MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 4: Matt Prater #5 of the Denver Broncos kicks a 23-yard field goal in the final minute against the Minnesota Vikings on December 4, 2011 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Broncos defeated the Vikings 35-32. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
This is a fun time to be a Broncos fan. Our team is currently riding a five game winning streak and has won its last five road games. I have friends and family who have not been particularly interested in the Broncos suddenly coming out of the woodwork to talk Broncos football with me. Two coworkers have told me that they are now "closet" Broncos fans (they can't quite break away from their support for the 49ers and the Cowboys, LOL). It's a magical and marvelous time for the Broncos.
You might be inclined to be even more in awe when you come to realize just how rare these two accomplishments have been for Denver. The Broncos are currently playing in their fifty-second season as a professional football team. They are in their forty-second season as an NFL team (remember the AFL and the NFL merged in 1970). In those fifty-two seasons, the Broncos have had just twelve five-game (or more) winning streaks. Two of those streaks came in the same season, so Denver has managed the feat of a five-game (or more) winning streak in only eleven seasons. That would be once for approximately every five seasons played (okay, okay, every 4.7 seasons for the purists out there). The five road wins in a row is an even rarer event, having happened only four times in franchise history (or once every thirteen years).
Join me on a trip as we look back at those memorable seasons.
1977A - First Five Game Winning Streak
|St Louis Cardinals 7-0||Buffalo 26-6||@Seattle 24-13||Kansas City 23-7||@Oakland 30-7||Denver also defeated Cincinnati 24-13 on 10/23 for a 6th straight win|
1977B - Second Five Game Winning Streak
|Pittsburgh 21-7||@San Diego 17-14||@Kansas City 14-7||Baltimore Colts 27-13||@Houston Oilers 24-14||Denver also defeated San Diego on 12/11 for a 6th straight win; second winning streak in 1977|
The Broncos enjoyed two six-game winning streaks in 1977. This was their eighteenth year as a professional football team. It was Denver's eighth season in the merged AFL/NFL. They went on to finish 12-2 and in 1st place in the AFC West. This would mark the first time in franchise history that the Broncos advanced to post season play. Denver defeated Pittsburgh 34-21 in a divisional playoff game. They defeated the Oakland Raiders 20-17 in the AFC Championship game. There, however, was where the streak ended as they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 10-27 in Super Bowl XII.
The offensive starters for this team were QB Craig Morton, RB Otis Armstrong, FB Jon Keyworth, WR Jack Dolbin, WR Haven Moses, TE Riley Odoms, LT Andy Maurer, LG Tom Glassic, C Mike Montler, RG Paul Howard, and RT Claudie Minor. The defensive starters were LDE Barney Chavous, NT Rubin Carter, RDE Lyle Alzado, LOLB Bob Swenson, LILB Joe Rizzo, RILB Randy Gradishar, ROLB Tom Jackson, LCB Louie Wright, RCB Steve Foley, SS Bill Thompson, and FS Bernard Jackson. Jim Turner was the placekicker and Bucky Dilts was the punter. Rick Upchurch served as the returner for both kickoffs and punts.
Notable draft picks from this season included RB Rob Lytle and C Bill Bryan.
1977 - First Streak of Five Straight Road Wins
|Seattle 24-13||Oakland 30-7||Cincinnati 24-13||San Diego 17-14||Kansas City 14-7||Denver also won a 6th straight road game on 12/4 when they defeated the Houston Oilers 24-14 in Houston|
1984 - Third Five Game Winning Streak
|@Cleveland 24-14||Kansas City 21-0||LA Raiders 16-13||@Detroit 28-7||Green Bay 17-14||Denver followed these first five wins with five more consecutive wins: @Buffalo, @LA Raiders, New England, @San Diego, and Minnesota.|
Denver's 25th Anniversary season was a special one. The team had passed through some turbulent times. Following their Super Bowl appearance under Head Coach Red Miller in 1977, the Broncos saw a slow decline in their fortunes. They finished 10-6-0 in each of the next two seasons but lost both of the playoff games they played. An 8-8-0 finish in 1980 finished the Miller era in Denver. New Head Coach Dan Reeves led them to a first place tie with San Diego in 1981, but lost the tiebreaker with the Chargers and missed the playoffs. 1982 saw the NFL play a strike-shortened nine game season in which the Broncos finished 2-7-0 and in 5th place in the AFC West. The arrival of John Elway in 1983 signaled an upswing in the Broncos fortunes as the team went 9-7, finished 9-7-0 and made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. Their 3rd five-game winning streak came as part of a much longer ten game winning streak. Unfortunately, they lost to Seattle 7-31 in a Wild Card game. Then in their 25th season, the Broncos finished a franchise record 13-3-0. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on this success and fell to Pittsburgh 17-24 in a divisional playoff game.
