Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Broncos are World Champions! Attending the 2016 Super Bowl

On the first weekend in February 2016 I attended the second Super Bowl in my life - and oh what a weekend it was!  Here I am with my son Andrew in downtown San Francisco near Super Bowl City on Saturday night.

Thanks to the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club I won the opportunity to purchase a pair of tickets at list price to the game.

We arrived at the San Francisco airport at noon on Saturday.  As we walked to the baggage claim we saw scenes from the previous 49 Super Bowls on the terminal walls.  Naturally I was drawn to this picture of Super Bowl XXXII and the Broncos big win over the Packers that day.

There were displays of memorabilia from all 32 NFL teams.  Here's a picture of the Bronco display.  The jersey was worn by Floyd Little in his last game for the Broncos.

A closer look at the Broncos display revealed the shoe that Jason Elam wore to kick his record tying 63 yard field goal.  To the left was the draft card the Broncos turned in to select Demaryius Thomas.

The Super Bowl committee was very well organized, with volunteers throughout the airport available to answer questions from visiting fans.

We checked into our San Francisco airport hotel (the Holiday Inn) and we soon were off to the downtown area.  Our plan was to go to Super Bowl City but long lines prevented that (a 2 hour wait to get in!).  Instead we went to the NFL store inside the Moscone Center.

More crowds inside the large NFL store.  We saw far more Bronco fans than Carolina fans (in fact we saw more fans from other teams than Panther fans).  Lots of interesting NFL merchandise here but I resisted the urge to buy at the store's inflated prices.

Instead of battling the crowds at the NFL venues we enjoyed walking around downtown San Francisco and having a delicious seafood dinner on the waterfront.  We heard some residents were not thrilled with all the tourists descending on their city for the Super Bowl, but it surely must have been a boost to the local economy.

Game day!  We rode to the stadium in style with a friend who had arranged limo transfers.

Our excitement grew as we approached the stadium.  We were directed to an outdoor plaza where we went through security and had our tickets scanned.  No outside food or drink was allowed to be brought in - a couple of protein bars I brought had to be thrown out.

Even though it was three hours before kickoff the plaza area was packed with fans.   Here we saw Terry Bradshaw telling fans of his Super Bowl playing days and answering questions from the fans.  In another area we saw the CBS set with Boomer Esiason and others on the CBS broadcast team doing a pregame report.  A stage was setup for pregame concerts. 

Bronco fans were given free orange rally towels at this stand.  We got a couple of these keepsakes but we didn't see many fans waiving them during the game.  Rather than stay in plaza area too long we were anxious to get to our seats to get a bite to eat.

 At our seats at last!  We were very happy with our view - even with the 10 yard line in the second row of the upper deck.  This was a similar angle to my season ticket seats I have back home at Sports Authority field.

We sat next to Jim and Marilyn from the Bronco QB Club.  They have been to every previous Bronco Super Bowl dating back to the first one in 1978.  Thanks to the Bronco QB Club they were able to keep their streak alive!  My seats were much better than the ones I had at the only other Super Bowl I attended (Super Bowl XXI featuring the Broncos/Giants at the Rose Bowl)

The game is finally here!  Lady Gaga appeared as a small dot far on the field below as she sang the National Anthem.  The Blue Angels flyover, timed perfectly as the anthem ended, was an amazing sight to see.  The pregame ceremonies were well done - I also liked the introduction of the previous 49 Super Bowl MVPs.

Kickoff!  Not an empty seat at Levis Stadium as the game started.  Our section was almost all Bronco fans and we were loud!  Overall there seemed to be many more Bronco fans in attendance than Panther fans.

There's nothing like being at a Super Bowl game, but the halftime show is really better watching at home.  I thought the show was just OK, and then I was more impressed when I watched the replay on TV the next day.  Fans in attendance were given cards to display with instructions on the scoreboard as to when to lift them up.

Hold on, Broncos, hold on!  The defense gave Denver the early lead.  The intensity grew in the second half as Carolina threatened to get back into the game.  No worries as the Bronco defense was dominant on this day.

