In the third of Thin Air’s Rate Your Hate series, we consider the teams of the NFC North.
Due to infrequent matchups, the NFC North doesn’t have quite as many notable games, but there are still a handful to talk about–some bad, but the most significant one is the best.
Games between the Broncos and Bears have tended to be very close contests. The last four contests between the two can attest to that. The Bears pulled off two very painful victories over the Broncos in 2003–beating them in Denver 19-10 despite using two over-the-hill quarterbacks in Chris Chandler and Kordell Stewart–and 37-34 in overtime in 2007, when Todd Sauerbrun had absolutely no idea how to handle Devin Hester.
But the Broncos would get the Bears back with their own painful victories. It’s tough to be 2011, when what happened had nothing to do with luck: God came down from heaven and forced Marion Barber out of bounds. And in 2015, Brock Osweiler came in for his first career start to pull of a tight 17-15 victory–also the only time Jay Cutler ever played against the Broncos in a regular season game.
The Broncos lead the series 8-7.
Unlike with the Bears, games between the Broncos and Lions have often been lopsided affairs. Only one of the past eight games had a margin of victory within single digits: a 20-16 Broncos victory in 2003. After that, the Lions flat out embarrassed the Broncos twice in a row, putting 40+ spots on them both times. But the Broncos won the latest matchup in 2015, and they currently lead the series 7-5.
Green Bay Packers
Unlike with most of the NFC East, the Broncos are the ones who, despite any other losses against them, hold the trump card against the Packers: Super Bowl XXXII. That trump card comes in handy when having to deal with some of the bad losses the Broncos have had against the Packers in the regular season. The Elway-less Broncos got pasted 41-6 in Green Bay the year before their most famous showdown. With Elway in 1993, the Broncos attempted a furious comeback that included inflicting three interceptions on a young Brett Favre–but they fell short 30-27. And in 2007, Favre completely broke the hearts of Broncos in 2007 fans when he dropped an 82-yard bomb on the first play of overtime.
The Packers also hold a 31-3 victory over the Broncos in Week 17 of 2003–but that game comes with a heavy asterisk. The Broncos were already locked into the #6 seed in the AFC, thus Mike Shanahan elected to sit starters. The Packers, meanwhile, were desperate: they needed a win and a Vikings loss–against the pathetic Cardinals, nonethess–to get into the playoffs. You asked for miracles, Packers fans, they gave you Nate Poole and a Paul Allen meltdown.
However, the most recent game between the Broncos and Packers was overwhelming positive. Both teams were 6-0 heading into Sunday night, and the Broncos were taking a hefty amount of criticism for being overrated due to a Peyton Manning led offense actually struggling. They ended up obliterating the Packers 29-10 in all facets of the game. That season was also 2015, the year they won Super Bowl 50. That win helped edge the Broncos ahead of the Packers for the all-time record, at 7-6-1.
The Broncos and Vikings have not had too many terribly memorable games against each other. For several seasons they were brothers in arms along with the Bills in going 0-4 in Super Bowls. They came very close to meeting in Super Bowl XXXIII, a matchup that could have very easily imperiled the Broncos’ bid for back to back championships due to how lethal that 1998 Vikings offense was. However, the Falcons believed in miracles, with Gary Anderson missing the first field goal of the season that would have likely sealed a victory for the Vikings–it instead led to an overtime defeat. (Also note the graphic: the last time Anderson missed a kick until then was against Denver, as a member of the 49ers.)
Perhaps the one play that gets shown too many times if you’re a Broncos fan comes from 2003, when Randy Moss lateraled a first half Hail Mary catch from Daunte Culpepper to Moe Williams for a touchdown. Mercifully, that play didn’t end up deciding the game, as the Vikings won 28-20.
The series between the Broncos and Vikings is tied 7-7