Established.... August 14, 1959
First Season.... 1960 with American Football League Western / AFC Western 1970
Stadium..... Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado
Conference..... American Football League Western 1960-1969 / NFL 1970-present
Team Nicknames..... Orange Crush, Three Amigos, Pony Boys, Orange Crushed, Stampede, Bronco Busters
1st Game Against BUCS..... Sunday, November 07, 1976
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers first ever franchise game in history was the debut against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, December 07, 1976 during an away game in the Mile High Stadium, losing 13-48.
The Buccaneers play the Broncos once every four years under the NFL's Inter-Conference and have played a couple pre-season games in the Mile High Stadium.
Below click on ANY date to view extensive details of all gameday encounters. We have featured details of each opponent, highlights of each games statistics, players, scoring details, media coverage, photographs with a detailed game report. Below the listed dates we also include full details of the Opponent.
|ALL GAMES vs. BRONCOS (H=home @=away)|
|@||Nov. 07, 1976||L||13-48||H||Nov. 15, 1981||L||07-24||@||Dec. 26, 1993||W||17-10|
|@||Sep. 15, 1996||L||23-27||H||Sep. 26, 1999||W||13-10||H||Oct. 03, 2004||L||13-16|
|@||Oct. 05, 2008||L||13-16||@||Dec. 02, 2012||L||23-31||H||Oct. 02, 2016||L||07-27|
|PLAYOFF GAMES vs. BRONCOS (H=home @=away)|
|NFC Championship||Score||NFC Championship||Score||NFC Championship||Score|
The Denver Broncos are based in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) West division. The team began play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League (AFL) and joined the NFL as part of the merger in 1970. The Broncos are owned by the Pat Bowlen trust.
The Broncos were barely competitive during their 10-year run in the AFL and their first seven years in the NFL. They did not complete a winning season until 1973. In 1977, four years later, they qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and advanced to Super Bowl XII. Since 1975, the Broncos have become one of the NFL's more successful teams, having suffered only six losing seasons. They have won eight AFC Championships (1977, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997, 1998, 2013, 2015) and three Super Bowl championships (1997 (XXXII), 1998 (XXXIII), 2015 (50); sharing the record for second most Super Bowl appearances with the Dallas Cowboys, and Pittsburgh Steelers, right behind the New England Patriots record nine Super Bowl appearances. However, the Broncos have the NFL record for most Super Bowl losses. They have five players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: John Elway, Floyd Little, Gary Zimmerman, Shannon Sharpe, and the most recently elected member, Terrell Davis.
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Mascots, Fans & Cheerleaders
Thunder is the stage name for the horse who is the official live animal mascot for the Denver Broncos football team. Three purebred Arabians have held this role since 1993, all gray horses whose coats lightened with age until they turned completely white. Sharon Magness-Blake has owned all three horses, and Ann Judge has been their rider since 1998 and trainer since 1999. As of 2016, Thunder has appeared in four Super Bowls with the team since 1998. The original Thunder performed in Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII and Thunder III appeared in Super Bowl XLVIII and Super Bowl 50. Thunder III also made appearances in Times Square and on television morning news shows in New York City as part of the pre-game promotion for Super Bowl XLVIII. He routinely appears in parades, makes hospital and school visits, and attends various other public functions. He has been flown on airplanes, ridden in elevators, and appeared indoors at press conferences and banquets.
Thunder's duties as mascot typically include leading the team onto the field at the start of every home game, and a gallop down the length of the field whenever the team scores a touchdown or field goal. Thunder and his rider also interact with fans before the game; the horse is particularly popular with children, who are allowed to pet him. The horses who have served as Thunder need to remain calm in situations that would normally frighten most horses, such as being in football stadiums with thousands of cheering fans, exploding pyrotechnics, cheerleaders waving pom-poms, and other spectacles common to National Football League (NFL) games. Thunder shares mascot duties with Miles, a human who wears a horse head mask atop a Broncos uniform.
