clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Looking Back Broncos: The Denver Broncos first ever Monday Night Football game 1973

You never forget your first.

Denver Broncos

Not having Broncos playoff football this time of year is a disappointment. However, it’s not the first time in their history they’ve had to build on meager success to carve out an identity. Recently, I stumbled upon the Denver’s very first appearance on Monday Night Football, available for viewing on YouTube.

Over the years, I have heard about how big a deal this game was for the city of Denver. National exposure in those days was few and far between. Only the most worthy of teams had appeared on Monday Night Football since its premiere in 1970. The Broncos were hardly that, especially on the national stage, at that time and, because of their history and bizarre time zone, they weren’t at all part of the national football conversation.

On October 22, 1973, Howard Cossell, Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford descended upon the Mile High City to call this historic game in Broncos history. Mayor William McNichols declared it an “Orange Monday” wherein every Broncos fan was urged to wear orange.

I haven’t seen so much orange since we played Texas in 1957. - Don Meredith

The city of Denver lavished attention on the three Monday Night Football broadcasters during the three days prior to the game and even threw them a luncheon for which they all said they were grateful.

During the game, the fans and team were showcased as the rest of the country had no real idea of who they were. While Howard Cossell took time to detail how devout Broncos fans were, there was the air of inferiority that permeated his commentary as though he expected the Broncos to bottom-out against the all-mighty Oakland Raiders. Don Meredith balanced things out by commenting on how pretty the girls were in Denver... multiple times.

Howard Cossell seemed surprised as Denver Broncos legends disproved whatever unspoken misconceptions he may have held throughout the game. Charley Johnson, Lyle Alzado, Floyd Little, Riley Odoms, Billy Thompson, Paul Smith, Barney Chavous, and Haven Moses all took his breath away, not with their superior play, but with their commitment, grind-it-out tenacity.

These were Broncos Ring-of-Famers that were going up against Hall-of-Famers Willie Brown, Fred Bilitnikoff, Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Jack Tatum, and a 37-year old John Madden. Yet, the Denver Broncos, on that night, were every bit as good as they were.

It was a different time back then. In the pregame ceremonies, you could audibly hear the entire stadium sing the National Anthem (but not John Madden). Head coach John Ralston encouraged hand-holding in the huddle, much to the bewilderment of the broadcasters. There were hand-drawn signs on the old chain link fence at Mile High.

One of the best things about this broadcast on YouTube is that the original commercial are part of it. I don’t know whatever happened to “Skittle Pool” or “Skittle Bowl,” but I think I need to get a couple sets off eBay if they’re available. Most notable of the commercials was this little gem with Bill Cosby who, in all cringey-ness, declares multiple times that he’s gonna “get you.”

The Monday Night Football broadcast of the 1973 Broncos-Raiders game was a moment in time that will never happen again. This was a time when the Broncos fight song was played by a band multiple times during a game and not just as part of pre-game ceremony. When kickers like Jim Turner and George Blanda kicked straight-on and not soccer style. Shoot, back then Gillete Razors only had two blades.

In this era of frustrating football, it’s refreshing to look back at a time when a tie was considered a win and Broncos fans were devoted despite their struggles. Here’s to history and the Denver Broncos.

Horse Tracks

NFL community honors legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
The NFL community took to social media on Monday to honor the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day.

1973 MNF - Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (1st Half) - YouTube
Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.

Mile High Morning: Looking back on the Broncos' push for social justice in 2020
The events of the spring and summer inspired several initiatives from the team and from players for the cause of racial justice.

Pickup basketball with Nick Saban? LA Times’ Sam Farmer shares his favorite George Paton stories
Farmer knew Paton in his early high school days, and the two became close as their NFL careers overlapped.

Garett Bolles, Bradley Chubb named to PFWA’s All-AFC team
Bolles and Chubb previously earned spots on the PFWA's All-Rookie team in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

‘Lynch in his prime was one of the greatest safeties to ever play’: Pro Football Hall of Fame voter Alex Marvez weighs in on John Lynch’s HOF candidacy

Raiders tight ends coach Frank Smith joining Chargers staff - ProFootballTalk

Hall of Fame voters meet Tuesday to decide Class of 2021 - ProFootballTalk

Nick Chubb plans to hold onto disappointment, using it as motivation for 2021 - ProFootballTalk

Report: Saints disputing whether Ryan Nielsen's contract allows him to leave - ProFootballTalk

Sean McVay stops short of guaranteeing Jared Goff a roster spot in 2021 - ProFootballTalk

Eric Bieniemy set to interview with Texans on Monday - ProFootballTalk

Pondering retirement again, New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees has 'no regrets' about coming back this season
Drew Brees said he has no regrets about deciding to play this season as he ponders retirement once again.

Ohio State QB Justin Fields declares for NFL draft
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields declared for the NFL draft on Monday, announcing his intentions in a social media post.

San Francisco 49ers promote from within, name Mike McDaniel OC, DeMeco Ryans DC
The 49ers have promoted Mike McDaniel to offensive coordinator and DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator after Robert Saleh was hired as coach of the Jets and took Mike LaFleur with him to be his OC.

Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson shouts out 'Bills Mafia' for donating $360,000 to charity
Lamar Jackson expressed gratitude to Bills fans, whose donations reached $360,000 to Louisville's "Blessings in a Backpack" chapter.

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson urges fans not to protest on his behalf
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson urged fans who planned a protest on his behalf to cancel the event "for the sake of public safety."

Jared Goff-Sean McVay relationship needs 'marriage counseling' heading into offseason
Do the Rams have a QB controversy brewing in Los Angeles? NFL Network's Steve Wyche reports the relationship between Jared Goff and head coach Sean McVay currently is

Longtime Bills DE Jerry Hughes finally finding playoff glory
No player has been with the Bills longer than Jerry Hughes. Mike Giardi digs into his position as elder statesmen on a team poised to shake decades of futility.

NFL Divisional Round aftermath: Aaron Rodgers most talented QB ever? Chiefs in trouble?
Is Aaron Rodgers the most talented quarterback ever? Are the defending champion Chiefs in trouble? Could it get any better than this Championship Sunday lineup? Adam Schein tackles Divisional Round fallout in a game of fact or fiction.

Kevin Stefanski: Browns 'established our identity' in 2020, expects Baker Mayfield to 'continue to improve'
Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski believes the Browns established an identity and that quarterback Baker Mayfield was a large reason why.

Ravens waive QB Robert Griffin III after three seasons
Robert Griffin III's time with the Ravens has reached its conclusion. Baltimore announced Monday it has waived the backup quarterback and former No. 2 overall pick after three seasons.

Can Patrick Mahomes play against Bills? Here's what needs to happen for QB to return for AFC Championship -
An overview of the quarterback's five-step path to recovery

Situation between Deshaun Watson and Texans is reportedly worse than originally thought -
Watson also told Texans fans to cancel a planned march in his honor due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19

Buccaneers designate Vita Vea to return from injured reserve, could reportedly be active for NFC Championship -
Vea is returning from a fractured ankle

Bruce Arians reveals major difference in how he treats Tom Brady as opposed to QB's time with Patriots -
There's a big difference between Tom Brady in Tampa Bay and in New England

NFL Combine 2021: League sends memo announcing key change coming to this year's scouting event -
The NFL has announced a major change coming to the 2021 scouting combine

'Tweaked nerve' put Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes in concussion protocol entering AFC Championship Game, per report -
AFC Conference Championship: Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes suffered tweaked nerve, not concussion -- per report