MHR friends, here we are at the tail end of a wonderful season. The official 2012-2013 year is about to start and I wanted to send this last year off with one final post. Thank you to everyone that took the time to respond to my questions. It really is fun to collect everyone's final thoughts and put something like this together.
Like last year this post was designed to go with the music as much I as I could fit it in. Since we all read at varying speeds I'm sure the combination of music and written word will make the experience different for each of you, but I hope you still enjoy the soundtrack. I decided to stick with the instrumentals as reading and listening at the same time kind of jacks with the flow.
You'll also notice that I went back into the MHR archives to get reactions from some of you, so thanks for helping out even if you didn't mean to! I think it makes the post a lot more personal to us.
Thank you all again for another great year and I look forward to seeing what next season has in store for us. As always, Go Broncos!
Everything can change in eleven seconds. A season teetering somewhere on the brink of utter disappointment and overwhelming ecstasy needed just eleven seconds to choose a side. This is just sports and it may seem crazy but Denver is a football town you see. We love all our sports but at our core we are Broncos. So to make it to this moment, with everything on the line, with nothing left to lose and everything left to gain, eleven seconds was an eternity that flew by too quickly.
The end couldn't come slowly enough.
We all know where we were when it happened. We were never supposed to be here in the first place after all. We were hosting a home playoff game and had jumped out to an early lead, but the tide was turning. We were slowly giving away the most important game of the last 6 years after leading big in the first half.
A dropped pass. A fumble. Things were swinging against us. We were heading into overtime.
Most of us were at home watching on TV. Some of us hanging onto each word over the radio at work or in our cars. A few of us were at the game, suspended in time with our new best friend strangers watching as seconds split into milliseconds and time crawled its way to the finale.
The entire state and collective watching world held their breath as Tebow took that snap and stepped back. How did we get here? Was this really happening?
The 2011 Denver Broncos were more than a football team, they were a story, a story that we will no doubt tell our kids about and speak to that one time when eleven seconds made all the difference between amazing and disappointing.
But when we tell this story we won't start at Game 17, 15:00, 1st OT. This story begins all the way back on March 11th, 2011.
And like many good stories, this one begins with a tragedy.
March 11, 2011 - A Quiet Start
Japan has just recorded a 9.1 magnitude earthquake which has created a giant tsunami that has hit the east coast of Japan, killing 15,840 and leaving another 3,926 missing. The death toll and damage is staggering.
In other news the NFL is officially in lockout leaving the most lucrative sport in the country in doubt of a season. ESPN and other news outlets have begun their countdown.
The 2011-2012 NFL got off to a rocky start, to say the least. As the world mourned the deaths of thousands in Japan, putting into blatant perspective the ultimately meaningless nature of sports, the NFL quietly began their bickering over hundreds of millions of dollars and cents.
Both sides fought valiantly to gain the sympathy of their fans, and for awhile succeeded in swaying them from one side to the other before exasperation set in. The fans wanted little to do with neither the owner's nor the player's economic problems. We had economic problems of our own after all. Eventually the fans got over picking sides and united with one request...
Just give us football.
The fans had had enough of being had. How the players and owners split up their billions mattered little to most of us if in the end we would be spending our winter watching Idol re-runs.
In the midst of this battle for percentage points that represented the gross income of a few small countries the 2011 NFL season reached its first milestone:
A blessing, a curse. I often wonder what would have happened had that final Hail Mary pass against the San Diego Chargers at the end of the 2010 regular season somehow landed in the arms of Demaryious Thomas. If you watch that ball bounce up into the air you can almost taste that final second comeback.
That one incompletion was worth four draft slots to this Broncos team and played a critical role in landing us one of the most important role players in our 2011 season.
Racing up the draft board after his incredible Senior Bowl, Fightin' Texas Aggie Von Miller overtook Marcel Darius on the Broncos Draft Board and with the 2nd pick overall the Denver Broncos added a future defensive rookie of the year linebacker to their historically bad defense that had walked off the field only three months prior.
Who would have thought that addition of a powerhouse linebacker and the return of an injured defensive tackle in Elvis Dumerville would go a long way to fixing a broken D-Line and changing the landscape of their coming season?
My guess is John Fox did, who had also drafted a future defensive rookie of the year in Julius Peppers and with the addition of another tackle took a last place defense and turned them into an above average defense with one offseason in Carolina.
The draft proved to be a short, three day primetime hiatus from the lockout and as the final lights clicked off at Radio City Music Hall and the drafted players headed back to their homes to celebrate their new wealth, the cease fire ended. The locks went back on and once again players and coaches were sworn to silence. A silence that took us all the way up to July 18th.
A little over a month. That's how much time these teams had to get their act together, find out what their drafted talent was all about, and get their rostered players in shape enough to field a football team.