The original Thunder, later named "Thunder, Sr.", was described as bold and courageous. He was a stallion registered as JB Kobask, a former show horse, who was team mascot for the Broncos from 1993 until his retirement in 2004. He continued making community appearances until his death in 2009. Thunder, Sr. was succeeded in 2004 by "Thunder II", an Arabian gelding registered as Winter Solstyce. He had been the personal pleasure riding horse of Magness-Blake. Judge described him as being somewhat timid when he first began his role as mascot but eventually grew into it. He retired from mascot duties in early 2014 but appeared in the 2016 Super Bowl 50 victory parade in downtown Denver following the Broncos win over the Carolina Panthers. "Thunder III", a gelding registered as Me N Myshadow, was the understudy to Thunder II, and trained specifically for mascot duties beginning at age three when he was started under saddle. He began performing at preseason games in 2013. Although Thunder II was still active as team mascot during the 2013–14 season, Thunder III was sent to Super Bowl XLVIII because he was younger and better able to handle air travel. He is described as laid-back, preferring to doze off during games when not performing.
Miles is one of two official mascots of the Denver Broncos. He was founded on January 31, 1999, the same day that the Broncos became Super Bowl champions for the second time at Hard Rock Stadium, then known as Pro Player Stadium, near Miami, Florida. However, he did not appear in person as a mascot until two years later. Now Miles resides at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. He appears at Broncos' home games and community promotions such as the Broncos' reading program.
The Denver Broncos Cheerleaders are the official cheerleading squad of the Denver Broncos. In addition to performing on game days, the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders annually commit close to 1,000 hours to various charities and events in Denver and the state of Colorado.
The squad's origins came as the Bronkettes, which was a squad consisting of girls. In 1971, the all-adult squad debuted as the Bronco Belles and became the Pony Express in 1977. The group eventually disbanded in 1985. The Broncos brought the team back in 1993 after a 17-year absence and are proud of the work the team does both on the field and more importantly in the community.
The Broncos Cheerleaders have 26 members who are selected during open auditions held each spring. Auditions focus primarily on dance ability; however, appearance, personal accomplishments and community involvement are also contributing factors.
Known for their distinctive western uniforms, the Cheerleaders wear long leather chaps and jackets in the fall months, skiwear for cold games and a more traditional cheerleading leather skirt and vest in the summer months. The three uniform changes give the group flexibility with the rapidly changing Colorado weather.
The Denver Broncos Cheerleaders host a Junior program known as the Junior Denver Broncos Cheerleaders (JDBC) which gives young women ages six to fourteen an opportunity to perform alongside the cheerleaders during pregame and halftime shows on game day.
Since 2008, the Dare to Cheer program, in partnership with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, has reached out to young women with disabilities to share the joy of Broncos football with them. The Dare to Cheer program was integrated into the JDBC program starting in 2013, giving these women additional opportunities to perform with the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders on game day.
While the JDBC and Dare to Cheer programs require no tryouts and are tailored to young women of all ability levels, the Denver Broncos All Stars is a competitive dance team aimed at young girls who want to take their performance ability to the next level. In addition to training regularly with instructors who are current/alumni Denver Broncos Cheerleaders, the All Star program also focuses on charity work, teambuilding and achievement. From 2003 to 2015, members of the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders have toured military bases in Egypt, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Italy, Guam, Hawaii, Kwajalein, Japan and Australia performing their 90-minute show to boost the troops’ morale and thank them for their service to our country. In 2015, the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders were selected to represent the United States in the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade in Hong Kong.
When the Broncos debuted in 1960, their original uniforms drew as much attention as their play on the field. They featured white and mustard yellow jerseys, with contrasting brown helmets, brown pants and vertically striped socks. Two years later, the team unveiled a new logo featuring a bucking horse, and changed their team colors to orange, royal blue and white. The 1962 uniform consisted of white pants, orange helmets, and either orange or white jerseys.