The offensive starters for the 13-3-0 Broncos were QB John Elway, RB Sammy Winder, WR Butch Johnson, WR Steve Watson, TE Clarence Kay, TE James Wright, LT Dave Studdard, LG Keith Bishop, C Bill Bryan, RG Paul Howard and RT Ken Lanier. The defensive starters were LDE Barney Chavous, NT Rubin Carter, RDE Rulon Jones, LOLB Jim Ryan, LILB Rick Dennison, RILB Steve Busick, ROLB Tom Jackson, LCB Louis Wright, RCB Mike Harden, SS Dennis Smith, and FS Steve Foley. Rich Karlis was the placekicker and Chris Norman was the punter. Gerald Willhite served punt return duty while kickoffs were handled by Gene Lang.
Notable draft picks from this season included TE Clarence Kay and DE Andre Townsend.
1984 - Second Streak of Five Straight Road Wins
|Cleveland 24-14||Detroit 28-7||Buffalo 37-7||LA Raiders 22-19||San Diego 16-13||All of these games were part of a 10-game winnning streak|
1986 - Fourth Five Game Winning Streak
|LA Raiders 38-36||@Pittsburgh 21-10||@Philadelphia 33-7||New England 27-20||Dallas 29-14||The Broncos also won a 6th game during this streak, beating San Diego 31-14 in San Diego|
The Broncos' fourth five game winning streak came just two years later on the way to an 11-5-0 finish. In 1986, Denver finished in 1st place in the AFC West. They went on to defeat New England 22-17 in a divisional playoff game. Then came that moment in NFL history that will forever be known as "The Drive." Trailing 13-20 with 5:32 left in the AFC Championship game, a muffed kickoff left the Broncos with a 1st and 10 on their own 2-yard line. In the next five minutes, the John Elway-led Broncos made history by driving 98 yards in five minutes to tie the score on a five yard pass from John Elway to Mark Jackson. Rich Karlis' extra point tied the game. Denver went on to win the game 23-20 in overtime and advance to their second Super Bowl -- a disappointing 20-39 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI.
The offensive starters for this team were QB John Elway, RB Sammy Winder, FB Gerald Willhite, WR Vance Johnson, WR Steve Watson, TE Clarence Kay, LT Dave Studdard, LG Keith Bishop, C Bill Bryan, RG Paul Howard, and RT Ken Lanier. The defensive starters were LDE Andre Townsend, NT Greg Kragen, RDE Rulon Jones, LOLB Jim Ryan, LILB Karl Mecklenburg, RILB Ricky Hunley, ROLB Tom Jackson, LCB Louis Wright, RCB Mike Harden, SS Dennis Smith, and FS Steve Foley. Rich Karlis was the placekicker and Jack Weil was the punter. Gerald Willhite served as the punt returner and Ken Bell handled kickoff returns.
Notable draft picks from this season included G Jim Juriga.
1996 - Fifth Five Game Winning Streak
|@Cincinnati 14-10||San Diego 28-17||Baltimore Ravens 45-34||Kansas City 34-7||@Oakland 22-21||Denver went on to win four more games in this streak by also beating Chicago, @New England, @Minnesota and Seattle. 10/13 was Denver's bye week|
Denver would have to wait ten seasons to see their next five game winning streak. This was in spite of a streak of nine seasons which saw the Broncos finish with a winning record four times, a .500 record three times and only two losing seasons. It was also in spite of seeing Denver make it to the playoffs four times, win two AFC Championships and make two Super Bowl appearances. The 1996 Broncos tied the franchise record for wins by finishing 13-3-0. Many people believed that this would be the year in which Elway's Broncos would not only make it to the Super Bowl but win it. Sadly, Denver was upset by the 9-7-0 Wild Card winning Jacksonville Jaguars 27-30 in the Divisional round.
