July is always a special month for me. Contained within is my birthday, the start of Denver Broncos Training Camp, my favorite holiday Independence Day, and the resetting of the game tape.
Resetting the game tape is as simple as rewatching all the previous season's games as a primer for the upcoming analysis that training camp inspires, and then, for all intents and purposes, shelving the tapes to a reference only status on the bookshelves in my office. Their old spot on my desk gets reserved for fresh new game tapes from the upcoming season, as I officially say goodby to the past and prepare for the future. And part of that tradition has been to compile for myself a list of notes regarding what I felt were pivotal plays and defining moments of the previous season. I would look at these notes and ask myself, "Will we be able to expect these things next year?" or "Have we seen the last of that?"
With my somewhat recent discovery of MHR I can't think of a better place to store those notes for posterity. I invite you along over the next several weeks leading up to training camp, for a final glimpse at some very specific happenings from 2007, some good, and some bad. After picking arguably the ten best and ten worst moments, I found that I could hardly choose between them to assign a ranking, so instead I have chosen to delve into them relatively chronologically, while bouncing back and forth between best and worst moments. When it is all said and done, the ranking will be left up to you, the tried and true MHR faithful.
Moment #1 -- One of the Best
--"Toro, Toro, Toro!"
Week one in Buffalo gave us a lot to think about. A run defense that looked just as bad as it had appeared to be in preseason, a running game that looked like it would be able to dominate, a return game that seemed anemic at best and a young QB who kept his cool when the going got tough.
But as far as first games of the season go, the big concern on most fans' minds was: "How long will it be before we can actually win on opening day?" And in true 2007 fashion, we bucked one trend only to come face to face with the makings of another trend that was far, far worse. Consider the following:
The trend we were bucking was that of opening day failure, and the trend we faced anew was a routinely dispiriting lack of run defense, offensive impotence in the red zone and dazed and confused special teams play. Doesn't seem like a fair trade, does it?
But for one brief moment as Walker was scurrying to his feet after yet another laser from Cutler had burned into his hands on a short slant across the vulnerable middle of a Bill's secondary that could almost taste victory, for the briefest span of time that was marked by the breathless chant of a homefield crowd that couldn't believe what they were seeing, for just an instant we saw the 2007 Broncos not as they were, but as they should have been, and as they could have been. We saw timing, teamwork, and impeccable execution. And more unbelievable than that, we saw it all on special teams! It would be the only time we did.
Does Toro Magic still exist for the 2008 Broncos?
Depends on what you think the source of it was. Elam is long gone and last I checked he was the one being mobbed by the players who executed around him. That is a pretty strong endorsement for Elam, and a strong indication that we not only lost "Toro Magic" but any other kind of FG magic that we have become dependent on over the past decade.
But I think the magic may still be in place. Remember, there was no Toro before Scott O'Brien came to town, and while there is no doubt that we will hear his name again on this list, perhaps on the Worst side of the coin next time, he was not handpicked by Shanahan because he was bringing the resume of a slouch to Denver. He was renowned for his organizational skills and dedication and depth of preparation while in Carolina, and nothing will endear you to Shanahan more than working almost as hard as he does. I actually think that not only will the magic be present, but it may even have a much more dramatic effect this year. I am thinking here of the young, fast talent we added in this year's draft, and the electric return skills of Eddie Royal and Jack Williams. Along with the loss of Elam came the divesting of dead weight that was, according to accounts out of the Bronco's camp, not terribly thrilled to be on Bronco's special teams units. In my mind, Elam was a necessary link in the Toro chain that got that FG off in less than 10 seconds and saw it sail high and true through the uprights in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
But he wasn't the one who forged that chain.