In 1968, the Broncos debuted a design that became known as the "Orange Crush." Their logo was redesigned so that the horse was coming out of a "D." Additionally, the helmets were changed to royal blue, with thin stripes placed onto the sleeves, and other minor modifications were added. From 1969–1971, and again from 1978–79, the team wore orange pants with their white jerseys.
The Broncos wore their white jerseys at home throughout the 1971 season, as well as for 1980 home games vs. the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys, the latter in hopes to bring out the "blue jersey jinx" which has followed the Cowboys for decades (it worked, the Broncos won 41–20). The Broncos wore their white jerseys for 1983 home games vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals, but would not wear white at home again for two decades — see next section.
In 1994, in honor of the 75th anniversary season of the NFL, the Broncos wore their 1965 throwback uniforms for two games—a Week 3 home game against the Raiders, as well a road game at the Buffalo Bills the following week.
The Broncos radically changed their logo and uniforms in 1997, a design that the team continues to use to this day. The new logos and uniforms were unveiled on February 4, 1997. Navy blue replaced royal blue on the team's color scheme. The current logo is a profile of a horse's head, with an orange mane and navy blue outlines. The Broncos' popular live animal mascot Thunder was the inspiration to incorporate a horse-head profile as part of the logo on the team's helmets. During a February 4, 1997 press conference introducing the new logo, the team president and the art director for Nike, who were the creators of the new design, described it as "a powerful horse with a fiery eye and mane."
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The Broncos began wearing navy blue jerseys, replacing their longtime orange jerseys that had been the team's predominant home jersey color since 1962. This new uniform design features a new word mark, numbering font and a streak that runs up and down the sides of both the jerseys and the pants. On the navy blue jerseys, the streak is orange, with an orange collar and white numerals trimmed in orange, while on the road white jerseys, the streak is navy blue, with a thin orange accent strip on both sides, a navy collar and navy numerals trimmed in orange. When they debuted, these uniforms were vilified by the press and fans, until the Broncos won their first ever Super Bowl in the new design that same season. The navy blue jerseys served as the team's primary home jersey until the end of the 2011 season — see next section.
In 2002, the Broncos introduced an alternate orange jersey that is a mirror image of the aforementioned navy blue jerseys, but with orange and navy trading places. Like the road white jerseys, the white pants with the navy blue streaks running down the sides are worn with this uniform. This jersey was used only once in the 2002 and 2004 seasons, and were used twice per season from 2008–2011. Mike Shanahan, the team's head coach from 1995–2008, was not a big fan of the alternate orange jerseys. The Broncos previously wore orange jerseys as a throwback uniform in a Thanksgiving Day game at the Dallas Cowboys in 2001.
The team also introduced navy blue pants in 2003, with orange side streaks to match with the navy blue jerseys. Though they were part of the uniform change in 1997 (in fact, they were worn for a couple of 1997 preseason games) and most players wanted to wear them, the only player who vetoed wearing them was John Elway, thereby delaying their eventual introduction. From 2003–2011, these pants were primarily used for select prime-time and late-season home games (excluding the 2008 season), and since 2012, are used exclusively with the now-alternate navy blue jerseys — see next section.Embed from Getty Images
On November 16, 2003, the Broncos wore their white jerseys at home for the first time since 1983, in a game vs. the San Diego Chargers. This was compensation for a uniform mix-up, after the teams' first meeting at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium in Week 2 earlier that season, when the Chargers were the team that was supposed to declare their uniform color. The Chargers were planning to wear their white jerseys, but the visiting Broncos came to the stadium in white, and were fined $25,000 by the NFL as a result. When the two teams met at INVESCO Field at Mile High later that season (Week 11), the NFL allowed the visiting Chargers to choose their uniform color in advance, and they chose navy blue, forcing the Broncos to wear their white jerseys at home.
