Excepting brief periods in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Denver Broncos have always had the advantage when it comes to playing the Cincinnati Bengals. Denver commands a 21-10 all-time record and hope to increase that win total this Sunday.
When it comes to the AFC North, Broncos fans could largely care less about the Bengals when given the option over the Steelers, Ravens, and Browns. That isn’t the case when it comes to announcers who used to be Bengals. It’s long been an annoyance of Broncos fans that favoritism and dismissive attitudes that Cris Collisworth and Boomer Esiason exhibit in their commentary. The Denver Post noted Collinsworth’s disdain, here and yours truly broke down Esiason’s, here.
So let’s take a look at a game where John Elway’s Denver Broncos beat both Benglas commentators in the same game. On November 30, 1986 Denver hosted the Bengals at old Mile High in what is the highest-scoring match-up in their history.
The AFC Champion Denver Broncos of 1986 featured many legendary Denver Broncos in addition to Elway. “The Vance” Johnson, Sammy Winder, Mark Jackson, Clarence Kay, Rich Karlis, Gerald Willhite, Louis Wright, and Karl Mecklenburg headlined Dan Reeves’ squad. Sam Wyche’s Bengals featured... pretty much just our announcer friends mentioned earlier.
Rich Karlis’ legendary shoeless foot booted the first points of the game with a 49-yard fieldgoal. The Bengals responded with a Stanley Wilson 20-yard rushing touchdown to take the lead.
In the second quarter, John Elway lobbed his first touchdown in 3 games, connecting with Vance Johnson on a 4-yard touchdown. The Bengals running game again answered with a 5-yard Larry Kinnebrew touchdown to again take the lead. That’s when John Elway found Mark Jackson and Sammy Winder for a touchdown each to close out the half.
At some point in the 3rd quarter, Broncos DB Louis Wright hauled in an Esiason interception helping to set up either the 11-yard Sammy Winder rushing touchdown or the Rich Karlis 33-yard field goal to give the Broncos a commanding 34-14 lead going into the 4th quarter.
Despite a pair of touchdown connections between Collinsworth and Esiason in the closing period of the game, the Broncos emerged victorious, 34-28. The victory took Denver to 10-3 and gave them sole possession of 1st place in the AFC West. The Bengals fell to 8-5, behind the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North.
It’s funny to think how things might have been different if the Broncos hadn’t won this game. The Bengals would have been neck-and-neck with the Browns in the closing weeks of the 1986 season and a Broncos loss would have made their road in the playoffs more difficult. On that chilly November day at old Mile High, John Elway not only bested some of the Broncos biggest critics, but also set in motion the groundwork for perhaps the greatest Broncos comeback of his career in “The Drive.”
With the 2018 Broncos playoff hopes hinging on these few upcoming games, it’s hard to argue that this Sunday’s game isn’t as or more important than the 1986 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.