Looking back, I decided to pick the best game from each decade and decide from there which performance most deserved recognition on this week's Through The Years post. Though there were some good one's in years past, there is one that sticks out to me as the most important win the Broncos have ever had over the Patriots. That game took place on January 14, 2006. It had been nearly 8 years since the Broncos had won a playoff game and faced the defending Super Bowl champions in Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. What better way to get the Bronco organization back into its winning ways.
The 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos would be the apex of the Post-Elway transition era. From 1999-2005 Shanny would rely on his superior coaching ability and free agent pick ups to build a competitive team. At the time, no one knew that this era would end a few short months after this game with the drafting of Jay Cutler.
The game turned out to be a slug fest early on. Neither team really getting anything going. The Patriots were beating themselves with turnovers, while the Broncos were beating themselves with Plummer. I don't mean to rag on Jake "The Snake", but he didn't play well in the post season that year. The intensity on defense kept us in the game and we were up 10-6 on the Patriots late in the third quarter when the game changed permanently in the Broncos favor. Up until this point in the game, the momentum seemed to be swaying into the favor of the Patriots. Tom Brady was marching his team down the field and the Broncos defense finally started to look worn down. The Patriots were on the verge of scoring a touchdown when Champ Bailey took over.
Champ Bailey stepped in front of a Tom Brady pass in the end zone and streaked down the field for the longest interception returned that wasn't a touchdown in NFL history. Ben Watson saved the touchdown by nailing Champ at the one yard line. Mike Anderson would punch it in from one yard out to put the Broncos up 17-6. Jake Plummer then came alive in the 4th quarter and led the Broncos to another touchdown to put the Patriots away. I've posted that game changing/saving interception by Champ below:
The hero of the day was defense. Al Wilson and his unit forced five turnovers and frustrated Tom Brady all day. Though Brady was never sacked, he was pressured and harassed the entire game. Watching some reruns on this game, one thing is certain to me - we need a top MLB. The defense plays so much better when its led by a talented and competent mike. Here's to looking forward to one in the 2009 draft!
The Denver Broncos would win their first playoff game since 1998, handing Tom Brady the first playoff loss of his career. The dominating performance belied the Broncos true talent as they would be utterly dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers the following week. The loss to the Steelers would send the Broncos organization into a rebuilding mode that wouldn't officially start until late in the 2006 season. Two and a half years later the Broncos are poised to become an elite football team once again. Though it looks more and more like the 2009 season will bear more fruit than the 2008 one.
Here is my list of the best from each decade:
9/9/1960 - Denver Broncos @ Boston Patriots, 13-10
The first game ever played within the newly formed American Football League(AFL). The Broncos play tough and win their first ever game 13-10 over the Patriots. They would start the season 4-2, before losing the rest of their games that season to finish 4-9-1.
11/11/79 - New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos, 45-10
Both teams came into this game sporting a 7-3 record, though only one would come away a playoff contender. The Orange Crush defense would dominate from start to finish to improve to 8-3. The Broncos would win their next game as well, before losing four of their next five games, which included the Wild Card loss to the Oilers.
1/4/87 - New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos, 22-17
John Elway's first playoff victory over an organization he would go on to dominate throughout his entire career. This victory put the Broncos on a path towards the Super Bowl as the following week Elway would become a NFL Legend after "The Drive".
10/27/91 - Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots, 9-6
This game only adds to Elway's lore as he stymies the Patriots even when he plays a horrible game he beats the Pats. Elway directed a 9 play, 42 yard drive for a game winning field goal with less than two minutes to play. It's amazing to me that fully 1/3 of all of Elway's victories came by taking a lead in the 4th quarter.
NOTE: I am off for a fun weekend in Lake Tahoe to celebrate my 30th birthday! See you all on Monday for the game. GO BRONCOS!