In 2009, in honor of their 50th anniversary season as one of the eight original American Football League teams, the Broncos wore their 1960 throwback uniforms (brown helmets, mustard yellow and brown jerseys) for games against two fellow AFL rivals—a Week 5 home game vs. the New England Patriots, as well as the following week at the San Diego Chargers.
Beginning in 2012, the orange jerseys that served as the alternate colored jerseys from 2002–2011 became the primary home jersey, while the navy blue jerseys that served as the primary home jersey from 1997–2011 switched to alternate designation. The change was made due to overwhelming popularity with the fans, who pressured the Broncos to return to orange as the team's primary home jersey color. Since the 2012 uniform change, the team has worn the alternate navy blue jerseys for at least one home game per season, with the exception of 2013, in which the Broncos wore their alternate navy blue uniforms for an October 6, 2013 road game at the Dallas Cowboys. The team will either wear the navy blue or the white pants — with the orange side stripes — to match with the alternate navy blue jerseys. The team initially did not wear the white pants with the orange side stripes, until a November 1, 2015 game vs. the Green Bay Packers, in which the Broncos wore said design in order to match the uniform ensemble that was used during the team's Super Bowl XXXII win over the Packers.
As the designated home team in Super Bowl 50, the Broncos — who have an 0–4 Super Bowl record when using their standard orange jerseys — chose to wear their white jerseys as the designated "home" team.
In 2016, the Broncos' unveiled a new Color Rush uniform, which the team wore for a Thursday Night game at the San Diego Chargers on October 13, 2016. The uniform kit contained the following features: orange pants, which the team wore for the first time since 1979, orange socks and shoes, along with block-style numerals trimmed in navy blue that mirrored the team's 1968–1996 uniform style. Due to the NFL's one-helmet rule implemented in 2013, the helmets remained the same, with the team temporarily replacing the modern primary logo with the throwback "D-horse" logo.
DU Stadium (sometimes referred to as Hilltop Stadium) was a stadium on the campus of the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado. Built in 1926, the crescent-shaped main grandstand design on the west sideline was based on other similar-sized stadiums from the same the time period, Brown Stadium and Cornell's Schoellkopf Field, both in the Ivy League.
It hosted the DU Pioneers college football until the program was discontinued in 1961, due to mounting deficits. The stadium had a seating capacity of 30,000 at its peak, and the natural grass field had a conventional north-south orientation at an elevation of 5,350 feet (1,630 m) above sea level. Nearly a half century in age, it was torn down in the early 1970s.
Mile High Stadium (originally Bears Stadium) was an outdoor multi-purpose stadium located in Denver, Colorado.
The stadium was built in 1948 to accommodate the Denver Bears baseball team, which was a member of the Western League during its construction. Originally designed as a baseball venue, the stadium was expanded in later years to accommodate the addition of a professional football team to the city, the Denver Broncos, as well as to improve Denver's hopes of landing a Major League Baseball team. Although the stadium was originally built as a baseball-specific venue, it became more popular as a pro-football stadium despite hosting both sports for a majority of its life.
The Broncos called Mile High Stadium home from their beginning in the AFL in 1960 until 2000. The Bears, who changed their name to the Zephyrs in 1985, continued to play in the stadium until 1992 when the franchise was moved to New Orleans. The move was precipitated by the awarding of a Major League Baseball franchise to the city of Denver, and in 1993 the Colorado Rockies season opened in Mile High. The team played the 1993 and strike-shortened 1994 seasons in Mile High setting MLB attendance records while Coors Field was being constructed in downtown Denver.
