PIT 24-23 01/07/90
8 NYJ 23-10 01/17/99
On an incredibly windy day, and in John Elway’s last home game of his career, he completed only 13 of 34 passes. However, running back Terrell Davis, the NFL MVP in 1998, ran for 167 yards and a touchdown, and Denver capitalized on 6 turnovers (two interceptions by defensive back Darrien Gordon and four fumbles) by the Jets to overcome a 10–0 deficit. Jets running back Curtis Martin was held to just 14 rushing yards on 13 carries. New York quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw for 356 yards, but no touchdowns and was intercepted twice. Gordon returned 5 punts for 79 yards and two interceptions for 48. CBS Sports’ game introduction: is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7B8wL_Sju3I. The entire game, including late 1990s commercials, is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iU6Q0PzTGs.
25 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.
4 OAK 20-17 01/01/78 – BYE
13 NWE 22-17 01/04/87
According to the NYTs, “The Denver Broncos had what New England lacked today – a running game, an inspiring quarterback and a penetrating defense.” The Broncos rushed for 101 yards on 20 caries in the second half. Elway didn’t need any heroics thanks to a 48 yard Touchdown pass to Vance Johnson on the last play of the 3rd quarter.
The Broncos sacked Tony Eason 6 times, including in the 4th quarter for a safety to seal the game.
Elway struggled at times playing on an injured ankle, but put up 257 yards and a TD, and ran for another. This was the Broncos first playoff win with Elway, and first playoff win since the 1977 season.
20 JAX 42-17 12/27/97
Denver compiled 310 rushing yards and 511 total yards of offense, and held the ball for 40:59 in a 42–17 win, avenging their playoff loss to the Jaguars the year before. The Broncos dominated early, converting their first nine third downs and scoring touchdowns on their first three drives. On the Broncos’ first drive, they converted four third downs, as they drove 72 yards in 7:21, featuring a 25-yard reception by Ed McCaffrey on 3rd and 15, and scored on a two-yard touchdown run by Terrell Davis. The Broncos then drove 60 yards and increased their lead to 14-0 with a 43-yard touchdown pass from John Elway to Rod Smith on 3rd down and 4 with 2:37 left in the first quarter. The Broncos then drove 92 yards to make the score 21-0 on Davis’s five-yard touchdown run.
Davis rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Derek Loville, who had only rushed for 124 yards during the regular season, had 103 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. Elway completed 16 of 24 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. Rod Smith was the top receiver of the game with three receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown. Vaughn Hebron also had six carries for 23 yards and a touchdown. I could not find any footage from this game online, but I think I may have a VHS tape somewhere in my basement or at my parents’ home.
12 HOU 26-24 01/04/92
In the Drive Part II, and trailing 24–23 with 2:07 left in the game, quarterback John Elway led the Broncos from their own two-yard line to the winning 28-yard field goal by David Treadwell with 16 seconds left. On the drive, he converted on two fourth downs. On fourth down and 6 from the Denver 28, he rushed for 7 yards. Then on fourth down and 10, he completed a 44-yard pass to wide receiver Vance Johnson.
The Oilers jumped to a 14–0 lead with quarterback Warren Moon’s two touchdown passes to wide receivers Haywood Jeffires and Drew Hill for 15 and 9 yards, respectively. Elway then completed a 10-yard touchdown to Johnson, but kicker Treadwell missed the extra point. Moon responded by throwing a 6-yard touchdown to wide receiver Curtis Duncan to give Houston a 21–6 lead, but Denver safety Steve Atwater’s interception set up Greg Lewis’ 1-yard run touchdown before halftime on an 88-yard drive, making the score 21–13.
In the second half, each team scored a field goal, which gave Houston a 24–16 lead in the fourth quarter. The Broncos then marched 80 yards to score on Lewis’ 1-yard touchdown run on a drive that included a fumbled snap that Elway recovered to complete a first down pass, and a 26-yard completion on fourth down and a four. Denver’s defense subsequently forced a punt for the first time in the game, and Greg Montgomery’s 44-yard kick was downed on the 2-yard line. From there, Elway started off the drive with a 22-yard pass to Mike Young. The Broncos were forced into fourth downs twice in a row after that, but Elway converted each one with a 7-yard run and 44-yard completion to Johnson at the Oilers 21-yard line. One play later, Treadwell kicked a 28-yard field goal for the win. NFL Films’ highlights, with Tyrone Braxton wired for sound, are available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3p85vWJ1L0.