The offensive starters for this season were QB John Elway, RB Terrell Davis, FB Aaron Craver, WR Ed McCaffrey, WR Anthony Miller, TE Shannon Sharpe, LT Gary Zimmerman, LG Mark Schlereth, C Tom Nalen, RG Brian Habib, and RT Broderick Thompson. The defensive starters were LDE Dan Williams, LDT Mike Lodish, RDT Michael Dean Perry, LLB Bill Romanowski, MLB Allen Aldridge, RLB John Mobley, LCB Ray Crockett, RCB Lionel Washington, SS Tyrone Braxton, and FS Steve Atwater. Jason Elam was the placekicker and Tom Rouen was the punter. Todd Kinchen handled the punt returns while Vaughn Hebron served as the kickoff returner.
Notable draft picks from this season included LB John Mobley, DB Tory James and RB Detron Smith.
1997 - Sixth Five Game Winning Streak
|Kansas City 19-3||@Seattle 35-14||St. Louis Rams 35-14||Cincinnati 38-20||@Atlanta 29-21||Denver won a 6th game in this streak by beating New England.|
Denver's 6th five-game win streak came in what proved to be one of the highest points in Broncos' history. The Broncos, stung by their loss to Jacksonville in the Divisional round of the previous season, started the 1997 season with a passion. Their five-game winning streak to open the season (which was actually a six game winning streak since they won their first six games of the 1997 season) included double digit wins in five of their first six games. This streak also included wins of three touchdowns or more in four of those games. Denver finished the season in 2nd place in the AFC West with a 12-4-0 record, one game behind the 13-3-0 Kansas City Chiefs. Their first playoff game was a rematch with the team that had knocked them out of the playoffs in the previous season -- the Jacksonville Jaguars. This time, the Broncos were not going to be denied and destroyed the Jaguars 42-17. The next game saw Denver travel to Kansas City in the Divisional round. The two teams had split the season series, with each team winning at home. The Broncos changed that pattern by defeating the Chiefs 14-10 in Kansas City. Denver next traveled to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship game. The Broncos had lost to the Steelers in Pittsburgh 24-35 in Week 16. This time, the Broncos took an early lead and, while the Steelers were able to take the lead for a short time in the second quarter, Denver went on to lead 24-14 at the half. They held Pittsburgh off in the second half to secure a 24-21 win. This win put Denver into their fifth Super Bowl. Here they were facing the 13-3-0, defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. In a close-fought battle, Denver running back Terrell Davis rushed for 167 yards and a Super Bowl record three touchdowns. With the score tied at 24-24, 1:47 left on the clock and the Broncos threatening from the Packers 1-yard line, Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren elected to allow the Broncos to score and put the ball in the hands of Bret Favre. The Packers drove to the Denver 35-yard line with 1:04 left. A four yard pass was followed by two incompletions, leaving Green Bay facing a 4th-and-6 from Denver's 31 yard line with 0:32 left on the clock. On the next play, LB John Mobley knocked aside a pass intended for Green Bay TE Mark Chmura and Denver had their first Super Bowl win.
The offensive starters for this Super Bowl winning team were QB John Elway, RB Terrell Davis, FB Howard Griffith, WR Ed McCaffrey, WR Rod Smith, TE Shannon Sharpe, LT Gary Zimmerman, LG Mark Schlereth, C Tom Nalen, RG Brian Habib, and RT Tony E. Jones. The defensive starters were LDE Neil Smith, LDT Keith Traylor, RDT Michael Dean Perry, RDE Alfred Williams, LLB Bill Romanowski, MLB Allen Aldridge, RLB John Mobley, LCB Ray Crockett, RCB Darrien Gordon, SS Tyrone Braxton, and FS Steve Atwater. Jason Elam was the placekicker and Tom Rouen was the punter. Darrien Gordon handled the punt returns while Vaughn Hebron ran back the kickoffs.
