A year ago, we were sitting in the same position. 13-3, #1 seed. We were to play a team with aging defensive stars and an inconsistent young signal caller that we beat by double digits just several weeks earlier. We were riding the euphoric wave of an 11-game winning streak, a team that ascended to dominance after a sluggish, uncertain start.
Nothing could stop us, it was destiny.
Then Bill Vinovich, a hungry team with a chip on it's shoulder, and an unfortunate defensive gaffe happened. And we were stunned. One and done.
Destiny has no identity in the NFL playoff landscape.
It was the most devastating loss the Broncos endured since the 2005 AFC Championship Game, and it stung far more than a 59-14 beat down suffered at the hands of our most hated rival at home just a few years earlier. This is how fickle life is in the NFL postseason. One bad game and you're going home, just another team that has fallen short of the prize.
In 2007 the best team in the NFL and the former #1 offense in NFL history carved their path to the Super Bowl looking to go 19-0 and become arguably the greatest team of all time. Instead, the weight and enormity of history - along with an inspired defensive performance by their foes - sent them home 18-1. No title. Just disappointment and heartbreak.
The narrative of heartbreak continues. A year later, both #6 seeds upset their respective #1 seeds in the Divisional round. The next season both #1 seeds advanced to the Super Bowl. The dream for one team was extinguished when Tracy Porter ran an interception back for a touchdown late in the game. The following year both 6 seeds made it to their conference championship games and one of them took it down.
Being the top dog of the regular season ensures your path through the tournament will be played at home. Nothing more.
55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards gets you nothing in the playoffs. The reward is history and the wins that have already come. It does not guarantee that Peyton Manning will play lights-out for the duration of the playoffs. 606 regular season points mean nothing when the tournament begins.
When the dust has cleared and the best are left standing, 12 teams have an equal shot at winning a ring.
Those that play their best survive, and those that get the lucky bounce survive.
The good news is that, even though the numbers go away, we have a team that is capable of beating any team that is left. If our Broncos play to their ability, we will win. The question is, simply: can they remain consistent and focused?
Adversity is not something that will sink this team. Though the 2013 Denver Broncos will forever be identified by their historic offensive output during the regular season, what I will remember the most is attaining that prolific output in the face of suspensions, devastating injuries to most of the defense and our blindside protector. I will remember overcoming offseason embarrassments from Broncos brass, and a midseason head coaching change necessitated by a life-threatening ailment.
These Broncos are battle-tested and ready to face whatever may come. In each loss we had a shot, and never did adversity cause the Broncos to play wildly off script.
It's not about how many times you've been knocked down, it's about how many times you've gotten up.
Playoff football is the great equalizer. Any given Sunday and all that jazz. But I'll take the Broncos to win it all. Not because it's destiny, but because we have as good a shot as any.
Let the tournament begin!