The 2011 Denver Broncos were hit particularly hard by this lockout. With a host of new players and a new coaching staff, this team had little time to find their identity and create that necessary bond between players that is crucial to winning football games.
Heading into training camp the nation kept one eye on the Denver Broncos at all times. After Tim Tebow ignited this team to finish out the 2010 season, he was the odds on favorite to start as QB1 during the shortened camps. His slighted predecessor, Kyle Orton, saw things a little differently
Nearly a sure thing in July, a deal to send Kyle Orton to the Miami Dolphins for draft picks fell through as Kyle balked at the contract offered to him by the Dolphins.
Confidently heading into training camp, Kyle seemed certain that with one more Pro Bowl caliber season under his belt he'd be able to command a serious contract in free agency and then turn his back on this city and its obsession with its backup QB. It was the perfect turn and burn scenario and after all he'd been through in Denver, who could blame him for it?
To the displeasure of many fans across the world, Kyle Orton stepped onto the field as the starter that first Monday Night Football game on September 12th against the Oakland Raiders.
Not forgotten to any fan in Bronco Country was the last Raiders game at home. Now, with the entire country watching we had a chance to defend our home and extract a little revenge for the massacre that occurred here less than a year ago.
Welcome to 2011. Things were about to get real.
The 1-4 Start
I'll never forget that Monday night press conference. After handing the Raiders a win in the 4th quarter the Denver Broncos were paraded in front of the media to answer questions. The media needed answers, we needed answers.
We had the lead. We had the momentum and we were about to score again. Then came the drop and everything changed.
It was happening again. Why?
Champ may have said it best when he suggested the team didn't have the heart to win that game. Our first home game of a brand new season against our most hated rival and we lacked the heart to win it.
It was enough to take your breath away. After an off season building hope reality began to set in. We were right where we left off. These Broncos were no different. This was going to be a long season.
After squeaking out a win against Cincinnati the Broncos lost a heart breaker to the Titans. We welcomed Green Bay to Denver and got mashed like everyone thought we would. It would have been embarrassing if it hadn't been so expected.
At 1-3, with our season nearing the tipping point between contending for our division or Andrew Luck, the Broncos welcomed the San Diego Chargers to town, and like all good stories, our fortunes finally began to change.
The 2nd Half
I learned about Kyle Orton's replacement through a Josina Anderson tweet. I couldn't believe it. There was just no way with this game already out of hand that our ultra-conservative coach would shake things up like that. So when the camera panned over to the Bronco sideline as the second half began to start and Kyle Orton was chatting it up with Brady Quinn on the sideline about the new lasagna recipe he wanted to try out, an excitement set in.
This was new. This was unexpected. This is what so many of us wanted. As Tim raced under center my emotions of excitement were instantly mixed with a gut check of nervousness. Were we really ready for this? Is Tim really ready?
It didn't matter anymore.
Forget the lockout. Forget the lack of reps in training camp. Forget the offense that was designed decidedly against his strengths. Forget the fact that he was walking into a game down by thirteen points.
The clock on Tebow Time had just begun and only God knew when that time would count down to zero.
It was time to buckle up. The ride of a lifetime was just about to begin and it, strangely enough, began with a loss after yet another Tebow Hail Mary fell harmlessly to the turf.
As the dejected Broncos walked into the locker room the entirety of Bronco Country walked out of Mile High chanting Tebow like we'd just won.
The Broncos team may not have seen it at that moment, but the fans felt it. Things were about to change. The world was laughing at us, but things were never going to be the same again.
As Broncoman27 put it, one of his favorite moments of the season was:
Going to my first game when San Diego came to town (the crowd reaction was like night and day when you compare when Orton was out there to when Tebow came in).
What a game to be your first.
Miracle in Miami, Devastation against Detroit
I think many of us would like to forget the first 55 minutes of football in Miami. Tim Tebow's homecoming was turning into a nightmare where one bad teams play was matched only by the other. It was brutal to watch. Then with 5 minutes left Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos turned in a performance that literally had people wondering if the hand of God were at work.
Down by two scores the Broncos turned in one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. Tebow became a new player in those minutes and with a brilliant special teams onside kick recovery led his team to a final minutes tie. Personally, Tebow's two point conversion run to tie that game was one of the most exciting moments of the season. We were seeing Mile High Magic in Miami and the 'Phins didn't have a clue what to do with it.
As Matt Prater kicked that final overtime field goal through the uprights even the stoic John Fox couldn't believe it. The impossible had been done. Analysts the world 'round were scrambling to explain this. Led by their fearless necktie Merril Hodge they were all about to be proven right when the Detroit Lions came to town.
