Wildcard Week - Horse Whisperings

Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos runs out of the tunnel prior to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012. (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)

The AFC West Champion Denver Broncos are hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the Wildcard round of the 2011 NFL Playoffs. The team media guide for the matchup has quite a few factoids in it this week that I hope to share with you. To begin with, the Broncos are division champs for the 11th time in franchise history and the 9th time in Owner Pat Bowlen’s 28 seasons with the club.

  • Head Coach John Fox is just the 3rd individual in franchise history to lead the Broncos to the postseason in his first year with the team (Red Miller-1977, Wade Philips-1993).
  • The Broncos became just the 6th team since the current playoff format was introduced (1990) to enter the postseason after starting the season 1-4.

OFFENSE

  • Denver finished with the league’s top rushing attack (164.5 ypg) after totaling 2,285 rushing yards (190.4 ypg) over its last 12 games—the most productive 12-game rushing stretch in team history.
  • QB Tim Tebow ranked 2nd among all NFL quarterbacks with 660 rushing yards—a total that ranks as the most by a Broncos quarterback in franchise history.
  • RB Willis McGahee led the Broncos with 1,199 rushing yards and seven 100-yard rushing games.
  • WR Demaryius Thomas totaled 25 receptions for 448 yards (17.9 avg.) with three touchdowns in Denver’s final five games to mark the most receiving yards in team history during the last month of a season (Dec./Jan.).
  • T Ryan Clady joined T Claudie Minor ('74-77) as the only players in club history to start every game during their first 4 years. Clady has started 64 consecutive games to begin his career as one of just three players from his 2008 draft class to accomplish that feat.
  • C J.D. Walton is one of three offensive linemen who entered the NFL last year to have started every game for his team.
  • G Zane Beadles is tied for 4th among offensive linemen who entered the NFL in 2010 with 30 starts, including opening 14-of-16 games as a rookie last season and all 16 contests in 2011.


DEFENSE

The Denver Defense finished the 2011 regular season in a lot better shape than it did in 2010.

2010 Rank
Rank 2011
29.4 32nd Points 24th 24.4
390.8 32nd Total Yds 20th 357.8
236.2 25th Pass Yds 18th 231.5
154.6 31st Rush Yds 22nd 126.3

  • CB Champ Bailey was named to his 11th career Pro Bowl in 2011 to tie for the 3rd-most selections in NFL history.
  • S Brian Dawkins, who joined the Broncos as an Unrestricted Free Agent on Feb. 28, 2009 after playing his first 13 seasons with Philadelphia, completed his 16th NFL season playing the safety position—tied for most in league annals.
  • DE Elvis Dumervil, who led the NFL in sacks (17) in 2009, returned to the Broncos defense after missing the entire 2010 campaign with a pectoral injury suffered during training camp.
  • Dumervil ranks third in the NFL in sacks per game (.70) and is tied for the 3rd-most 2+sack games (14) in the league since his rookie season in 2006.
  • LB Von Miller tied for 3rd in the AFC with 11.5 sacks this season—a total that ranked 2nd among all league rookies. He also tied Rulon Jones for the most by a rookie in franchise history.


SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Jeff Rodgers finished his first season as the Broncos Special Teams coordinator after serving in that capacity under Head Coach John Fox in Carolina in 2010. According to Football Outsiders, Denver's Special Team's improved from the 27th ranked unit in 2010 to the 15th best in 2011.
  • K Matt Prater owns the best field goal percentage from 50+ yards (.750 / 12-of-16) in NFL history among players who started their career after 1970.
  • P Britton Colquitt set the team single-season records for gross and net punting average, previously held by Tom Rouen (47.6; 1998) and Mike Horan (38.9; 1990), respectively.
  • Colquitt became one of just two players in NFL history to post a 50-yard gross average along with a 43-yard net average during a single month (min. 20 att.). In four games in October, Colquitt punted 24 times for a 50.3-yard average (43.5 net) with four punts inside the 20 and zero touchbacks.

  • Eric Decker recorded a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown against Oakland (9/12) that represented the 3rd-longest such play in franchise history and the 29th punt return touchdown overall.
  • Eddie Royal returned a punt 85 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in Denver’s 38-24 come-from-behind win at Oakland in Week 9, representing the 6th-longest punt return for a touchdown in team history and the 30th overall.

WILDCARDS

  • The Broncos have played in 7 Wildcard Playoff games and have a 1-6 record. However, they are 1-0 at Home, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 42-17 on December 27, 1996.
  • The Steelers are Denver’s most common postseason opponent (6 GP) with the club owning a 3-3 all-time record against Pittsburgh in the playoffs, including a 3-2 mark at home.
  • The Last Denver Home Win against the Steelers: 24-21 (1/11/98)
  • The Last Denver Home Loss against the Steelers: 34-17 (1/22/06)
  • Denver is 7-3-1 at home during regular season play against Pittsburgh.
  • The Steelers open as 8 point favorites.
  • The Broncos are 120-1 underdogs to win the Super Bowl.
  • In five of the previous six playoff meetings between these two clubs, the winner has gone on to play in the Super Bowl.


The Broncos’ 53-man roster features 14 players who have appeared in a combined total of 79 playoff games. Of those 79 playoff games, 22 have come in the Wild Card round by a total of 10 different players.

BRONCOS WITH PLAYOFF EXPERIENCE (active roster only)

Player GP W.C. Div. Conf. S.B.
Brian Dawkins
18 5 7 5 1
Lonie Paxton
17 2 6 5 4
Russ Hochstein
14 2 5 4 3
Broderick Bunkley
7 4 2 1 0
Willis McGahee
7 3 3 1 0
Champ Bailey
5 2 2 1 0
D.J. Williams
2 1 1 1 0
Jason Hunter
2 0 1 1 0
Rafael Bush
1 0 1 0 0
André Goodman
1 1 0 0 0
Tony Hills
1 0 0 0 1
Joe Mays
1 1 0 0 0
Dante Rosario
1 0 1 0 0
Jonathan Willhite
1 1 0 0 0
TOTALS
79 22 29 19 9


GP = Total Games Played
W.C. = Wild Card Games
Div. = Divisional Playoff Games
Conf. = Conference Finals
S.B. = Super Bowl Games


It should be an exciting game on Sunday. Postseason play has returned to Denver!

Go Broncos!



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