Here we are . . . three weeks into the season . . . and, as Broncos fans, desperately hoping that the script for Week 4 follows the one from Week 1 and not the one from Weeks 2 and 3 . . . you know, the one where the Broncos spot their opponent a 20-point lead, then battle back to trail by only 6 late in the game, only to watch as the Broncos fail to get that last drive before time runs out. Okay, rant over. That being said, however, the Broncos are facing a stiff challenge in Week 4 -- yes I know it's only the Raiders, but Denver has an uphill battle ahead.
There are three reasons for this concern: (1)The Broncos' current two-game losing streak, (2)The Raiders are undoubtedly feeling confident after upsetting Pittsburgh in Week 3 and (3)How Denver has historically fared when playing on September 30.
9-30-1962: Denver@New York Titans, Denver won 32-10
The Broncos' first ever game on September 30 came in their third season as a franchise -- 1962. They had traveled across the country to face AFC rival New York on the Titans' home turf. The Broncos were coming off of a 3-11-0 season in 1961 and had started the 1962 season with promise by posting a 2-1-0 record going into this game. By way of comparison, the Titans were coming off of a 7-7-0 season and had also started the 1962 campaign with a 2-1-0 record.
The Broncos struck first, in the first quarter with a 12-yard field goal by K Gene Mingo. New York responded with a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead at the end of one quarter. The Titans extended their lead to 10-3 in the second quarter before QB Frank Tripucka connected with WR Lionel Taylor for a 2-yard passing touchdown to tie the game at 10-10. A 17-yard Mingo field goal gave the Broncos a 13-10 lead at the half. The second half belonged entirely to Denver. The score still stood at 13-10 at the end of three quarters, but the Broncos erupted for 19 points in the fourth quarter. It started when Tripucka scored on a 1-yard run (the point after attempt failed). Next, DB Bob Zeman intercepted a New York pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. Mingo added two field goals (48 and 26 yards) to close out the scoring.
An interesting footnote to this game: both teams threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Denver was better able to capitalize on their opportunities than the Titans.
9-30-1973: Chicago@Denver, Chicago won 33-14
Although Denver had started the 1973 season well, going 1-1 in their first two games after a miserable 5-9-0 finish in 1972, they did not fare well against the Bears, who had finished 1972 with a 4-9-1 record and had started the 1973 season by going 0-2. Perhaps this was a trap game for Denver, or perhaps they were simply outplayed.
Chicago took command of the game from the very beginning. The Bears picked up a field goal on the opening drive of the game. After an exchange of punts, RB Floyd Little fumbled and Chicago recovered on the Denver 15-yard line. This led to a second field goal and a 6-0 Chicago lead at the end of the first quarter. WR Jerry Simmons fumbled on Denver's first possession in the second quarter. Luckily this did not lead to any Chicago points. A third Denver fumble -- this time by WR Haven Moses -- likewise did not lead to any Chicago points, but did stall yet another Denver drive in the second quarter. After an exchange of punts, Chicago marched for a touchdown and a 13-0 second quarter lead. A Denver interception stalled the Broncos next drive but the Broncos were able to force a punt. A second fumble by Little killed the next drive and this time Chicago was able to put a field goal on the board and take a 16-0 lead into the locker room at the half.
Denver was held to a "three and out" to open the second half. The Bears responded with a touchdown drive to take a 23-0 lead. A third fumble by Little led to another Chicago touchdown and a 30-0 lead for the Bears at the end of three quarters. Denver's offense finally showed signs of life in the fourth quarter when it drove for a touchdown on the Broncos' first possession in the fourth. The drive was capped by a 1-yard run by Bobby Anderson for the score. After an exchange of punts, Denver's defense got into gear when LB Fred Forsberg intercepted a Chicago pass. Denver marched for their second touchdown, capped by a 36-yard touchdown pass from QB Charley Johnson to RB Otis Armstrong. The Bears added one last field goal to make the final margin 33-14.
A footnote to this game: Denver gave up 202 rushing yards to the Bears and committed seven turnovers in the game. This proved to be simply too much to overcome for a victory.
9-30-1974: Denver@Washington, Washington won 30-3.
For the second season in a row, Denver had a game on September 30 -- by virtue of having been scheduled for a Monday Night matchup. This was also the second time that Denver played a September 30 game on the road and the second time they faced an NFC opponent for a September 30 game. Denver was coming off their first ever winning season (7-5-2 in 1973) and had begun the season 0-1-1. Washington was coming off a playoff year, having finished 10-4-0 and in 1st place in the NFC East in 1973. The Redskins had begun the 1974 campaign 1-1-0.
Like the Chicago game in the previous season, this was a game in which the Broncos' opponent built a lead and never looked back. The first quarter ended with Washington leading 7-0. The Redskins added two field goals in the second quarter for a 13-0 halftime lead. Denver finally got on the board in the third quarter when Jim Turner kicked a 34-yard field goal. Unfortunately, this would prove to be the Broncos only score. Washington added a field goal and two touchdowns in the fourth for the 30-3 final score.