Setting: The lights are dim. The couch is stiff but supportive. The pillows you are asked to lay on carry a sterile stench and the bookshelves lining the entirety of the room are filled with medical journals, Dr. Seuess books, and psychology encyclopedias. More like encyclopedia dramatica you think. Behind him lies a lone University of Michigan helmet. He leans in. "Tell me," he asks. "When did it hurt the most?"
- Tim Lynch
45-10 beatdown by the Lions. The atmosphere at Mile High was disgusting, all the d-bag Lions fans that dropped by the following week, and that Tebow looked every bit the bust the talking heads were talking about on espn.
The Detroit game. I had high hopes for Tebow going into this game, not all was his fault but man did he look like a 10 year old out there that game! I thought the FO was setting him up for failure, and the media was tortuous in regards to Timmy.
They didn't just beat us, they taunted us and humiliated us. I always kind of felt sorry for the Lions after their 0-16 season... but now between Scheffler being on their team and that classless performance AND trying to call themselves the Silver Crush, they've climbed the ranks to Raider status on my board...
Like a sledgehammer to glass, the Detroit Lions shattered the excitement. The smug of the I-told-you-so analysts was so palpable even the radio couldn't hide it.
Tebow won't be Broncos' starting QB by Jets game
From all of us over here in Bronco Country, we hope the crow tastes better with hot sauce.
Remember, Remember the Perfect November
At Oakland: 38-24
The 2 year losing streak is over. The last time the Broncos beat the Raiders was Week 3 of the 2009 season. In addition, the Broncos will be one game out of the AFC West lead. It was an unbelievable day for the Denver Broncos.
At Kansas City: 17-10
"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?"
Another iconic phrase, this time from Romeo and Juliet. There was a time when you simply had to score more than the other team to win. That changed somewhere along the line - a win needed to be something more. Not to me. I don't know about 2012 - and right now I don't care. That will work itself out in time. Right now the Broncos are winning - they've won 2 straight for the first time in 29 games - can't that be enough?
Hosting New York Jets: 17-13
...Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow. What can I say? He won the game. Right after the punt landed at the Broncos 5 yard line with 5:54 left in the game and the Broncos down 13-10, I turned to Ian said, "you know what's going to happen don't you? We're going to witness a Tebow comeback in person."
- Kaptain Kirk
At San Diego: 16-13
Tebow missed a deep pass to Jeremiah Johnson but the hope remained. The next play, Tebow ran out of the option and got to the outside for a nice gain. The fans erupted. Chants of "Tebow" started. A few plays passed and then the McGahee run happened. We saw McGahee go into the pile, but as he came out, we all started screaming "GO! GO! GO!". He was in open space and looked like he was going to score a touchdown. He was tackled inside the 20 and the fans were downright giddy. We were yelling and hollering. Chants of "Tebow Time! Tebow Time!" filled the stadium. Tebow centered the ball and Matt Prater stepped onto the field. They lined up, snapped the ball and the kick was up. There was no confusion this time. The kick was good and there was no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The crowd erupted.
- Nick Cast
The memories in November will be unforgettable. For many of us, Tebow's final run against the Jets was one of the greatest moments of the season. For those of us watching the game at home I'm sure it would be a toss up between his run and the look on Rex Ryan's face. The Broncos were dealing pain to losing teams. Both physically and mentally.
The Broncos Defense was near unstoppable as Von Miller earned his rookie of the year status and he and Dumervill claimed their Pro Bowl berth.
As we approached December Tebowmania was in full swing. Sportscenter dedicated full hours to Tebow. On the radio Tebow wasn't even relegated to sports talk, where he dominated every show, but even the local country music channel was getting on board this ratings gold mine. Everyone wanted a piece of Tebow and the Broncos. This story was just too good to pass up.
Capping off a perfect November the Broncos beat the Christian Ponder led Vikings in their dome in what was Tebow's best passing performance of the season. Willis McGahee broke the 100 yard rushing barrier for the 6th time this season, and another chapter to his own cinderella season.
Bears vs. Broncos (12/11/11)
It's difficult to put this game into perspective as it was, without a doubt, the most anticipated Bronco game before the season began. It was going to be the return of Jay Cutler to Mile High where he'd get to face off against replacement once removed in Tim Tebow. In typical Cutler fashion, he disappointed us all by getting himself injured a couple weeks before.
Instead of a classic matchup we got two teams playing with significant backups. This was to be Tebow's biggest challenge as defensively the Bears were probably the best he'd face until a possible playoff berth. The Broncos defense had the easier task of stopping the woeful Caleb Hanie who didn't even have the benefit of Matt Forte.
But this is football, and you don't always get to play with the players you want versus the teams you want. You can only play the team ahead of you with the personnel you've got versus the personnel they've got, and in the scope of this story, this game turned into a classic.