Notable draft picks from this season included DT Trevor Pryce and G Dan Neil.
1998 - Seventh Five Game Winning Streak
|New England 27-21||Dallas 42-23||@Oakland 34-17||@Washington 38-16||Philadelphia 41-16||This five game streak was the start of a much longer 13-game winning streak|
Not content with a single Super Bowl win, the Broncos returned in 1998 with the same determination to win that marked the previous season. Their 7th five-game winning streak came as the start to a franchise record thirteen straight wins to open the season. Some fans were convinced that this Denver team would match the 1972 Miami Dolphins' unbeaten season. Sadly, this was not to be. The Broncos finished a franchise record best at 14-2-0 and took 1st place in the AFC West. They avenged a 21-31 regular season loss to the Dolphins in the Divisional round of the playoffs by beating Miami 38-3. They next hosted the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game and won 23-10. This placed them in their sixth Super Bowl where they handily defeated the Atlanta Falcons, led by former Broncos Head Coach Dan Reeves, 34-19.
The offensive starters for this Super Bowl winning team were QB John Elway, RB Terrell Davis, FB Howard Griffith, WR Ed McCaffrey, WR Rod Smith, TE Shannon Sharpe, LT Tony E. Jones, LG Mark Schlereth, C Tom Nalen, RG Dan Neil, and RT Harry Swayne. The defensive starters were LDE Neil Smith, LDT Keith Traylor, RDT Trevor Pryce, RDE Maa Tanuvasa, LLB Bill Romanowski, MLB Glen Cadrez, RLB John Mobley, LCB Ray Crockett, RCB Darrien Gordon, SS Eric Brown, and FS Steve Atwater. Jason Elam was the placekicker and Tom Rouen was the punter. Darrien Gordon handled the punt returns while Vaughn Hebron ran back the kickoffs.
Notable draft picks from this season included DB Eric Brown and QB Brian Griese.
1998 - Third Streak of Five Straight Road Wins
|Oakland 34-17||Washington 38-16||Seattle 21-16||Cincinnati 33-26||Kansas City 30-7||Denver won a 6th consecutive road game when they beat San Diego on 11/29|
2000 - Eighth Five Game Winning Streak
|@New York Jest 30-23||Oakland 27-24||San Diego 38-31||@Seattle 38-31||@New Orleans 38-23||Denver beat Seattle a second time to make this streak a 6-game winning streak|
John Elway retired after his second Super Bowl win and the Broncos reeled from the change, going 6-10-0 in 1999. In 2000, Denver righted the ship by achieving their 8th five-game winning streak. They went on to finish 11-5-0 and took 2nd place in the AFC West. That secured a Wild Card berth for the Broncos. Unfortunately, they lost to the Baltimore Ravens 3-21 in the Wild Card round. The 2000 season was also the final season the Broncos would play in Mile HIgh Stadium. Three franchise records were set during the 2000 season: Most rushing yards in one game (Mike Anderson, 251, December 3rd vs New Orleans), Most passing yards in one game (Gus Frerotte, 462, November 19, vs San Diego), Most receptions in one season (Ed McCaffrey, 101). This Denver team sent three players to the Pro Bowl (Trevor Pryce, Rod Smith and Brian Griese).
The offensive starters for this team were QB Brian Griese (10 games), Gus Frerotte (6 games), RB Mike Anderson, FB Howard Griffith, WR Ed McCaffrey, WR Rod Smith, TE Dwayne Carswell, LT Tony E. Jones, LG Mark Schlereth, C Tom Nalen, RG Dan Neil, and RT Matt Lepsis. The defensive starters were LDE Maa Tanuvasa, LDT Keith Traylor, RDT Trevor Pryce, RDE Kavika Pittman, LLB BIll Romanowski, MLB Al Wilson, RLB John Mobley, LCB Ray Crockett, RCB Terrell Buckley, SS Billy Jenkins, and FS Eric Brown. Jason Elam was the placekicker and Tom Rouen was the punter. Deltha O'Neal handled both the punt and kickoff return duties.