In addition to the Broncos, Bears/Zephyrs, and Rockies, Mile High Stadium was home to several other professional teams during the course of its history. The Denver Gold of the United States Football League called Mile High home from 1983 to 1985, and the stadium played host to the inaugural USFL championship game on July 17, 1983. Two professional soccer teams also played at Mile High. The first was the Denver Dynamos of the North American Soccer League, who were founded in 1974 and played their first two seasons in Denver before moving to Bloomington, Minnesota and becoming the Minnesota Kicks. Denver was home to one of Major League Soccer's 10 charter franchises as the Colorado Rapids were formed and played in Mile High from 1996 until 2001, making them the last franchise to play in Mile High Stadium prior to its closure.
After the Rapids' 2001 season, Mile High Stadium was closed and in 2002 the stadium was demolished.
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, previously known as Invesco Field at Mile High, and commonly known as Mile High or Mile High Stadium, is an American football stadium in Denver, Colorado. The field is named after a sponsor and the stadium is named Mile High. The stadium's primary tenant is the Denver Broncos. The stadium opened in 2001 to replace Mile High Stadium. The stadium was largely paid for by taxpayers in the Denver metropolitan area and the property is owned by a special taxing district.
Many fans opposed a corporate name and wished to retain the previous venue's name, "Mile High Stadium." The Denver Post initially refused to use the Invesco label and referred to it as Mile High Stadium for several years before changing its policy and adding Invesco to articles.
On August 16, 2011, The Metropolitan Stadium District announced Invesco would immediately transfer the naming rights to Englewood, Colorado-based Sports Authority in a 25-year agreement worth $6 million per year. After Sports Authority missed two quarterly payments as a result of its March 2016 bankruptcy and subsequent liquidation, the Broncos organization and the Metropolitan Football Stadium District are seeking to terminate the naming rights contract.
In 2016, several Colorado legislators attempted to pass a bill in the Colorado State Legislature that would require the "Mile High" moniker regardless of any naming rights deal, citing the large public contribution to the stadium's construction; the bill failed to pass out of a Senate Committee in May 2016.
On September 10, 2001, the stadium hosted its first regular season NFL game, in which the Broncos defeated the New York Giants 31–20. In a pre-game ceremony, Broncos legends John Elway, Steve Atwater, Randy Gradishar, Haven Moses, Billy Thompson, Floyd Little, Dennis Smith, and Karl Mecklenburg helped to "Move the Thunder" from the old Mile High Stadium to the new home of the Broncos.
The stadium has hosted several NFL playoff games. It hosted the 2005 AFC Divisional playoff game, in which Denver defeated the New England Patriots 27–13. The following week, it hosted the AFC Championship Game, which the Broncos lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34–17. On January 8, 2012, the stadium hosted its third NFL playoff game, an AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Steelers. The Broncos won in overtime, 29–23. On January 12, 2013, the stadium hosted its fourth NFL playoff game, an AFC Divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos lost to the Ravens 38–35 in double overtime.
On October 29, 2007, a record crowd of 77,160 watched the Broncos lose to the Green Bay Packers 19–13 on Monday Night Football on the first play from scrimmage in overtime.
The history of the Denver Broncos began when the team was chartered a member of the American Football League in 1960. The Broncos have played in the city of Denver, Colorado throughout their entire history. The Broncos did not win any titles as members of the AFL. Since the 1970 AFL–NFL merger, the Broncos have won 15 division titles, and played in eight Super Bowls, following the 1977, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997, 1998, 2013, and 2015 seasons. They won Super Bowl XXXII, Super Bowl XXXIII and Super Bowl 50. Their most famous player is former quarterback John Elway, starting quarterback in five Super Bowls and holder of many NFL records. The Broncos currently play in the National Football League's AFC West division. Their current leadership includes owner Pat Bowlen, CEO Joe Ellis, VP John Elway, head coach Vance Joseph, and quarterback, Trevor Siemian.
For much of their first 3 decades, excluding teams in Texas, they were the only major pro football team between Kansas City and California (and the only team in the Interior West). This distinction ended in 1988, when the Cardinals moved from St. Louis to Phoenix. The Broncos remain the only current AFC West (formerly AFL West) team to never relocate or change its name.
