By Jimmie Kaylor @jimmiekaylor on July 15, 2014
On Aug. 14, 2014, the Denver Broncos will turn 55 years old. In their time as an AFL and NFL franchise, they have been one of the most successful and storied franchises in all of professional football. They have made 20 playoff appearances, won 12 division titles and played in seven Super Bowls. In total, the Broncos have won 432 regular season games and 20 playoff games. Here’s a look at the 12 wins that stand out above the rest.
This win didn’t have the flashiness of a Super Bowl or playoff victory, but it was a huge milestone for the Denver Broncos franchise. The 42-28 pounding of the San Diego Chargers clinched the first winning season in franchise history. Charley Johnson and Floyd Little led the offense, and the defense played a solid game against the Dan Fouts-led Chargers offense.
This AFC Wildcard playoff game was the peak of Tebow-Mania in Denver, and Denver won this game in true “Tebow-era Broncos” fashion. The defense played lights-out much like they had during the regular season and Tebow had one of the better passing games of his career. On the first play in overtime, Tebow found Demaryius Thomas on a play-action pass for an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown leading to an hour-long, stadium-wide celebration.
This was a comeback win of epic proportions. The Broncos went into halftime down 24-0 and showed little fight. Quarterback Peyton Manning played a near-flawless second half and the defense added two touchdowns and the Broncos left San Diego with a 35-24 victory. This victory really got the ball rolling for the Broncos in Manning’s first season in Denver. They went on to win their next 10 games, which gave them the top seed in the AFC Playoffs.
This was the first game in AFL history and also served as the first win in Denver Broncos franchise history. The Broncos won this game 13-10 in front of close to 21,000 spectators at Boston University’s Nickerson Field. There was no television coverage for this game, which is a far cry from the media circus that surrounds a Broncos/Patriots game today. Future Broncos Ring of Fame inductee, quarterback Frank Tripucka, led the Broncos to victory.
The New York Jets' Super Bowl victory over the Baltimore Colts gets all the credit, but this was actually the first game in which an AFL team beat an NFL team. Sure, it was only a preseason game, but this was truly a stunning win and a huge win for the AFL. The Lions thought so lowly of their AFL competition that defensive tackle Alex Karras said he would walk back to Detroit if they lost. After some backtracking, Karras flew home with the team.
This game is best known for “The Fumble”. In a rematch of the previous year’s AFC Championship Game, the Browns had to travel to Denver this time. The game was full of lead changes, drama and unlikely heroes. The Broncos were ahead 38-31 when Cleveland easily drove down to the Denver eight-yard line. On the next play, Jeremiah Castille stripped Earnest Byner and the Broncos recovered and went on to win 38-33. They were headed to Super Bowl XXII.
This was another epic chapter in the Brady vs. Manning rivalry. The Broncos were coming off the disappointment from their early playoff exit the year before and Manning was feeling the heat to win a big-time game from nearly everyone outside of the Broncos locker room. Manning and the Broncos dominated and the game was never really in question. The win was a relief to all of Broncos Country and was a statement win for the franchise.
This game is best known for “The Drive”. In one of the most clutch 4th quarter performances in NFL history, John Elway led the Broncos on a 98-yard, game-tying touchdown drive. “The Drive” took 15 plays and culminated with an Elway to Mark Jackson touchdown pass with 37 seconds left in regulation. Rich Karlis connected on a field goal in overtime to send the Broncos to Super Bowl XXI.
This divisional match-up against Terry Bradshaw and the Steel Curtain defense was the first ever playoff appearance in Broncos franchise history. The first playoff win in franchise history also came on this day. Quarterback Craig Morton had a solid game and was so beat up he had spent the entire next week in the hospital. Linebacker Tom Jackson led the defense with two interceptions and the Broncos won their first ever playoff game 34-21.
Playing in only their second playoff game in franchise history, the Broncos beat the Oakland Raiders to earn a trip to the first Super Bowl in team history. Quarterback Craig Morton was hospitalized and missed the entire week of practice leading up to the game, but still managed to suit up and lead the Broncos to victory. At the time, this was the biggest win in the history of the Denver Broncos franchise.
This Broncos team was one of the best teams in NFL history. After cruising through the playoffs, beating their opponents by a combined 63-13, the Broncos were heavy favorites.
Though the Falcons scored first, the game was never in doubt. At halftime, the Broncos led 17-6 and never looked back. In his last game, John Elway was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII. The win capped one of the most impressive three-year runs by a team in NFL history.
This win ended a lifelong Super Bowl drought for the franchise and also ended an embarrassing four-game Super Bowl losing streak where the Broncos had been outscored 163-50.
The win was filled with some of the best moments in team history. From Terrell Davis battling migraines, then going on to be named MVP, to the “helicopter”, the trademark play of Elway’s career, to owner Pat Bowlen’s timeless salute, “this one’s for John!”
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