Monday, January 9, 2012

A new addition to the top 12 Bronco plays of all time

What a game yesterday! The Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas winning TD pass in overtime has to crack my top 12 list of all time Bronco plays. I posted these videos in 2010 on different blog posts after going through some old video tapes. I'd rate the Tebow to Thomas TD around 5a on this list:

I saw #12, #9, #7, #6, #2, and now #5A in person (yes I was in the North Stands yesterday - the biggest thrill at the new Mile High since Champ's big pick of Tom Brady #7)

Here again is my list of the previous top 12 bronco plays of all time:

Craig Morton throws the clinching touchdown to Jack Dolbin on December 24, 1977 to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Broncos first playoff game ever:

#11: John Elway throws a touchdown pass to Ricky Nattiel on the Broncos first offensive play in Super Bowl 22:

#10 Gradishar's Long TD. Randy Gradishar intercepts a pass from Cleveland's Brian Sipe and runs 93 yards for a touchdown - the longest interception return for a td in Bronco history:

Louie Wright returns a field goal blocked by Dennis Smith to beat San Diego in Overtime in this 1985 game:

#8 Immaculate Deflection

#7 Champ picks off Brady

#6 Morton to Moses AFC Championship Game

#5 Elway to Jackson to end "The Drive"

#4 Elway to Rod Smith Super Bowl 33

#3 Jim Turner scores a TD

#2 Floyd Little makes a great catch after being "fired"

#1 The Helicopter and post game celebration, Super Bowl 32

which led to:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Broncos/Steelers playoff history

The Broncos are in the playoffs for the first time since January 2006. All time Denver and Pittsburgh are 3-3 in the playoffs in their matchups. A look back at those games:

Dec. 24, 1977 - AFC Divisional - Denver 34, Pittsburgh 21

This is the one I wrote about on Christmas Eve, and still one of my favorite Bronco playoff wins. Why? Because it was the first, and because the 70's Pittsburgh team was one of the best in NFL history.

Dec. 30, 1978 - AFC Divisional - Pittsburgh 33, Denver 10

The rematch the next year. This one wasn't even close, and Pittsburgh went on to win the Super Bowl. I remember an awful official's call in this one. Broncos cornerback Steve Foley goes up with the Steeler's John Stallworth at the back of the end zone to contest a Terry Bradshaw throw. Both players were out of bounds. The ref ruled Foley pushed Stallworth out and called it a td. Foley was going for the ball, not pushing Stallworth. Still this call didn't matter in the big picture. The Steelers were clearly the better team.

Dec. 30, 1984 - AFC Divisional - Pittsburgh 24, Denver 17

John Elway's first home playoff game as the Broncos won the division that year. This one was a bit of an upset, in a playoff series filled with surprises. I remember Elway throwing an interception close to the goal line and chasing down the Steeler player, tackling him before reaching the other goal line. Even though the Broncos lost, that play showed me Elway's heart for the game.

Jan. 7, 1990 - AFC Divisional - Denver 24, Pittsburgh 23

On paper this looks like one of the best games of the series, yet it didn't have the impact on me as the other five Bronco/Steeler playoff contests. Playing at home, the Broncos fell behind early 10-0. The Steelers were led by future Bronco QB Bubby Brister and current Tebow critic Merril Hoge (Hoge had a good game with 120 rushing yards, a td, and 8 receptions). The Broncos came back to win this one in the 4th quarter.

Jan. 11, 1998 - AFC Championship - Denver 24, Pittsburgh 21

The best game of the series for this Bronco fan. The Broncos were underdogs going into this AFC title game in Pittsburgh and with good reason. Denver had lost to the Steelers 35-24 in December and not many expected the Broncos to win in the same venue only a few weeks later. But led by Terrell Davis' 139 rushing yards and some clutch throws by Elway in the 4th quarter, the Broncos won.

Jan. 22, 2006 - AFC Championship - Pittsburgh 34, Denver 17

One of the most significant losses in Bronco history, and a game that still has ramifications to the current day. The Broncos were favored, Big Ben was hurting for the Steelers, and whoever won was going to beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl 2 weeks later. The Broncos lost, which led to Denver drafting Jay Cutler to eventually replace Jake Plummer at quarterback. If Mike Shanahan wins this game, and goes on to win the Super Bowl, does Pat Bowlen fire him after a disappointing 2008 season? I think not. 3 Super Bowl rings would have given Shanahan another year.

Today I see while the Steelers are favored the Broncos always have a chance playing at home. I also don't think this Pittsburgh team is as strong as the Super Bowl runnerup Steeler team of last year, or the great Steeler teams of the past. Could we see another surprise playoff result in this series? Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

34 years ago today - greatest bronco home win ever

January 1, 1978. It was a cold day in Denver (18 degrees) as the Broncos hosted the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game. Oakland dominated the game early and took a 3-0 lead before this play changed the entire game:

I posted this video in 2010 as part of my own "top 12 bronco plays of all time series". To consider how big a play this was, go back to the atmosphere before that game. Yes the Broncos had an amazing season up until that point, a 12-2 season and a first round playoff win against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. But there was a lot of doubt as to whether the Broncos could really beat the Raiders this day. For one Craig Morton was hurting - bad. With a painfully bruised leg there were questions whether Morton would even play. The Raiders had also beat the Broncos convincingly in their matchup in Denver earlier that season (Raiders 24 Broncos 14 in week 7)

This play turned the whole game around. It gave the Broncos confidence that Morton could play, and play well, despite his injury. Morton and Moses went on to have a huge game (Moses scored twice on 168 receiving yards)

For me personally this was the greatest sports event I have ever attended in Denver. I was there for all the AFC Championship home games, for the many John Elway comebacks, for Eric Young's opening day homer, for the Avs beating the Devils in Stanley Cup game 7. None topped this game. The excitement in the South Stands that day is something I will never forget.

Today the Broncos play their second ever game on New Years Day. While not as big as that game 34 years ago, it's still big - a win and Denver gets to host a home playoff game for the first time since 2006. I think the key to today's game for the Broncos is what Oakland didn't do 34 years ago - get pressure on the quarterback. If Kyle Orton gets time to throw he's going to pick apart Denver's depleted secondary. On that cold January day in 1978 the limping Craig Morton was not sacked - one big hit would have put Morton out of the game. As Bronco fans are well aware, Orton goes down easily or throws interceptions when faced with a strong rush.

Let's hope tomorrow we see a "playoff bound" headline celebrating a big Bronco win. On January 2, 1978 this was the headline in the Rocky Mountain News: