Every so often, my mind gets fixated on an odd idea or three. This time as I looked for a different slant to take with the upcoming game versus Detroit -- and as my students have filled me in on all their plans for Halloween -- I found myself wondering how the Broncos have fared historically when playing on October 30.
What I found surprised me just a little bit. Take a jump and see if it surprises you too.
The Broncos lost the first three games played on October 30 and won the last three. They are 1-1 versus the Chiefs, 0-1 versus the Chargers, 0-1 versus the Raiders, 1-0 versus Cleveland and 1-0 versus Philadelphia. They were outscored 45-65 in the losses. Denver outscored their opponents 102-59 in the wins.
Here is a brief summary of each game:
The 4-2 Broncos hosted the 2-4 Dallas Texans (the team that would later become the Kansas City Chiefs) during their first season. They found themselves in a dog-fight. The scored was tied 7-7 after one quarter. The Broncos found themselves trailing 7-14 at the half and 7-17 after three quarters. They went on to score one more touchdown to bring the final to 14-17.
Quarterback Frank Tripucka completed 14 out of 31 passes for 179 yards. He threw 1 touchdown pass and was intercepted twice. Running back Al Charmichael led the team with 6 rushes for 61 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver David Rolle led the Broncos with 3 catches for 46 yards. In this game, Denver turned the ball over five times. Interestingly enough, they drew only 1 5-yard penalty in the game.
This loss, unfortunately started a long downward spiral which saw the Broncos lose seven of their last eight games. The one non-loss was a 38-38 tie with the Buffalo Bills. Denver finished the season at 4-9-1.
The 1-6 Denver Broncos went on the road to face the 4-2-1 San Diego Chargers. They fought hard in this game, taking a 7-0 lead in the first, and leads of 14-7 and 17-14 in the second before falling behind 17-21 at the half. The Chargers added a field goal in the fourth quarter for the final margin of 17-24.
Denver played two quarterbacks in this game: John McCormick (9 of 18 for 91 yards) and Max Choboian (6 of 13 for 71 yards). Flanker Bob Scarpitto led the Broncos in rushing with 2 rushes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Al Denson caught 3 passes for 39 yards to lead the team. Denver did not turn the ball over during this contest and was penalized just 3 times for 56 yards.
Interestingly enough, this loss served as a motivator for the Broncos who went on to win three out of their last six games (including a 20-17 victory over the Chargers three weeks later) and finish the season at 4-10.
In what would prove to be Denver's first season with a trip to the playoffs, the 6-0 Broncos played host to the 5-1 Oakland Raiders. This was a game in which the Raiders came in and dominated the Broncos. Denver trailed 0-7 after one quarter, 0-17 at the half, 0-24 after three. The Broncos did get two fourth quarter touchdowns to make the score look respectable.
Quarterback Craig Morton went 19 of 32 for 242 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He was also sacked 8 times. Denver's running game struggled with running back Lonnie Perrin leading the team with 11 rushes for 58 yards. The Broncos gave up 200 yards on the ground to the Raiders. Wide receiver Jack Dolbin led the team with 3 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.
After this loss, Denver went on to win six straight games. Their only other loss was a 6-14 defeat by the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale. Denver finished first in the AFC West that year (Oakland finished 2nd). The Broncos gained revenge for their loss to Oakland by defeating the Raiders 20-17 in the AFC Championship game. Unfortunately, they were unable to do the same with Dallas and lost 10-27 in Super Bowl XII.
In the year that a trade brought a young quarterback named John Elway to the Denver, the 5-3 Broncos played host to the 4-4 Kansas City Chiefs. Though they fell behind 0-7 in the first quarter, the Broncos went on to lead 17-7 at the half, 20-10 after three quarters and won 27-24 for their first victory in a game played on October 30.
Quarterback Steve DeBerg (John Elway was only seeing spot duty at this time & did not play in this game) went 21 of 41 for 350 yards and 1 touchdown. Denver's running game was practically non-existent -- running back Dave Preston led the team with 14 rushes for 26 yards. Wide receiver Rick Upchurch had a good day turning 6 catches into 143 yards. Denver only turned the ball over once. They were penalized 8 times in the contest. The Denver defense held the Chiefs to just 35 yards rushing and intercepted Kansas City quarterback Bill Kenney twice.
Denver struggled the rest of the way through the 1983 season, going 3-4 in their last seven games. They did make the playoffs but lost to division rival Seattle 7-31 in a Wild Card matchup.
The heavily favored Cleveland Browns (6-1) came to Denver to take on the 2-5 Broncos. But it was not to be. In what may have been a continuation of the Broncos curse on the Browns (dating back to The Drive 1/11/87), the Browns who had gone 6-2 versus the Broncos since The Drive were to be denied again. Led by quarterback John Elway, the Broncos jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, led 14-6 at half and 20-6 after three quarters. The Browns closed to 20-14 in the fourth after a touchdown pass from Mark Rypien to Mark Carrier and a 2-point conversion. But Elway put the game away with a 17-yard pass to Glyn Milburn.
Elway went 30 of 41 for 349 yards with 2 touchdowns in this game. The Broncos rushed by committee (5 players in double digits) for 114 yards led by running back Glyn Milburn (8 rushes for 38 yards). Tight end Shannon Sharpe led the receiving corp with 9 catches for 85 yards. Denver turned the ball over twice on fumbles and drew 9 yellow flags. They held the Browns to 41 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately the win did not prove to be a turning point in the 1994 season as the Broncos went on to finish their last eight games at 4-4 and the season at 7-9.
The Denver Broncos for the fourth consecutive year began the season 5-2 as they prepared to host the 4-2 Philadelphia Eagles. Led by Jake Plummer, in his third season with the Broncos, Denver started fast and barely looked back. The Broncos led 14-0 after one quarter and 28-7 at the half. The Eagles tried to make a game of it by closing to 28-21 in the third quarter, but three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 67-yard touchdown run by Tatum Bell put the game out of reach.
Quarterback Jake Plummer went 22 of 35 for 309 yards and 4 touchdowns without an interception. Running backs Mike Anderson (21 for 126 yards, 1 touchdown) and Tatum Bell (14 for 107 yards, 2 touchdowns) combined for 233 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. Wide receiver Ashley Lelie led the team with 3 catches for 81 yards (Rod Smith was a close second with 5 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown). Denver committed no turnovers in this game and intercepted Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb twice.
This win set the stage for a 7-1 run to close out the 2005 season at 13-3. After defeating the New England Patriots 27-13 in a divisional playoff game, the Broncos lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-34 in the AFC Championship game.
We will have to wait a few more hours to see how the Broncos fare on this October 30. Stacked against them is a strong Detroit team. Going in Denver's favor is some history: Denver has won the last three times they played on October 30, the Lions are 1-3 in Denver (and have lost the last three times they made the trek west), and while the Lions embarrassed the Broncos 44-7 in 2007, Detroit has never beaten Denver two meetings in a row. So, here's to hoping that history wins out and that we end up facing a paper Lion on Sunday.