Broncos win!!!!  There is nothing like seeing your team win a Super Bowl in person.  I was so glad to be able to experience this once in my lifetime, and be able to share it with my son.  A day we will remember forever!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The AFC Championship Game Experience

I have attended all seven AFC Championship games played in Denver - including the Broncos Sunday's thrilling 20-18 victory over the New England Patriots.  Here are some pictures of my experience.

That's me in the third row of the upper deck in the brown shirt behind the guy with the "7" Elway jersey.  My son Andrew in the Mile High football t-shirt is next to me.  Why didn't I wear orange?  The weather forecast called for temperatures in the lower 40's so I figured I'd be wearing a coat all day.  No one would see my shirt so why not wear a warm flannel one?  But when we arrived the temperatures felt like a September game.  The early 1 pm kickoff resulted in the sun shining on us for most of the 1st half.  By the second half the temperatures dropped to the upper 30's and the coats came on - not too cold and perfect January football weather.

Our seats, in the second deck in the northwest corner behind the end zone, would prove to be a perfect vantage point for the drama we would witness at the end of the game.  Every game I bring binoculars (to see plays near the south end zone) and a radio to listen to Dave Logan's KOA Radio play by play.

This Patriot fan was seated near us but he was relatively quiet during the game (wonder why?)  We saw a number of Patriot fans while walking to the stadium, but once inside we didn't see as many.  For the Pittsburgh playoff game the week before there were far more visiting fans.

The crowd gave a big cheer for the pregame skydivers landing on the field after jumping from high over Mile High.  The roar was a hint of how loud the stadium would get later that day.

The crowd noise rose during the player introductions - boos for the Patriots and cheers for the home team.

As shown on the scoreboard, 102.8 DBs (decibels) at kickoff!  The fans were really getting into it now.  It was the loudest I have heard the crowd at Sports Authority Field.  Not quite as loud as the old Mile High Stadium but plenty loud enough.  The noise would play a major factor in disrupting many a Patriots play this game.

Fast forward to the end of the game - Broncos win!  The last 6 minutes were the most intense I have ever experienced in my 50+ years of attending Denver home games, as the Patriots threatened to tie the score in the north end zone below us.  We were high fiving everyone around us as victory was assured in the last few seconds.

WIth our north end zone seats we also had a great viewing angle for the post game trophy ceremony.

Was this the greatest Bronco home game ever?  I still rate the first AFC Championship win (20-17) on January 1, 1978 as my favorite Bronco home game of all time (I was in the South Stands for that one).  But this sweet victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots is a close second - a nice bookend to that first AFC Championship game for my many years of cheering on the Broncos at the old and new Mile High.  Regardless of the outcome of the Super Bowl in two weeks, the memory of what happened here on January 24, 2016 will always bring a smile to my face.  Go Broncos!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Broncos AFC Championship This Sunday Reminds Me of Their First One

Here I am with my son Andrew before the Broncos/Steelers playoff game this past Sunday.  The Steeler game brought back memories for me of the very first Bronco playoff run at the end of the magical 1977 season.

Yes I attended my first playoff game on December 24, 1977 against these same Pittsburgh Steelers.  I was age 21 at the time - just one year younger than my son Andrew is today.

This AFC Championship game matchup this Sunday really reminds me of the Broncos first AFC championship game in 1977 (actually January 1, 1978);

  • The Broncos beat the Steelers to reach the championship game each season in a close, hard fought, emotional game.
  • The Broncos are playing a defending Super Bowl champion at home for the AFC title (Raiders in 78, Pats in 2016)
  • Broncos are led by a strong defense with a just good enough offense led by a savvy veteran qb with health issues (Craig Morton in 78, Peyton Manning in 2016)
  • Broncos are underdogs (to the Raiders in 78 and the Patriots are favored Sunday by 2 1/2 points)
  • Early kickoff for a Denver home game (12 noon in 1978, 1 pm this Sunday)