Notable draft picks from this season included DB Deltha O'Neal, LB Ian Gold, G Cooper Carlisle and RB Mike Anderson.
2005 - Ninth Five Game Winning Streak
|San Diego 20-17||Kansas City 30-10||@Jacksonville 20-7||Washington 21-19||New England 28-20||This was the first time that Denver's winning streak stopped at exactly five games|
The 2005 season was one that Broncos' fans believed signaled a return to competitive greatness for their beloved team. Not only did Denver achieve their 9th five-game winning streak in 2005, but they also finished in 1st place in the AFC West with a 13-3-0 record. Led by quarterback Jake Plummer, the Broncos defeated New England 27-13 in a Divisional round playoff game. However, the Broncos (and Plummer in particular) imploded when the Broncos hosted Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship game losing 17-34. One highlight for the season came on October 30 when Denver beat the Philadelphia Eagles 49-21. What makes that game special was the NFL record that was set that day. The Broncos became the first NFL team to ever have two players rush for over 100 yards each (Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell) while another player threw for over 300 yards (Jake Plummer) in a single game. Another highlight came with Denver's victory over the Patriots in the playoffs. That win denied New England the chance to become the first NFL team to win three consecutive Super Bowls.
The offensive starters for this season were QB Jake Plummer, RB Mike Anderson, FB Kyle Johnson, WR Ashley Lelie, WR Rod Smith, TE Stephen Alexander, LT Matt Lepsis, LG Ben Hamilton, C Tom Nalen, RG Cooper Carlisle, and RT George Foster. The defensive starters were LDE Courtney Brown, LDT Michael Myers, RDT Gerard Warren, RDE Trevor Pryce, LLB D. J. Williams, MLB Al Wilson, RLB Ian Gold, LCB Champ Bailey, RCB Darrent Williams, SS Nick Ferguson, and FS John Lynch. Jason Elam was the placekicker and Todd Sauerbrun was the punter. Darrent Williams handled both the punt and kickoff return duties.
Notable draft picks from this season included DB Darrent Williams, DB Domonique Foxworth, and G Chris Myers.
2006 - Tenth Five Game Winning Streak
|Kansas City 9-6 OT||@New England 17-7||Baltimore 13-3||Oakland 13-3||Cleveland 17-7||10/2, Week 4 was Denver's bye week|
Denver entered the 2006 season with high hopes. They had made it to the AFC Championship game the previous season and made several off season moves intended to improve upon that team, including the addition of pass rusher Elvis Dumervil and trading for WR Javon Walker. After an opening day loss to the St. Louis Rams, the Broncos went on their 10th five-game winning streak. A disappointing loss to the Colts was followed by two more wins. Standing at 7-2-0, the Broncos seemed well on their way. However, losses to division rivals San Diego and Kansas City shook the team. Though at 7-4-0, the team was still in a good position for a playoff push, Head Coach Mike Shanahan opted to attempt to break the losing streak by benching starter Jake Plummer for rookie Jay Cutler. Cutler's first two games ended up as losses and the team was struggling. Denver came back to win the next two games to raise their record to 9-6-0. The Broncos entered their final game versus the San Francisco 49ers needing either a win or a tie to advance to the playoffs. Despite leading 13-3 at the half, the Broncos were unable to hold the lead and the game went into overtime where the 49ers won on a field goal.
The season ended even more tragically than missing the playoffs when, less than twelve hours after the end of the game, Denver cornerback Darrent Williams was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. Less than two months after Williams' tragic death, Broncos running back Damien Nash collapsed and died after a charity basketball game.
The offensive starters for this season were QB Jake Plummer (11 games), Jay Cutler (5 games), RB Tatum Bell, FB Kyle Johnson, WR Rod Smith, WR Javon Walker, TE Stephen Alexander, LT Eric Pears (10 games), Matt Lepsis (6 games), LG Ben Hamilton, C Tom Nalen, RG Cooper Carlisle, and RT George Foster. The defensive starters were LDE Kenard Lang, LDT Michael Myers, RDT Gerard Warren, RDE Ebenezer Ekuban, LLB D. J. Williams, MLB Al Wilson, RLB Ian Gold, LCB Champ Bailey, RCB Darrent Williams, SS Nick Ferguson, and FS John Lynch. Jason Elam was the placekicker and Paul Ernster was the punter. Darrent WIlliams handled the punt return duties while kickoffs were returned by Brian Clark.