21 NWE 30-24 11/29/2015
The Broncos were down 21-7 heading into the 4th quarter, in this snowy Sunday Night matchup between the 10-0 Patriots and 9-2 Broncos. Osweiler was filling in for an injured Peyton, in only his second start, and at that point was 15/29, for 132 yards.
The Broncos got their spark when the patriots muffed the punt, and the Broncos recovered. The Broncos went on to score 17 unanswered points, to give themselves a 3 point lead with 1:09 to go. Unfortunately, Brady lead the team on a 51 yard drive to get the game timing field goal. The Patriots received to start OT, but only moved backwards thanks to a Von Miller sack.
The Broncos had great field position, and 3 plays later CJ Anderson had a walk off 48 yard TD run to end the game. Highlights
5 CLE 38-33 01/17/88
Fresh of Elway’s MVP season, and one year after the drive, the Broncos again faced the Cleveland browns for the AFCC, but this time the game was played at Mile High. At first, it did not appear the Broncos would need an Elway comeback, as they instead jumped to leads of 21-3, and 28-10. But Bernie Kosar got hot, and brought the team back to tie the game at 31-31. Elway lead the Broncos on a TD drive culminating with a 20 yard TD pass to Winder with 6 minutes to go.
After a long Browns drive, Byner, who had 2 TDs and 187 yards at that point in the game, fumbled the ball at the goal line, in a play known as “The Fumble.” The Broncos held on to win, and advance on to the Super Bowl.
Elway finished the day 14/26, for 281 yards and 3 TDs, including an 80 yard TD toss to Jackson on a scramble play. The Broncos D forced 4 Cleveland turnovers in total.
28 DAL 42-23 9/13/1998
One of only 2 regular season game from 1998 to make this list. The Broncos embarrassed a good Cowboys team, with TD rushing for 191 yards and 3 TDs (breakaway TD runs of 63 and 59 yards), and Elway going an efficient 16 for 22 for 268 yards and 2 TDs. Aikman was knocked out of the game and Jason Garret filled in. Boxscore
6 CLE 37-21 01/14/90
This time there would be no drama. For the third time in the 1980s, the Broncos defeated the Browns to be crowned AFC Champions. John Elway led the Broncos to a 37–21 victory with 385 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, while also leading the Broncos in rushing with 39 yards on the ground. Denver outgained Cleveland in total yards 497 to 256 and forced three turnovers. NBC Sports’ game introduction is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKa4wrMjLQc.
27 OAK 27-24 11/13/2000
Monday night game against an Oak team that was the clear cut best in the league (they finished the year 12-4, with 2 losses coming against the Broncos). Greise got knocked out with a separated shoulder and came back to lead the team to victory. He talked after the game about hearing his shoulder pop in and out on certain throws. He lead the team on a 7 play 44 yard drive to give the Broncos the game winning FG and avoid OT with only 1:06 to go. The defense also forced 3 turnovers, including 2 Rich Gannon INTs.
11 NWE 27-13 01/14/06
Tom Brady rolled into this game with a 10-0 playoff record, and looked to keep it rolling. But the Broncos had other ideas.
The Broncos were 13-3 that year, and had the first complete team since 1998, and were looking to roll in their first home playoff game since the 1998 season.
Both teams started slow on offense, but the Broncos got things going and headed into halftime up 10-3, thanks to a 40 yard PI call drawn by Lelie, and a Todd Sauerbrun forced fumble. At the end of the third quarter, the Broncos were up 10-6 but the Patriots were knocking on the door when Bailey picked off Brady and returned the ball 100 yards before being tackled at the 1. A Mike Anderson TD on the next play gave the Broncos an 11 point lead and all the momentum. A botched punt gave the Broncos great field position and a Rod Smith TD pass gave the Broncos a commanding 24-6 point lead in the 4th quarter. The Broncos put the final nail in the coffin with a John Lynch Interception. Brady finished 20/36, 341 yards, 2 picks and a 74 Rating. Plummer finished 15/26, 197 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. Rod Smith had 6 catches for 96 yards and a TD, in arguably his last “great game.” Great Highlights and recap.