While the odds makers and experts will favor New England, don't bet against the Broncos! Just like a strong defense and the home field was enough for Denver to beat the Raiders in that AFC Championship game on New Years Day 1978, I think the same factors can lead to a Broncos win this Sunday.  I'll be there - attending my 7th AFC Championship game in person in Denver (Raiders 1978, Cleveland 1988 - the Fumble, Cleveland 1989, Jets 1999, Steelers 2006, Pats 2014, Pats 2016)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mark Cooper at the QB Club

Former Bronco Mark Cooper educated a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club crowd on the intricacies of NFL offensive line play at our monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Cooper played on the John Elway Bronco teams from 1983 through 1987 at various positions along the offensive line.  He was drafted in 1983 in the second round - the same year Elway started with the Broncos.  Cooper told us he roomed with Elway in that first year.  In addition to his time in Denver Cooper played for Tampa Bay from 1987-89.  He was a college teammate of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and former Georgia head coach Mark Richt at the University of Miami.  With these credentials we were anxious to hear Cooper's insights on the current Broncos team.

Cooper is still very much involved in the game - coaching youth football in the Denver area in addition to being a realtor (he's been with ReMax for 25 years).    He said he still watches a lot of film on the Broncos.

He described the zone blocking scheme that Gary Kubiak has once again turned to after this scheme was so successful with the Shanahan coached Broncos.  Former Bronco offensive line coach Alex Gibbs "invented zone blocking", Cooper said.  "If you want to understand zone blocking do a youtube search on Alex Gibbs - he has a 3 part video seminar up there on zone blocking."  I later found the Gibbs video series on this Seattle Seahawk fan site.

Cooper said the running backs are just as important as the line in the zone blocking scheme.  He said early this year the Bronco running backs weren't that good at it, but he's noticed considerable improvement as the season has progressed.

While he thinks Alex Gibbs is done with coaching, he had some entertaining stories to tell of his time with Gibbs as his o-line coach.  In one game Cooper roughed up a defensive lineman that had taken a cheap shot at John Elway.  Cooper drew a flag, and head coach Dan Reeves was not happy, chewing Cooper out as he left the field for the roughing penalty.  Gibbs pulled Cooper aside and said, "do it again!" In a gladiator sport Gibbs appreciated Cooper standing up for his teammate. 

Cooper was very open with his opinions on some past and present broncos offensive linemen:

Should Tyler Polumbus be starting?  No, Schofield is better but Schofield looks to be playing hurt.
Ryan Harris - he's not a left tackle - he'd be better at right tackle
Evan Mathis - not a fan, it was a horrible trade (Mathis was actually a free agent signee - but you get the point)
Max Garcia - he's decent, definite potential for the future
Ryan Clady - the team really misses him this year.  A solid left tackle, though he lost a step after his last injury.  
Ty Sambrailo - showed potential, could be another solid guy like Clady
Orlando Franklin - wish he was still here - he's a good tackle.  He was not a good guard.

Cooper described in depth his opinions on the correct way to play the offensive line, demonstrating different moves for the qb club audience.  Overall he's been disappointed with the current Broncos offensive line.  "3 offensive linemen have been turtled this season" (knocked on their backs), Cooper said, "that never happened when I played."

Cooper remembers fondly his playing days in Denver.  "Our playbook was twice the size of what we had in Tampa," he said.    "There was nothing more fun than playing in front of the fans at Mile High."

I learned more about offensive line play in one night in listening to Cooper than my many years of watching the game as your average fan.  This is one feature I appreciate about our QB Club meetings - we hear from insiders and get new perspectives on the team and game we all love.

