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Little Known Broncos Facts: Opening Day (1960s)

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I think that every Broncos fan out there can hardly wait for Sunday, September 9, 2012 to arrive. That date will bring our beloved team back onto the field for their first regular season game of the 2012 campaign. It will also be marked down in history as the first time that Super Bowl-winning quarterback other than John Elway has opened a season for Denver.

Anticipation and excitement are building as we move towards that opening game as questions abound about how the Broncos will fare. After all, the last seven season openers have been something of a mixed bag:

Year Opponent Result Score Season Result
2005 @Miami L 34-10 13-3-0, AFC West Champions
2006 @St. Louis L 18-10 9-7-0, Missed playoffs
2007 @Buffalo W 15-14 7-9-0, Missed playoffs
2008 @Oakland W 41-14 8-8-0, Missed playoffs
2009 @Cincinnati W 12-7 8-8-0, Missed playoffs
2010 @Jacksonville L 17-24 4-12-0, Missed playoffs
2011 Oakland L 20-23 8-8-0, Won Division, Won Wild Card Game, Lost Divisional Game

Six of seven openers on the road, a 3-4 record in those games, only two seasons above .500, only two seasons with playoff appearances. This can leave even the staunchest fan feeling just a touch concerned.

Since predicting outcomes is more often than not an exercise in futility, I thought I would take us back through Denver Broncos history and look at how our favorite team has fared in their opening game. This edition of Little Known Broncos Facts will look at the first games of the 1960s.

Take a jump back to the 1960s with me.

September 9, 1960: Denver at Boston, Denver won 13-10
The Broncos fell behind 0-3 in the first quarter, but took the lead in the 2nd when QB Frank Tripucka and RB Al Carmichael connected on a 59-yard pass play for a touchdown. RB Gene Mingo returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter (the extra point try failed) to take a 13-3 lead. Boston added a touchdown later in the third to close the gap to 13-10, but the Broncos held on for the win. Denver went on to finish the season at 4-9-1.

September 10, 1961: Denver at Buffalo, Denver won 22-10
Denver struck first when RB Gene Mingo completed a 50-yard pass play to WR Lionel Taylor for a 7-0 lead. A Buffalo score plus a two-point conversion gave the Bills an 8-7 lead in the 1st quarter. The Broncos scored once in the 2nd -- Tripucka to WR Al Frazier for 23 yards and a touchdown -- and again in the 3rd -- RB Gene Mingo hit WR Taylor on a 52-yard pass play for a touchdown. Denver gave Buffalo two points in the 4th when punter George Herring ran out of his own end zone. The Broncos went on to finish the season at 3-10-0.

September 7, 1962: San Diego at Denver, Denver won 30-21
The Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the 1st quarter behind a 5-yard touchdown run by Mingo and a 12-yard Mingo field goal. San Diego briefly closed the gap to 10-7 in the 2nd, but Denver quickly added 14 more points from a 49-yard pass (Tripucka to WR Bob Scarpitto) and a 2-yard pass (Tripucka to FB Bo Dickson). The Broncos added 6 more points behind two Mingo field goals (41 yards and 53 yards) to take a 30-7 lead. San Diego did muster a touchdown in each of the 2nd half quarters but was not able to overcome Denver's lead. The Broncos went on to finish the season at 7-7-0.

September 7, 1963: Kansas City at Denver, Kansas City won 59-7
This game was a rout by Kansas City from the start. The Chiefs took 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter and expanded it to 21-0 in the 2nd before the Broncos were able to get on the board via a 15-yard pass (QB Mickey Slaughter to Taylor). From there, Kansas City ran away with the game, scoring another touchdown to take a 28-7 lead at the half. Three 3rd quarter touchdowns made it 49-7 and a field goal and touchdown combination in the 4th gave Kansas City it's final margin of victory. Denver went on to finish the season at 2-11-1.

