Friday, December 23, 2011

34 years ago today - broncos first playoff win

34 years ago today the Broncos played their first ever game on Christmas Eve, and their first playoff game. The key play of that game:

Craig Morton throws the clinching touchdown to Jack Dolbin on December 24, 1977 to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers:

I posted this video last year as part of my "top 12 all time bronco plays" series and since then the video has had over 4,000 views. This past week a surprise visitor commented on the play on youtube:

"The catch was a thrill but the reaction of Mr. Phipps was even more rewarding" - Jack Dolbin

I was a 21 year old sitting in the South Stands for this game. 34 years later this game still is pretty incredible when you think about it. The Broncos were playing perhaps the greatest team of all time that day. The Steelers were in the middle of their fantastic run of 4 Super Bowl championships in 6 years with Terry Bradshaw as their quarterback. Yet the upstart Broncos beat Pittsburgh on what will always be a memorable Christmas Eve in Denver.

In narrating the team highlight film that year Pat Summerall said at the end "I can't imagine anything more fun than being a Denver Bronco fan in 1977." There's been no other year like it, until ... this year! The improbable run from a 1-4 start to a possible playoff berth reminds me much of that 77 team.

Here's a picture of the December 25, 1977 Denver Post sports section. Let's hope Tim Tebow and the Broncos produce a similar headline as a result of today's game with Buffalo!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bronco Quarterback Club Meeting with Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt

Life is good for Bronco kickers Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt. Prater was the hero of last week's improbable Broncos comeback victory against the Chicago Bears, with a 59 yard field goal to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation, and a 51 yarder to win it in overtime. Colquitt is having a pro bowl type season as the Broncos punter, in March he married Nikki, a top Denver model (see her on the cover of Trice Jewelers catalog here), and the couple is expecting their first child in the spring.

Prater and Colquitt were guests of the Bronco Quarterback Club on Monday night. They shared many interesting insights about the Broncos and kicking in the NFL.

"You're not going to kick those rugby's, are you?" the Bears Devin Hester said to Colquitt in a pregame conversation Britton relayed to the QB club. "Those rugby's won't help you get to the pro bowl." Hester added.

Colquitt proceeded to tell us kicking "rugby style" was exactly his strategy to limit the returns by Hester, one of the all time best NFL punt returners. Colquitt showed us how he holds the football for a rugby style kick, and said it results in greater height and less distance than a regular punt. This style worked most of the time against the Bears, frustrating Hester, as Hester made a few fair catches. Hester's one good return of the game (which setup the Bears lone touchdown) Colquitt said he thought Hester would fair catch, but Hester didn't.

Colquitt added that he likes to use rugby style kicks when trying to pin a punt down inside the 20 yard line. "The spin is different, sometimes you can get the ball to spin back, and returners don't like it," Britton said.

Matt Prater described his game tying 59 yarder. "I was hoping we'd get a little closer, but if we get to the 40 yard line, I should make it every time," he said. "I was confident. I don't kick the long ones any harder than a 30 yarder. I keep the same technique, staying smooth. When I try to kick it hard the accuracy suffers," he added. Holder Colquitt was not as calm as Prater before the kick. "I almost had a heart attack holding that for you," Colquitt said. "A 59 yarder to tie???!!!"

Prater and Colquitt fielded a bunch of questions from the fans at the Quarterback Club and from host David Treadwell, former Bronco field goal kicker. Here is a sample of some of their answers:

How did you get your start kicking?

Prater said he played on a soccer team with one of the Gramatica brothers. He played safety and kicker. When he saw the success the Gramaticas had kicking he gave it a try himself. Colquitt's dad Craig was a punter for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Britton "used to kick a football back and forth with my brother Dustin" (current punter for the KC Chiefs). "Instead of playing catch we'd kick to each other."
Older brother Dustin didn't play football until he was a senior in high school. When Britton saw Dustin's success he thought "this is a family legacy - I can do this!"

To Britton: who has the best average between you and your brother?

"I do"

Who has the best net average?

"I do"

To Prater: how do you like the new kickoff rule, from the 35 instead of the 30?

"I don't complain, but it does take away from the guys with the stronger legs."

Do you think there are fewer kickoff returns?

"With our kickoff coverage team I like it when they return it."

To both: Have you ever used a sports psychologist?

Colquitt "In college (at Tennessee) I had a friend who was a psychiatrist"

Prater "My dad is a psychiatrist. He has helped me not to dwell on the negative. Dad says to forget about the bad kicks."

Colquitt: "Practice breeds confidence."

To Colquitt: Are you authorized to run a fake punt?

"Heck no! In college I tried to throw a pass once (at the swamp in Florida). It didn't turn out well."

To Prater: Is the high altitude an advantage?

"Not as much as people think. Most of kicking is psychological. When I'm in Florida I can kick a field goal from 70 yards too. In our stadium the wind swirls, making it tougher, though the winds were quiet yesterday."

To Prater: Does it affect you when an opposing coach calls a timeout to "ice the kicker"?

"It makes no difference. I actually like it. It gives me more time to make sure I am lined up right."

To Colquitt: Do you have a special game plan punting to the Patriots this week?

"For Chicago we had a special plan because of Devin Hester (rugby punts). For the Patriots I'll go back to punting it as far and long as I can."

Are you superstitious?

Prater "I have lots of superstitions. For home games I always eat breakfast at the Egg and I and have biscuits and gravy. I always listen to Carrie Underwood's song "Jesus, Take The Wheel" before a game. I never step on the Bronco emblem, even in the locker room."

Does a good rush affect you?

Prater: "I trust the guys up front. I only look up when I am lining up for the kick. I don't notice the rush unless they run into me."

Treadwell: "As a kicker you don't have to worry about the outside guys. If you get the kick off in 1.3 seconds or less they guys on the end have no chance to block it. You are most vulnerable up the middle to a strong rush."


Overall it was a great evening of NFL football talk with two of the heroes from Sunday's win over the Bears. Both Prater and Colquitt allowed plenty of time for autographs and pictures with the fans in attendance.

The Bronco QB Club has a special right now where you can get a 2012 membership, and be able to attend the last meeting of the 2011 season (in January) for the annual $40 price. Each meeting, at Red and Jerrys in Englewood, has an additional $20 meal charge which includes tax and tip.

In addition to hosting current Bronco players, the club this season has hosted Denver Post Bronco reporter Lyndsay Jones as a guest, former players, and members of the club were in the audience for the John Elway TV show one Monday night.

Joining the club is a great bargain for a Bronco fan! I've been working on a new website for the Quarterback Club which you can see here:

On the site you can ask for membership information. Club meetings are open to members only - hope to see you at the January meeting!