Our next guest speaker will be "Make Those Miracles Happen" Bronco RB Jon Keyworth in March, and in April Cecil Lammey will return to give the club his annual draft preview and offseason assessment of the Broncos.  If you join the club now you'll get these two meetings plus all the meetings of the 2016-2017 season.  $50 for a family membership, plus $20 per person for our buffet dinner meetings.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Denver Sports Moments of 2015

The Denver Broncos dominate my list of the top Denver sports moments of 2015.  Here's my list:

10.  Nuggets draft Emmanuel Mudiay #1.

The Nuggets draft young point guard Emmanuel Mudiay with the 7th pick of the first round of the NBA draft.  Many experts rated Mudiay as one of the top three in the draft, so Denver was fortunate he fell to them at pick 7.  Mudiay got off to a promising start in his rookie year but at year's end he is struggling with injuries and turnovers.  Still he has shown enough promise to lead future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd to say "(Mudiay) will be better than me."

9. Colorado Rockies win opener 10-0 over Milwaukee.

In their most impressive opening day performance in team history, the Rockies stunned the Brewers in Milwaukee 10-0.  Baseball opening day always draws more interest than other games on the long 162 schedule.  Would this opening day blowout be a sign of better things to come for the Rockies?  No, as they struggled to a last place finish in the NL West once again.  But for one day the Rockies were the talk of the baseball world.

8.  Colorado Rockies sweep the defending champ Giants in mid-April.

The Rockies opening day win was not their only highlight in April.  A surprising sweep of the defending World Champ Giants in San Francisco temporarily put the Rocks in first place.  At least they held Denver fans interest until the NFL draft and Bronco mini-camps later in the month!

7.  Denver Nuggets beat Houston Rockets in the season opener.

The Nuggets surprised the Houston Rockets on opening night with a convincing 105-85 win over the Rockets in Houston.  This game was doubly sweet as former Nugget Ty Lawson struggled while his point guard successor, Emmanuel Mudiay, had 9 assists.  Like the Rockies, opening day would not be a sign of better things to come for the Nuggets, as they have lost 7 of their last 8 at year's end.

6.  Broncos Beat Ravens 19-13 in season opener.

It was a good year for openers for most of our teams as the Broncos edged the Ravens 19-13 to start their season.  The Ravens had a chance to score the go ahead TD in the closing minutes when Steve Smith dropped a sure TD pass from Joe Flacco.  The win setup the Broncos to go on a 7-0 start while the Ravens never recovered.  This was the same Raven team that almost beat the Super Bowl champ Patriots in the playoffs in January.

5.  Broncos Beat Kansas City 31-24 in Thursday night football opener.

This was to be the game where the Chiefs finally beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos.  It sure looked that way for most of the game before Denver tied the score in the closing minute, then stunned the crowd with a fumble return td just when it looked like the game would go to overtime.  This sent the Chiefs reeling to a 1-5 start before KC recovered with a 9 game winning streak.  As it looks like the Broncos will once again win the division at year's end, they could not have done it without this victory.

4.  Colorado edges Colorado State 27-24 in overtime.

Lots of Colorado fans do not like this annual rivalry game to be played at Denver's Sports Authority Field.  And the game had lost its appeal in Denver in recent years.  But this 2015 game was a classic in the series.  A near sell out crowd for the first time in five years added to the atmosphere.  As a CU fan I liked the result - one of the few highlights in an otherwise disappointing season for the Buffs.

3.  Broncos win the battle of the unbeatens on Sunday Night Football 29-10 over Green Bay.

In a prime time battle of two 6-0 teams, the Broncos had their best performance of the season in dominating the Packers for an easy win.

2.  Broncos edge Bengals 20-17 in overtime.

In a game which should decide the 2nd seed and first round bye in the playoffs, the Broncos overcome a 14-0 first half deficit to edge the Bengals in overtime.  The game had many twists and turns, with the Broncos winning on a fumble recovery in overtime.  It was the third coldest home game in the team's history but the Broncos comeback win warmed the hearts of the Mile Hi faithful.