The game was over.
10-0 with nowhere near enough time left for the Denver Broncos and their struggling offense to mount a comeback against the Bears, right?
Okay, okay, so what if it's 10-7, we couldn't even recover a gift-wrapped onside kick!
Two more gifts from one Marion Barber provided the Denver Broncos and their suddenly unstoppable passing attack with just enough ammunition to give Matt Prater a shot at redemption.
After inexplicably having a 29-yard field goal blocked in the early stages of the game, Prater nailed two kicks from beyond 50 yards to give the Broncos their sixth straight victory, and their fourth straight victory by four points or less.
If there is one thing I have learned from this season, it's that nothing is out of the question for this Denver Broncos team.
Back To Reality
8-5. Three games left.
As we were living on cloud nine after sending the Bears packing with a brutal loss many of us began to think back to the last 8-5 season we had. The Broncos had been here before. They'd been here recently and we all knew how things turned out back then. 3 straight losses and out of the playoffs. A situation that ultimately cost one Mike Shanahan his job.
Like a bad dream, the Broncos self destructed against the New England Patriots after making them look silly in the first quarter. Things went from bad to worse when Tebow self destructed against the awful Buffalo Bills. Two brutal losses and the Broncos were in a tailspin. History was repeating itself and the dream of the playoffs was coming to a brutal conclusion as we welcomed the Kansas City Chiefs into town for our final showdown.
Kyle Orton vs. Tim Tebow. We all knew this was going to happen right? It's a shame the outcome wasn't a surprise to anyone. After one of the worst football games I can remember watching the Broncos lost 7-3 to an almost equally bad KC team. The Broncos once again couldn't close. In the 4th quarter of the entire season, we couldn't get the job done. Now our hopes for a playoff berth rested on a Raiders vs. Chargers game.
That's my definition of misery.
The Great Setup
Sure we backed in. Sure it was a terrible way to bring a playoff game home to Denver but as John Fox said, once you've earned your ticket to the dance you can't give it back. Fans across the world were arguing about whether or not we deserved to be in these playoffs. The Steelers were going to smash us. Vegas had no faith in the Broncos at home.
The Broncos had walked into a season the underdogs in their division.
The Broncos switched QB's after going 1-4 and signalling they were just about ready to give up on the year.
The Broncos adopted a gimmick offense to adapt to their QB's unique skillset. A skillset which would leave him "screwed" if he played like a normal NFL QB.
The Broncos had suffered injuries all year long to critical pieces like their star runningback and defensive rookie of the year linebacker.
The Broncos had gone on an impossible and fluky streak to win 6 in a row.
The Broncos had just lost 3 in a row like they were supposed to and they just backed into the playoffs.
Now we were welcoming the Steelers to Denver where the Terrible Towel promised to dominate the Mile High Skyline. We were a blip on their radar. A nuisance.
The Broncos had other plans.
The Great Finale
11 seconds and a million reactions. From snap to finish. Count them.
1. Tebow steps to center
BELIEVE. - broncosrestler29
2. Tebow drops back to pass as DT breaks past #29 Ryan Mundy.
Literally pissing myself. - broncomack
3. Steps back to throw. Tebow loads up for his release.
Oh my poor heart. - Whidbey Bronco
4. DT breaks past Ike Davis into the flat.
So nervous right now. - BigRockTheFirst
5. Tebow releases a perfect pass to Thomas.
TD it please. - Tim Lynch
6. Thomas begins his streak downfield.
A throw on First Down!!!!!!!!! - VR92
7. Ike Davis reaches for the tackle as DT gives him the stiff arm.
Holy crap. -YJ
8. DT is gone.
GO GO GO GO GO GO GO! - John Elway
9. Dave Logan begins screaming on the radio.
crying. - Zogernaut
10. Demaryious Thomas breaks the 40, 30, 20, 10, endzone.
The play action on first down! I was waiting for it all game! We've done it! - Matthew Oakley
11. Game Over. Broncos are going to New England.
JUST FLATLINED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1- OldBloodnGuts
11 seconds. One of the greatest football memories for all of us to finish off one of the most exciting seasons in Denver Bronco history.
Even the next week beatdown in New England couldn't completely take away just how special this season was. We were never supposed to be here in the first place. Von Miller was supposed to be good, but that good? Tebow was supposed to be clutch, but that clutch? Where did this McGahee guy come from? Wasn't DT another Josh McDaniels first round bust?
As we close the last chapter on the 2011-2012 Denver Broncos season I realize just how often I am going to enjoy going back to this past year. We may never have another like it and it makes me want next here to be here all the more.
I can't wait to see what our Broncos do in the off season and just how committed they are next year to doing what may have made all the difference when it counted most.
They pulled the trigger.