The dissenters still whisper in the shadows of the Mile High City. The Denver Broncos finally converted a majority of its fan base after their convincing win last Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens. More than one Power Ranking across the World Wide Web has the Broncos listed as the best team in the league, after the New England Patriots all but handed the Broncos a home playoff match up with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football. The Denver Broncos could ride Peyton Manning’s return to the Super Bowl.
Within this idea, there still lingers a shadow over a potential Broncos Super Bowl. The “voices of reason” do not see the Broncos as the only team in the NFL with a top five offense and defense. They see Peyton Manning going down to injury at any moment. They see Von Miller forgetting how to terrorize offensive lines. They remember the four Super Bowls the Broncos didn’t win before John Elway’s final two triumphs.
Super Bowl XII: Dallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10
Super Bowl XXI: New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20
Super Bowl XXII: Washington Redskins 42, Denver Broncos 10
Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Bronocs 10
In Denver, they remember what happens after the Mile High Magic. It usually ends in a blowout. That may be a driving force to the critical nature of the Broncos fan base despite a nine game winning streak. After the Colorado Avalanche won the city’s fourth major sports’ championship in six years in 2001, the elevation of Denver fans was higher than 5280 feet, but a decade of coming up short in the worst ways haunts this Broncos season.
Everyone remembers Tim Tebow to Demariyus Thomas, the 80-yard play to start off overtime in the first round victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the conclusion to the Tebow Time magic and Denver fans believed in the blue and orange. The sobering destruction the next week against the Patriots left fans hurt and confused.
The Broncos last playoff run in 2005 saw Jake Plummer lead the orange and Blue over the Patriots on a huge Champ Bailey interception. An anticipated AFC Championship game hosting the Steelers ended with another crushing defeat as the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl. Mike Shanahan replaced Plummer with rookie Jay Cutler the next season and the Broncos fizzled out under Shanahan’s tenure. Similarly, Shanahan’s “successor,” Josh McDaniels, started his Broncos coaching tenure 6-0, but was fired after going 5-17.
The collapsing syndrome infects all Denver teams. In 2007, the Boston Red Sox embarrassed the Colorado Rockies in the World Series with a sweep after Colorado won 20-21 games, fueling Roctober. In 2009, the Rockies ended one of the best second halves in baseball history with a 3-1 first round series exit to the Philadelphia Phillies. Closer Houston Street blew two saves in Colorado’s final two games at Coors Field.
It was always a letdown to watch the first round exits of the Denver Nuggets and then Carmelo Anthony destroyed the best team he played on with trade talks in 2009 on his way to the New York Knicks. Even the Avalanche, the last championship winner in Colorado back in 2001, ended their dominance in crushing fashion. In game seven of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, the Detroit Red Wing blew them out 7-0. The Avs have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since that game.
The Broncos have a realistic chance to claim the Vince Lombardi trophy in New Orleans, ending the city’s championship drought. However, without the magic that embraced the city under Tebow, the believers must simply look at the facts. No higher power is pulling the strings for this Broncos team, just a veteran quarterback on his way to a fifth MVP award. The air is thinner in Denver, Colorado and it causes bigger explosions. Hopefully, the Broncos can save such fireworks for a victory parade.