1.  Broncos beat New England 30-24 in overtime.

It was a thrilling year of overtime victories for the Broncos (3).  None was sweeter than this 30-24 win over the defending Super Bowl Champ Patriots.  The Patriots dominated much of the game and had a 14 point lead early in the 4th quarter, but Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler, making his first start, led an amazing comeback for the win.  The frigid weather, the first "snow" game in Denver in 10 years, added to the Sunday night atmosphere.  Whatever happens to the Broncos in the playoffs, CJ Anderson's 48 yard clinching td run will long be remembered as one of the great moments in Broncos history. 

And these two didn't make my top 10 but deserve honorable mention:

University of Denver wins ncaa lacrosse championship

In a sport dominated by eastern colleges, DU became the first school west of the Mississippi to win the national championship in lacrosse.

Broncos part ways with John Fox, hire Gary Kubiak

 After a surprising and disappointing playoff exit against the Colts in Denver, the Broncos part ways with head coach John Fox and bring home former long time assistant and player Gary Kubiak. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mile High Magic book review

As a long time fan of the Denver Broncos I was excited to read Mike Klis' new book "Mile High Magic: The 25 Greatest Moments in Denver Broncos History".  Klis' anthology of the team's history did not disappoint - it's the best book I've read on the Broncos to date.

Klis has covered the Broncos as a reporter first for the Denver Post (2005-2014) and this year for Channel 9 television in Denver.  I liked that Mile High Magic was more than a rehash of old newspaper stories - Klis interviewed many Bronco stars of the past to get their current take on memorable events in the team's history.  "The Drive was kind of my coming out party," John Elway relates when thinking back to the #1 moment in the book - the 98 yard touchdown drive in the waning minutes of the 1987 AFC Championship game in Cleveland.  "That legitimized me in big games."  I enjoyed reliving the great moments of the Broncos past through the eyes of the players that made them happen.

The book is beautifully illustrated, with classic color photos from past game action.  This is your ultimate coffee table Broncos book.  I would buy it just for the pictures alone.

In addition Mile High Magic is packed with interesting little facts about the team that even the most ardent Bronco fans may not be aware of. Moment #18 is John Elway's 43 yard pass to a leaping Rod Smith in a September 1995 game to beat the Washington Redskins as time expired.  "It was the only football game Elway had ever played in - high school, college, or pro - that he threw a touchdown pass on the final play to win the game," Klis writes.  I did not know that!

A minor beef I had with the book:  Klis has too much Manning in the book, and too little "Little".  Peyton Manning has five of the team's great moments, while Hall of Famer Floyd Little only has one.  Some notable Floyd Little games that did not make the Klis top 25:

1.  The Broncos 21-19 victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion NY Jets in 1969.  I talked to another long time fan recently and we rated this game, and last month's amazing victory over the undefeated New England Patriots, as the two best Bronco regular season home games ever.  Why was this game great?  Read my previous post about it here.

2.  The Broncos 27-0 win over Art Modell's Cleveland Browns in 1971 after Modell had said during the NFL/AFL wars that the Denver Broncos would never play in his stadium  Starting with this game the Broncos would be the Browns' nemesis for decades.

3.  The Broncos first Monday Night Football appearance ever -  a 23-23 tie against the hated Raiders in 1973.

While Floyd's Bronco teams were not nearly as successful on the field as Peyton's, these games from the late 60's and early 70's were important in establishing the Broncos' franchise identity on a national level.  Why not condense the five Manning moments into two or three, and bump the number of Floyd Little moments in the list to match Peyton's?  Manning, after all, is going into the Hall of Fame as an Indianapolis Colt, and not as a Denver Bronco.

But every long time fan will no doubt have their own top 25 moments that won't necessarily match the author's choices. This does not detract from the book.  Mile High Magic is a wonderful walk down Denver Broncos memory lane.  A must read for fans who have lived through many of the team's great moments like I have.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mile High Magic (Mike Klis at the Broncos QB Club)

It's been quite the week for the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.  On Wednesday we were guests of the Broncos Huddle TV show (read my report on that here).  Then the very next night we were treated to a presentation by Mike Klis, Bronco insider for Channel 9 and author of the new book: "Mile High Magic - The 25 Greatest Moments In Denver Broncos History".

