The Denver Broncos visited Nickerson Field in Boston for the inaugural game of the American Football League. 21, 597 fans were in attendance. Denver had given up 200 points in the exhibition season. The Dallas Texans had pummeled the Broncos 48-0 while the Patriots had trounced Denver 43-6, in the first exhibition game in Providence, RI.
Expectations were extremely low for the Broncos. Other than their own home opener when 18,372 fans attended, most Denver fans stayed away. Final home game was only 5,861 against the New York Titans.
Broncos head coach, Frank Filchock claims to have "sanbagged" the Patriots. In the first exhibition game, Denver used only players who would not make their roster. Boston had not seen any of the regulars, including QB Frank Tripucka.
The first score of the game was by Patriots K Gino Cappelletti on a field goal of 35 yards. Gino would also play on defense and return a punt for three yards. Denver would use three Boston turnovers, including two interceptions to upset the Patriots. Broncos QB Frank Tripucka threw for 180 yards on 10 of 15 passing, and Denver rushed for 149 yards as well. Boston was led by former Boston College QB Butch Songin who struggled with 13 completions on 27 attempts for 140 yards.
Denver would start the season 3-1, but finish at 4-9-1. They would not have a winning season until 1973.
In the summer of 1967, the NFL-AFL merger was now a done deal. The two leagues would combine play in 1970. Before then, the leagues would meet in the Super Bowl and in a series of summer exhibition games. The first of these games were played in the summer of 1967. The 1967 preseason was called the "Summer of the Little Super Bowls". And, to kick the exhibition season off that summer, the Denver Broncos met the Detroit Lions on August 5, 1967. Unlike preseason games of most seasons before and since, these games were very serious matters. The teams of both leagues took them very seriously. It was not only regarded as a real game, but it was vitally important to win.
“Our pride is at stake. No NFL team wants to be the first to lose to the AFL.” Defensive tackle Alex Karras said he would walk home to Detroit if his Lions lost to the Broncos.
The featured is Alex Karras as "Mongo" in Blazing Saddles .
The Broncos were coming off a 19-2 defeat by the Miami Dolphins. Denver had an extremely weak offense, but had a smash-mouth defensive unit. The game was played at the University of Denver in front of 21,288 fans. It was not your usual exhibition game. Bragging rights were on the line.
A fake punt on a fourth down run by Bob Scarpitto of 28 yards set up the winning score. The Broncos who had rushed for a league low of 83 yards in 1966 produced 227 yards on the ground against the vaunted Lions' defensive front.
"The start of the love affair with orange started years earlier when the Raiders visited Denver on October 22, 1973 to face the Broncos on Monday Night Football. Like the Broncos continue to do today, the Bronco organization urged their fans to saturate the stadium with orange. Hence, it became known as Orange Monday.
In the fall of 1972, Sweetwater, a Denver restaurant and bar on East Hampden Avenue and South Monaco Parkway, found a unique way of satisfying frustrated Broncos fans. On Monday nights, Sweetwater management set up old black-and-white TVs in the bar and encouraged patrons to throw bricks at the screens when Cosell appeared at halftime. MNF" crew members, arriving on Friday before that first Denver telecast, were treated like royalty during the weekend.
51,270 fans showed up dressed in orange. The Broncos had not had a winning season since their inception in 1960. Following 10 consecutive losses to Oakland, the Broncos fought back against their most hated rival. K Jim Turner kicked a 35 yard field goal as time expired. The Raiders had dominated throughout with 469 yards in total offense to the Broncos 216. However, Oakland had fumbled three times.
One fumble was returned for an 80 yard touchdown by Denver S Billy Thompson. Billy holds the NFL record for most fumble recoveries returned for touchdowns with four. The Broncos swarming defense had sacked Raiders QB Kenny Stabler six times.
A third field goal by K George Blanda had given Oakland the lead with two minutes to play 23-20, but Denver K Jim Turner booted his third one as well, and the fans went home happy with the tie.
This was one of two ties on the season. The MNF game was so popular that it led to the Mile High Stadium expansion of over 76,000 seats.
While his swan song in the NFL was of storybook fashion, his proclivity for leading the Broncos from behind throughout his career was simply magical. Elway chalked up a record 47 fourth quarter come-from-behind comebacks during his pro career. Of those 47 last minute heroics by Elway, the Broncos scored the winning points 21 times under two minutes and 13 times with less than one minute left in the game.
To add insult to injury, the first comeback for QB John Elway of the Denver Broncos came against his former employer, the Baltimore Colts. The Colts finished 0–8–1 in the strike-shortened 1982 season, thereby earning the right to select Stanford quarterback John Elway with the first overall pick. Elway, however, refused to play for Baltimore, and using leverage as a draftee of the New York Yankees baseball club, forced a trade to Denver.
The Baltimore Colts played their final home game in Baltimore on December 18, 1983 against the Houston Oilers. Moving vans from Indianapolis-based Mayflower Transit were dispatched overnight to the team's Maryland training complex arriving on the morning of March 29, 1984. Once in Maryland, workers loaded all of the team's belongings, and by midday the trucks departed for Indianapolis, leaving nothing of the Colts organization that could be seized by Baltimore.
Baltimore led in this lopsided affair, 19-0 in the fourth quarter. The Denver offense had fumbled three times, and would only have the ball for 23 minutes 16 seconds in the entire game. Rookie QB John Elway didn't need much time. John threw three touchdowns in the final eight minutes. The 26 yard pass to RB Gerald Wilhite from Elway with 44 seconds remaining ruined the Colts' chances for the playoffs.
The Baltimore Colts selected OG Ron Solt from the University of Maryland in the first round of the 1984 NFL draft. This completed the Denver-Baltimore trade of John Elway. In addition to Solt, the Colts received QB Mark Hermann and OT Chris Hinton. This is ranked the second most lopsided trade in professional sports history, trailing only the Red Sox sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.
1. January 11, 1987 Denver 23 Cleveland 20 (OT)
The game is known as "The Drive."
The most important 5 minutes in Denver Broncos history. With 5 minutes 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Denver started from its own two yard line. The Broncos had muffed the kickoff from the Cleveland Browns, and trailed 20-13.
The 15 play drive featured six first downs, six for nine passing, three third down conversions, two Elway scrambles, one sack, and one fastball to WR Mark Jackson in the end zone.
Denver QB John Elway had a tough time against the Cleveland defense. He completed only 22 of 38 passes for 225 yards and one TD. John had been intercepted once, but delivered when it counted. "The 98-yard drive ranks as pro football's prototypical clutch performance."
37 seconds were left on the clock, but Cleveland chose to play it safe and go to overtime. Denver won the toss and marched 60 yards into field goal range for a 33 yard game winner by K Rich Karlis.
Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.