Who doesn't get excited for snow games? Some teams spend millions to keep the elements out while the Denver Broncos embrace them. Rain, sun, or snow, the weather outside Mile High is the weather inside, like it or not.
Before the Broncos victory over the Patriots in overtime last season...
...and before Al Wilson impressed us in this one...
...and later than this defensive classic...
November 24, 2002 - Colts vs. Broncos
Why is there no video of this game readily available on the internet? It may have something to do with the heartbreaking way in which it ended.
This game was the first, since switching to blue jerseys in 1996, that the Broncos would return to their orange roots... and it was played in the snow. The Colts roster featured a ton of names mentioned during recent Peyton Manning's retirement speech at Dove Valley - Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wane, Jeff Saturday, Edgerrin James, and Dwight Freeney. The Broncos were anchored by a few legends themselves - Clinton Portis, Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, Mike Anderson, John Mobley, Jason Elam, and Al Wilson. Quarterback Brian Griese was out due to an injury sustained in the the 31-9 victory the previous week over the Seattle Seahawks. Steve Beuerlein started under then center, Ben Hamilton.
I remember being cocky for this one. The Colts and Peyton Manning had yet to really shock the world and the Broncos were riding high with a 7-4 record. Sure, the Colts had an identical record, but they'd been stymied the last five times they played in Denver. Come on, let's be honest, the Colts had a reputation back then and it wasn't for winning football games. With so many players that had been on Denver's Super Bowl rosters from just a few years before, why wouldn't a Broncos fan's confidence be high?
After the Colt's first drive ended in a Mike Vanderjagt field goal, Denver would overcome an early interception to take the lead with a Rod Smith touchdown.
Then something Broncos fans hadn't seen in a long time happened. After making 371 consecutive extra points, kicker Jason Elam missed. As Patriots fans learned last year in the playoffs against the Broncos, missed extra points have a way of coming back to bite you.
Denver would open the second half with a Clinton Portis touchdown. The Broncos were ahead 13-3, but the prophecy of Peyton Manning's Colts would not be denied. On the ensuing drive, the Colts would march from their 20-yardline to score a touchdown. Steve Beuerlein would then throw an interception that was returned by the Colts for 53-yards. In short order, Edgerrin James and Mike Vanderjagt had the Colts up 17-13 with a minute to go in the 3rd quarter.
Clinton Portis would answer this touchdown with one of his own in the 4th quarter giving the Broncos a 20-17 lead with 9:29 to go. Could Denver hold the Colts off? They almost did. On a 4th and 5 from with time running out, the Colts 48-yardline, Peyton Manning converted a 16-yard pass to Qadry Ismail to set up what would be the 54-yard game tying kick as time expired to send the game into overtime, 20-20. Oh Jason Elam, now is when we needed that extra point!
The Broncos offense would never see the field again. Peyton Manning engineered a 9-play drive that set up yet another monster kick from Mike Vanderjagt, this time for 51-yards, to win the game. The Broncos orange uniforms had failed the Broncos and, to lose like that, it wrenched Broncos fans' hearts. While Manning's 27/44 for 229 yards wasn't world beating, it was his will to move the ball when it mattered that I remember most. Sadly, the missed extra point in the 2nd quarter proved to be the difference maker.
So why bring this game to light?
This game was the turning point in the all-time record between these two teams. Before that game, including playoffs, the Broncos 9-3 record against the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts. Since then, Denver has gone 3-9 against the Colts. While the Broncos own a 2-game regular season advantage in this series, the Colts three playoff victories have them exactly 1 win ahead of Denver going into this Sunday's matchup at Mile High.
Interestingly enough, Sunday's game will be the first in 23 years where a game against the Broncos and Colts didn't feature Peyton Manning (aside from the games he was benched to rest against the Broncos). It's time to turn the page for both franchises. Why not start the next chapter with a Denver Broncos win?