For SB Nation theme week, we are looking at the greatest Denver Broncos teams to never win a Super Bowl. Initially, I thought maybe we could include Super Bowl losing squads, but the more I thought about that the more I felt they at least had their chance to win it all and failed. I looked at seasons cut short in the playoffs, instead.
Only two seasons came to mind for this discussion.
1996 Denver Broncos
It was year two of Mike Shanahan’s install and the Denver Broncos that year were pretty damn good. Behind John Elway and second-year star running back Terrell Davis, the Broncos ran wild. They finished first in the league in total offensive yards and rushing yards, while on defense they were ranked fourth overall in total yards and first against the run.
They finished 13-3 and the number one overall seed in the AFC. In the AFC Divisional Round, the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars stunned the Broncos at Mile High in a thrilling 30-27 upset. Denver tried to mountain a furious fourth quarter comeback, but Jacksonville answered every touchdown drive with points of their own to keep pace and kept the lead.
The defeat sparked the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 1997 and 1998, so perhaps that is just what this squad needed to catapult them all to that level.
2012 Denver Broncos
Much like the 1996 squad, the 2012 Broncos were offensive and defensive juggernauts. The offense finished fourth overall in total yards and fifth in passing yards, while the defense ranked second overall in total yards and third against both the pass and the run.
They too finished the season 13-3 after starting the year 2-3. The 11-straight victories came to a grinding halt as the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens saw Joe Flacco have himself a $100 million postseason. The poor leap by Rahim Moore was one that lived in infamy in Denver and John Fox taking a knee to take the game into overtime only solidified the fall.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos would come out in Week 1 of 2013 and dismantled the Ravens in a 49-27 beatdown on their way to a Super Bowl berth that year, but there will always be a what-if with this 2012 squad.
The one other team throughout Broncos history that deserves a mention here would be the 2005 Broncos. Jake Plummer and the defense on the other side handled the New England Patriots in the divisional round, but who knows what would have happened had they overcome the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game.
Name the greatest Broncos team never to win a Super Bowl.
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