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The 1961 Denver Broncos beat the Oakland Raiders and not much else

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Brian Shrout and I continue our review of the early history of the Denver Broncos. They beat a hated rival, twice, but other than that the season was going to be another rough outing for a franchise that would struggle for over a decade.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The 1961 Denver Broncos left off right where the 1960 Broncos finished. Ever vigilant, they won their first game again in this season, but then would go on to lose 11 of their final 13 games to finish 3-11.

They did pick up a win over the Oakland Raiders in the preseason 48-21 in Spokane, Washington of all places. To show how terribly organized the AFL was back in the early days, the Broncos actually played six of their seven home games in just seven weeks. Fortunately, they won two of those six home games.

It is not surprising that the Broncos struggled early on. The American Football League’s first ever competitive draft was held in 1961. They went up against not only each of the other AFL teams but the established teams of the National Football League as well. Only two of the thirty players drafted by the Broncos in the 1961 AFL Draft made the team’s 1961 roster. Many players opted to sign with NFL teams rather than try their luck in the fledgling AFL. The two players who did make the cut were Dale Evans (5 games, no stats) and Phil Nugent (12 games, 7 interceptions).

These rough times only got rougher as the city of Denver hadn’t yet caught Orange Fever. Although, Lionel Taylor was certainly catching on with the few locals who had taken up football as their new national pastime.

1961 Preseason
DATE ATTENDANCE SCORE OPPONENT GAME SITE
Aug. 12 10,000 L 31-13 Dallas Texans Midland, Texas
Aug. 19 6,500 W 48-21 Oakland Raiders Spokane, Washington
Aug. 25 21,710 L 29-27 Dallas Texans Fort Worth, Texas
Sept. 1 10,087 L 42-10 Houston Oilers Mobile, Alabama
Sept. 4 6,300 L 49-12 Oakland Raiders Candlestick Park
1961 Regular Season
Sept. 10 16,636 W 22-10 Buffalo Bills War Memorial Stadium
Sept. 16 14,479 L 45-17 Boston Patriots Boston University Field
Sept. 24 14,381 L 35-28 New York Titans Polo Grounds
Oct. 1 8,361 L 33-19 Oakland Raiders Candlestick Park
Oct. 8 14,500 L 19-12 Dallas Texans Bears Stadium
Oct. 15 11,129 W 27-24 Oakland Raiders Bears Stadium
Oct. 22 12,508 W 27-10 New York Titans Bears Stadium
Oct. 29 32,584 L 37-0 San Diego Chargers Balboa Stadium
Nov. 5 11,564 L 55-14 Houston Oilers Bears Stadium
Nov. 12 7,859 L 19-16 San Diego Chargers Bears Stadium
Nov. 19 7,645 L 23-10 Buffalo Bills Bears Stadium
Nov. 26 27,874 L 45-14 Houston Oilers Jeppesen Stadium
Dec. 3 9,303 L 28-24 Boston Patriots Bears Stadium

MHR MVP of 1961

Once again, Lionel Taylor is the only true superstar playing for the Denver Broncos. He would average nearly 10 catches a game with 100 total for 1176 yards and four touchdowns. Opposing defenses had finally caught on to Taylor’s explosiveness and the rest of the Broncos rather void talent level. Yet, Taylor continues to dominate the AFL like no other.

Losing is hard, but it's made easier when a player or two plays their butt off despite the sustained losing efforts. Taylor is a Hall of Fame player in my book.

Who gets your MVP?

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