This game has two footnotes of interest: the Broncos surrendered 345 total yards while only moving the ball for 159 yards of their own. And once again, they lost the turnover battle, committing 3 (1 interception and 2 fumbles) while recording only a single take away (a fumble).
9-30-1979: Denver@Oakland, Oakland won 27-3
The Broncos were coming off a 10-6-0, 1st place in the AFC West, 1978 season. They traveled to division rival Oakland (which finished 9-7-0 and in 2nd place in the AFC West). Denver had started the 1979 season with a 3-1 run while the Raiders had fallen to 1-3 after the first four games.
The Raiders took an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Denver closed the gap in the second quarter with a 19-yard field goal by Jim Turner. However, Oakland added a second touchdown to take 14-3 halftime lead. The third quarter was scoreless and Oakland dominated the fourth. The Raiders added two field goals for a 20-3 lead, then added a touchdown with 2:46 left when on 1-10-DEN11, RB Jon Keyworth fumbled after catching a Craig Morton pass. The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Oakland.
In this game, Denver had the edge in total yards (291-277) but once again lost the turnover battle 3-0.
9-30-1984: Los Angeles Raiders@Denver, Denver won 16-13
Denver faced off against the Raiders for a second time on September 30. The Broncos were coming off a 9-7-0 season in which they finished 2nd in the AFC West, made the playoffs, but lost in the Wild Card Round. Los Angeles was coming off a 12-4-0 season in which they won not only the AFC West, but the Super Bowl as well. Both teams were off to fast starts in 1984 -- the Broncos were 3-1 while the Raiders were 4-0.
This game started slowly, in terms of scoring. Neither team was able to put points on the board in the first quarter. Denver broke the 0-0 tie in the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal by Rich Karlis. The Raiders answered with a touchdown. Karlis added a second field goal -- 32 yards this time -- to narrow the deficit to 7-6 at the half. Each team added a field goal in the third quarter and the score stood at 10-9 Los Angeles when Denver RB Gerald Willhite made it into the end zone on a 4-yard run for Denver's first touchdown and a 16-10 Broncos advantage. The Raiders added another field goal in the fourth quarter, but could not rally to defeat Denver.
Denver was more dominant in this game than the score might suggest: the Broncos held a 26-12 advantage in first downs, rushed for 231 yards (led by Sammy Winder with 91 and Willhite with 82) and won the turnover battle 2-1.
9-30-1990: Denver@Buffalo, Buffalo won 29-28
Denver was coming off a good year -- they had gone 11-5-0, won the AFC West and won the AFC Championship. Buffalo was also coming off a good year, having gone 9-7-0, winning the AFC East, but losing in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Both teams started the 1990 season well by going 2-1-0.
The first quarter made it look like the Broncos would control the game. They scored on a 1-yard run by RB Bobby Humphrey to take a 7-0 lead and did not allow Buffalo to put any points on the board. Denver extended the lead on a 3-yard run by RB Steve Sewell. Buffalo did manage a field goal to make the halftime deficit 14-3. Buffalo seemed to rally when they scored a third quarter touchdown, but the point after attempt failed and the score stood at 14-9. Denver's Sammy Winder made the margin 21-9 with a 3-yard run for a touchdown. It was in the fourth quarter that the wheels came off for the Broncos. Denver had the ball 4-1-BUF6 -- on their first possession of the fourth quarter. Broncos kicker David Treadwell lined up for a chip shot field goal. Unfortunately, the attempt was blocked and the bouncing football was scooped up by Bills LB Cornelius Bennett and returned 80 yards for a touchdown (Denver 21, Buffalo 16). Denver's next drive was aborted when a John Elway pass was intercepted and returned 39 yards for a touchdown. The point after attempt hit the left upright and bounced away, no good. The Bills now led 22-21. Denver's third drive in the final quarter ended when Elway fumbled the ball on his own 5-yard line and Buffalo recovered at the 2. One play later, the Bills had another touchdown and a 29-21 lead. The Broncos got the ball back with 3:37 left. They drove 70 yard for a touchdown on a 7-yard Elway to WR Ricky Nattiel pass to make the score 29-28. The Broncos opted to forgo a 2-point conversion attempt with 1:23 left on the clock, instead choosing to attempt an onside kick. Buffalo recovered the kick and was able to run out the clock.
This is a game Denver should have won. They held a 28-15 advantage in first downs, a 208-64 advantage in rushing yards, a 221-167 advantage in passing yards, surrendered only two sacks while sacking Buffalo QB Jim Kelly four times. The turning point was, what amounted to three turnovers in the fourth quarter: a blocked punt, a pick-6 and a fumble at the Denver 2-yard line resulted in 21 points for Buffalo.