Klis is a two-time recipient of the Colorado Sportswriter of the Year award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.  He's been covering the Broncos since 2005 - first with the Denver Post and this year for Channel 9 TV in Denver.  I always thought Klis was one of the most knowledgeable media types who cover the team.  It was great to meet him and hear his stories in person.

Klis' book will bring back pleasant memories for long time fans of the team.  On this night he shared a few stories from the book.  One was moment #21 - The Morton Miracle.  I was in the South Stands for this game (September 23, 1979).  The Broncos fell behind 34-10 to the Seattle Seahawks.  It was the 2nd half and things did not look good for the home team.  The book features current interviews with the major players in Bronco history, like Morton.  36 years after the game Morton recalls, "Red (Miller) came up to me and said, 'Craig, why don't you go in?' (in place of Bronco starting qb Norris Weese).  I said, 'You've got to be kidding me.  I'm not going in there.  It's 34-10.  What the hell do you want me to do?"  Morton was frustrated because of being benched for Weese, and because the coaches had ignored his play calling suggestions.  "They wouldn't listen to me so I said, 'I'm not going in there'. But some players started coming over and said 'Come on, lets just try it.'  I said 'All right, let's go'"  Red Miller had a play he wanted Morton to run.  Craig said "Coach, if I'm going in this game, I'm going to call the plays."  Morton proceeded to lead the Broncos to a 37-34 win, as Klis relates, the greatest second-half comeback in Broncos history and tied for the 5th largest second-half comeback in NFL regular season history.

It's the back story of games like this that make Mile High Magic a good read for members of the Broncos QB Club.  Klis graciously stayed late to autograph copies of the book for those in attendance (he easily sold out his allotment he had brought to the event)

Klis also answered questions about the current Broncos team.  I asked him what kind of contract Brock Osweiler could expect to get when his current deal runs out at the end of the season.  "If the Broncos had signed Brock in the preseason, they could have had him for two years and 10 million," Klis said.  "Now with his good play they'd probably sign him for four years and 36 million.  If Brock wins out he could get 12 million a year."  Klis also told us how it would be difficult for the Broncos to keep all the players they have on their last years of their contracts: Von Miller, Brock, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, Ronnie Hillman, and Danny Trevathan.  "We better win it all this year," said a member of the audience, realizing that the Broncos could look like a very different team next season.

Klis had other little tidbits on the team that he shared (like Trevathan swallowing two teeth and likely not to play this week under the concussion protocol).  Our qb club group enjoyed picking the brain of Klis to get his real impressions of the team (you have to come to our meetings to get the inside scoop from Broncos insiders like Klis - we promise our guests the most juicy comments made at our meetings are "off the record"!)

A new feature at our meetings this year is an impressive Bronco jersey and memorabilia collection by Jamie Teumer and Tom Jacobsen.  Jamie and Tom brought jerseys this day to match the stories in Klis' book.

Like this signed game jersey by the first Broncos quarterback - Frank Tripucka!  The Broncos 13-10 first-game-ever win over the Boston Patriots in 1960 was moment #20 on the Klis list.

The Bronco memorabilia collection included present day items, too, like this signed Brock Osweiler shoe - size 17!

The Broncos QB Club is a non-profit organization supporting Denver area youth.  Club members were generous in donating gifts at this meeting to be delivered to the Children's Hospital Colorado.

If you are a Broncos fan living in the Denver area, joining the QB Club is a bargain.  Only $50 for a family membership, and $20 per person for our dinner meetings.  During the season we have ticket giveaways, too.  At this meeting pairs of tickets were given away to the upcoming Oakland, Cincinnati, and San Diego Bronco home games.

Guests are welcome to try out our meetings before deciding on membership.  We have a mix of reporters covering the team and players as speakers at our meetings.  Visit www.denverbroncosqbclub.com for more info.  Our next meeting will be January 12th featuring former Bronco offensive lineman Mark Cooper.