September 12, 1964: Denver at New York Jets, New York won 30-6
This was a close game through the first three quarters and early into the fourth. The Jets took a 7-0 lead but Denver closed it to 7-3 on a 32-yard field goal by Mingo. The Jets extended their lead to 10-3, then 13-3 on field goals by Jim Turner -- the same Jim Turner would go on to play for the Broncos from 1971-79. The Broncos closed the deficit to a single score on Mingo's second field goal of the game. Unfortunately, the Jets scored 14 points in the final quarter to bring the score to it's final margin of 30-6. Denver struggled throughout this season and ended the year at 2-11-1.

September 11, 1965: Denver at San Diego, San Diego won 34-31
This marked the third season in a row that Denver dropped it's opening game -- that streak had followed one of three seasons of winning their opening game. Denver had jumped out to a 14-3 lead on a 2-yard run by Abner Haynes and a 33-yard pass (Slaughter to Scarpitto). Then the Chargers went on a 17-3 run to lead 27-17 at the half. The Broncos made it a 3-point game in the 4th quarter when Slaughter hit FB Cookie Gilchrist for a 29-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, San Diego scored a touchdown in the 4th which meant that Slaughter's second touchdown toss to Scarpitto was not able to overcome the deficit. Denver went on to finish the season at 4-10-0.

September 3, 1966: Denver at Houston, Houston won 45-7

This season, the Broncos suffered their second worst opening game defeat in franchise history to date. Though Houston scored first, Denver tied the score at 7-7 in the 1st quarter when DB Goldie Sellers returned a Houston kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. After that, however, it was all Houston, as the Oilers jumped to a 17-7 lead at the half, 24-7 lead after three quarters and scored three touchdowns in the final quarter of play. The Broncos ended that season with a 4-10-0 record.

September 3, 1967: Boston at Denver, Denver won 26-21
Denver opened a season for the second time by playing the Boston Patriots. The results were similar to their first season-opening game. The Broncos opened the scoring on a 12-yard pass from QB Steve Tensi to WR Al Denson. The Patriots tied it, then Denver forged a 16-7 lead on a 20-yard field goal by Gary Kroner and a 55-yard pass from Tensi to Denson (the point after attempt failed). However, the Broncos fell behind 21-16 when Boston scored two unanswered touchdowns. A 9-yard field goal by Kroner cut the deficit to two and Denver won on a 29-yard interception by Sellers that went for a touchdown. The Broncos finished the season at 3-11-0.

September 15, 1968: Denver at Cincinnati, Cincinnati won 24-10
This was a heartbreaker of a game. The Broncos played the Bengals even through the first half but fell behind 10-0 in the third quarter. A 33-yard field goal by Bob Humphreys made it 10-3. Denver tied the game at 10 in the 4th when QB Jim LeClair hit WR Eric Crabtree for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Sadly, however, the Broncos then gave up two touchdowns on long plays -- a 54-yard pass and a 35-yard run. Denver went on to finish the season at 5-9-0.

September 14, 1969: Boston at Denver, Denver won 35-7
After this game, the Broncos must have been praying to open each season against Boston -- having won each of the three times that the two teams played one another for their season opener. Denver led 14-0 after one quarter -- on a 1-yard run by Tommie Smiley and a 17-yard pass from Tensi to Smiley. That lead became 28-0 by halftime -- RB Floyd Little scored on a 3-yard run and Tensi hit Denson for a 9-yard touchdown pass. The Broncos added one more touchdown -- a 3-yard pass from Tensi to Denson -- in the third quarter. Boston's lone score came in the 4th quarter.

There are some interesting things to note about Denver's season openers in the 1960s:

Opening Day Records

Opening Day Record 5-5-0
Opened at Home 4
Opened Away 6
Record at Home 3-1-0
Record Away 2-4-0

Records versus Opponents

Opponent Record
Boston 3-0
Buffalo 1-0
San Diego 1-1
Kansas City 0-1
New York Jets 0-1
Houston Oilers 0-1
Cincinnati 0-1

Win/Loss Margins

Largest Win 1969 vs Boston 28 pts 35-7
Narrowest Win 1960 vs Boston 3 pts 13-10
Largest Loss 1963 vs Kansas City 52 pts 59-7
Narrowest Loss 1962 vs San Diego 3 pts 34-31

Next time: Season Openers of the 1970s.

Go Broncos!!!!!