Notable draft picks from this season included QB Jay Cutler, TE Tony Scheffler, WR Brandon Marshall, DE Elvis Dumervil, G Chris Kuper.
2009 - Eleventh Five Game Winning Streak
|@Cincinnati 12-7||Cleveland 27-6||@Oakland 23-3||Dallas 17-10||New England 20-17||There was a sixth consecutive win in this streak when Denver beat San Diego in Week 6.|
This was a season of massive changes for the Broncos. The pinnacle of the 2005, AFC Championship game season saw a steady decline in fortunes for the Broncos during the next three seasons. In 2006, an overtime loss in the final game knocked Denver out of the playoffs. This was followed by a 7-9-0 season in 2007 and an 8-8-0 season in 2008. Following the 2008 season, Head Coach Mike Shanahan was fired and the young, New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator, Josh McDaniels was hired to lead the team. Mike Nolan was brought on board to be the Defensive Coordinator. This hiring was followed by a massive turnover in the roster, with approximately 50% of the players changed. Thirteen defensive players were waived or released. Thirteen offensive players were also released or waived. Two special teams players were released. Shanahan favorite quarterback Jay Cutler was traded to Chicago for draft picks and quarterback Kyle Orton. The Broncos then became one of the most active teams in free agency. Their signings included S Brian Dawkins, WR Jabar Gaffney, RB Correll Buckhalter, CB Andre Goodman, and QB Chris Simms. Despite the excitement generated by the changes and by winning their first six games in 2009, the Broncos imploded for two four-game losing streaks in their final ten games and ended the season at 8-8-0.
The offensive starters in 2009 were QB Kyle Orton, RB Knowshon Moreno (9 games) Correll Buckhalter (7 games), WR Brandon Marshall, WR Eddie Royal, TE Daniel Graham, LT Ryan Clady, LG Ben Hamilton (8 games), Russ Hochstein (8 games), C Casey Wiegmann, RG Chris Kuper, RT Ryan Harris (8 games), and Tyler Polumbus (8 games). The defensive starters were LDE Ryan McBean, NT Ronald Fields, LOLB Mario Haggan, LOLB Kenny Peterson, LILB Andra Davis, RILB D. J. Williams, ROLB Elvis Dumervil, LCB Champ Bailey, RCB Andre Goodman, SS Renaldo Hill and FS Brian Dawkins. Matt Prater was the placekicker and Mitch Berger was the punter. Eddie Royal handled both the punt and kickoff returns.
Notable draft picks from this season included RB Knowshon Moreno, DE Robert Ayers, and FS David Bruton.
2011 - Twelfth Five Game Winning Streak
|@Oakland 38-24||@Kansas City 17-10||New York Jets 17-13||@San Diego 16-13 OT||@Minnesota 35-32||It is remarkable that four of these five wins came on the road|
2011 - Fourth Streak of Five Straight Road Wins
|@Miami 18-15 OT||@ Oakland 38-24||@Kansas City 17-10||@San Diego 16-13 OT||@Minnesota 35-32||This is the first time since 1977 that the Broncos have beaten all of their division rivals as part of a road winning streak|
What more needs to be said about this season? We all know how the story has gone: a 1-4-0 start followed by a change at quarterback which was in turn followed by a 6-1 run, which includes the Broncos current five-game winning streak.
It should come as no surprise that Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego have figured prominently in these five-game winning streaks given the fact that Denver faces them twice each year. Oakland was involved in nine of the twelve five-game winning streaks, Kansas City in eight San Diego in five. It was interesting to see that New England was involved in five of the twelve streaks. When it comes to the four streaks of five straight road wins, we find that Oakland was a part of all four streaks. Kansas City and San Diego were each a part of three.
Now the big question becomes, "Will we see that five-game streak become a six-game streak on Sunday as the Broncos face off against the injury-riddled Bears?"
Let's Hope So.