22 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.]
14 SDG 24-17 01/12/14
Denver jumped out to a 17–0 lead and held off a late San Diego rally to prevail 24–17 and advance to their first AFC Championship since 2005, running the final four minutes off the clock with a ten-play drive that included three third down conversions.
Peyton Manning finished 25-for-36 for 230 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. Philip Rivers finished with 217 yards and 2 touchdowns, 173 of which came in the 4th quarter. Keenan Allen finished with 6 receptions and 142 yards with 2 touchdowns, becoming the first rookie wide receiver since 1992 to have 100+ yards and 2 touchdowns in a playoff game. Knowshon Moreno had 84 yards and a touchdown, along with a 12-yard reception, while Montee Ball added 10 carries for 52 yards.
NFL Game Day highlights are available at http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000312637/GameDay-Chargers-vs-Broncos-highlights
3 PIT 24-21 01/11/98 – BYE
A long slow TD drive by the Broncos to start the 2nd half put them up 20-3 half way through the 3rd quarter. On the Patriot’s next drive, time was running out for the Patriots, and Belicheck decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Denver 29 with 3 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. Pot Roast burst immediately up the middle and slung Brady down like a rag doll, in that games most iconic moment.
The Broncos put up another long FG drive to put them up 23-3 with 12 minutes to go. At this point the Broncos D went prevent, and Brady put together two TD drives, pulling the Patriots within 10 with 3 minutes to go, and all 3 timeouts. But when the onside kick failed, The Broncos put together 3 first downs, including a 23 yard pass to seal the game and the Broncos first AFCC since 1998. Highlights
10 KAN 14-10 01/04/98
For the third consecutive year the AFC’s top seed fell in the divisional playoffs. One week after avenging last year’s playoff loss against Jacksonville, the Broncos avenged their 24–22 regular season loss in Kansas City by knocking the Chiefs out of the playoffs. Denver running back Terrell Davis ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Broncos to victory. Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac threw for 260 yards, but his team could only score 10 points.
For the second time in 3 years, Kansas City was eliminated as a #1 seed. The Chiefs lost despite outgaining Denver in total yards (303 to 272), first downs (18 to 16) and time of possession (31:06 to 28:54). Elway finished with 10 of 19 completions for 170 yards. Denver linemen Alfred Williams and Neil Smith (a former Chief) each had two sacks. This was the last game in the hall of fame career of Chiefs running back Marcus Allen. Highlights of the Broncos’ final defensive stand in this game are available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYV8rZ2bPwQ.
23 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
15 PIT 23-16 01/17/16
Fresh of his triumphant return in San Diego, PFM and the Broncos faced off against a banged up Steelers squad. Some great special teams plays set the Broncos up with 2 early FGs, and a late drive just before half kept the game close at 10-9. The Broncos and Steelers traded FGs, but the Steelers seemed to have all the momentum as they drove in the 4th quarter. Bradely Roby forced a fumble, finally giving the team the turnover and spark it needed.
The Broncos put together a 13 play drive complete with 4 First downs, including a 31 yard catch by Bernie Fowler on 3rd and 12 that concluded with a CJ Anderson TD. The Broncos lead 20-13 with 3 minutes to go. The D flexed their muscles again, and sacked Roethlisberger on 4th and 5. The Broncos held onto win, and continued their magical season.
18 MIA 38-3 01/09/99
Denver blew out Miami, outgaining them in rushing yards 250–14 and scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions. Terrell Davis ran for 199 yards, caught a pass for seven yards, and scored two touchdowns. Elway threw for 182 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 19 yards. Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino threw for 243 yards, but could not lead his team to a single touchdown and was intercepted twice. This was the only time that Hall of Famers Elway and Marino (both members of the famous 1983 draft class) faced each other in the playoffs; Elway was in his last season, and Marino in his next-to-last. Limited game highlights are available at http://www.denverbroncos.com/multimedia/videos/Great-moments-in-divisional-playoff-history-1998/de27d8db-d2b5-4c89-9514-b97d553e7e09.
2 NWE 20-18 01/24/16 – BYE