9-30-2001: Denver@Baltimore, Baltimore won 20-13
Denver was coming off a playoff year, having finished 11-5-0, in 2nd place in the AFC West, but losing in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Baltimore, on the other hand, had finished the previous season at 12-4-0, was 2nd in the AFC Central, but went on to win the Super Bowl (marking the second time that the Broncos faced a defending Super Bowl champion on September 30). Denver had started strong at 2-0 while Baltimore was an even 1-1.
The Broncos started the scoring in the first quarter when QB Brian Griese and TE Dwayne Carswell connected for a 3-yard touchdown pass. After a Baltimore field goal, Denver K Jason Elam extended the Broncos lead to 10-3 with a 43-yard field goal. Baltimore added a second field goal in the second quarter and Denver went into the locker room with a 10-6 halftime lead. Elam added his second field goal in the third quarter to give Denver a 13-3 lead, but Baltimore fought back by adding a touchdown of their own to trail by only 3 at the end of three quarters. Denver was not able to hold on for the victory and the Ravens added a fourth quarter touchdown for the 20-13 victory.
Though Denver won the turnover battle 3-1, they surrendered over 100 more yards (228-333) to the Ravens than they recorded.
9-30-2002: Denver@Baltimore, Baltimore won 34-23.
For the second consecutive year, Denver played the Ravens on September 30 -- this time a Monday Night matchup. The Broncos had finished the previous season with a pedestrian 8-8-0 record and a 3rd place finish in the AFC West. Baltimore was coming off a playoff year, finishing 10-6-0, in 2nd place in the AFC Central, but had lost in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Denver had started the 2002 season with a 3-0 run while the Ravens started 0-2 (their bye week came in Week 3).
As in the previous season's meeting, the Broncos scored first on a 40-yard Jason Elam field goal in the first quarter. Baltimore then exploded in the second quarter, scoring 31unanswered points. First came a touchdown, then the Ravens blocked a Tom Rouen punt which gave them the ball at the Denver 7-yard line. This led to a second Ravens touchdown. Denver's next drive ended in a punt and Baltimore turned that stop into a field goal. A Brian Griese interception on the Broncos' next possession led to another Baltimore drive for a touchdown and a 24-3 lead. To add insult to injury, the Broncos were positioned for a 57-yard field by Elam as time expired in the first half. The kick fell three yards short and Ravens CB Chris McAlister caught the ball then returned it 107 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos never recovered from that onslaught, though they did hold the Ravens to just 3 points in the second half and added three touchdowns of their own.
Again, this is a game that by the statistics, Denver should have won: 30-14 edge in first downs, 328-152 edge in passing yards, but those could not overcome a blocked punt, an interception and a missed field goal that led to 21 Baltimore points.
9-30-2007: Denver@Indianapolis, Indianapolis won 38-20
Denver's most recent game on September 30 saw future Broncos QB Peyton Manning dismantle the Broncos with ease. Denver was coming off a 9-7-0, 2nd place in the AFC West finish while the Colts were looking to defend a 12-4-0, 1st place in the AFC South, Super Bowl Champions season -- which, as a side note, is the third time the Broncos have faced a defending Super Bowl champion on September 30. Denver had started well with a 2-1-0 record, while Indianapolis was holding a 3-0 start.
The first quarter belonged to Denver. The Broncos started with a 35-yard Elam field goal, followed by a 7-yard Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall touchdown pass. In the second quarter, the Colts cut into that lead with a touchdown of their own, but Elam's 22-yard field goal in the quarter gave the Broncos a 13-7 advantage. That disappeared with Indianapolis' second touchdown and the Broncos went into the locker room trailing 14-13 at the half. The Colts doubled their score in the third quarter adding two more touchdowns before Jay Cutler snuck in from 2 yards out to make it a 28-20 game. Unfortunately, the Colts owned the fourth quarter adding 10 more points for a 38-20 final.
As an interesting footnote to the game: both teams rushed for over 200 yards; Denver had 223, the Colts 226. The leading rushers were: for Denver, Travis Henry (131) and Selvin Young (81); for Indianapolis, Joseph Addai (136) and Kenton Keith (80).
For What It's Worth
This is a worrisome game. History is against the Broncos on this one. They have played nine games on September 30 and lost seven of them. The last time they won on September 30 was in 1984. Not only that, Denver is trying to break a 2-game losing streak, while the Raiders are riding high having just upset the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On the upside, Denver's two losses this season are to two of the only three undefeated teams in the NFL in 2012 while the Raiders' losses came at the hands of 2-1-0 San Diego and 1-2-0 Miami. And while it is true that the Broncos have not won on September 30 since 1984, that win in 1984 was over the Raiders, in Denver. So here's hoping we see another Broncos' victory over the team Broncos' fans love to hate.