In the summer of 1959, Bob Howsam, owner of minor league baseball's Denver Bears, had a problem. He'd expanded Bears Stadium to 34,000 after Denver was named a charter member of the Continental League, a proposed third major league. However, the league died when the established major leagues granted expansion franchises to two of its cities (New York and Houston) and moved an established team to a third (the Twin Cities). Howsam was now saddled with a heavy debt load and a stadium far too big for a minor-league team.
Howsam concluded the only way out of his financial bind was to extend Bears Stadium's season by bringing football to Denver. He first tried to get an expansion NFL franchise to Denver, but he was denied a team by NFL owners under the leadership of Chicago Bears owner George Halas. The snub led Howsam and four others to start up a rival to the NFL. The new league, the American Football League, announced its formation on August 14, 1959, with Howsam's Denver team as a charter member. A 1960 "name-the-team" contest yielded the nickname "Broncos." The first general manager of the new team was Dean Griffing, and the first head coach was Frank Filchock.
Denver had the worst record of any original AFL team, with a record of 39–97–4 in the league. They were the only original AFL team never to have played in the title game during the upstart league's 10-year history. Despite their lack of early success, the Broncos produced some memorable games, such as the 38–38 tie against the Buffalo Bills in 1960. They were the first AFL team ever to defeat an NFL team, on August 5, 1967 when they beat the Detroit Lions 13–7 in a preseason game. The Broncos were also the first American professional football team to have an African-American placekicker, Gene Mingo, the first to have a receiver with 100 receptions in a season, Lionel Taylor, and the first starting African-American quarterback of the modern era, Marlin Briscoe.
The Broncos began play in 1960, the AFL's inaugural season, at Bears Stadium. Their head coach was Frank Filchock, who choose Frank Tripucka as the Broncos' first starting quarterback. The Broncos won their first game, also the first AFL game, 13–10 over the Boston Patriots. However, the Broncos would end the season with a 4–9–1 record. After the season, Howsam, looking to sell his holdings in the Broncos, nearly made a deal with a San Antonio syndicate, but eventually a group led by Calvin Kunz purchased Howsam's shares. At this point, Gerald Phipps became the Broncos largest stockholder.
Following a 3–11 campaign in 1961, the Broncos replaced Filchock with Jack Faulkner, who ritualistically burned the Broncos vertically-striped socks prior to the new season. Faulkner led them to a 7–7 record in 1962, their best record in the AFL. This .500 season was not, however, a prelude to success, as the Broncos would lose at least 10 games each of the next five years, during which they were led by four different coaches and over half a dozen starting quarterbacks.
Mac Speedie replaced Faulkner five games into the 1964 season, breaking an eleven-game losing streak by beating Kansas City 37–33. However, the Broncos would only win one more game in 1964, ending the season with a 2–11–1 record. The team improved only marginally in 1965, finishing with a 4–10 record. In the first game of the 1966 season, a 45–7 loss to Houston, the Broncos failed to record a first down and finished with only 26 yards of total offense, including −7 yards passing. After the 2nd game, Speedie resigned and was replaced by interim head coach Ray Malavasi, under whom the Broncos finished the season 4–10.
Denver came close to losing the Broncos in 1965, when a group of minority partners joined together with the intent to sell the team to interests based in Atlanta. However, a different pair of owners, Alan and Gerald Phipps, bought the team (along with Bears Stadium) and kept them in Denver. In the aftermath of the near loss of what was Denver's only professional sports team at the time, season ticket sales nearly tripled the following year.
In 1967, the Broncos hired Lou Saban, coach of the two-time defending AFL champion Buffalo Bills, as head coach. Saban's first order of business was to generate interest in the team to keep them in Denver. The NFL and AFL had agreed to merge a year earlier, and the Broncos needed to expand Bears Stadium to 50,000 in order to meet the NFL's requirements for the merger. This required raising funds from businesses and the people of Denver. If unable to raise the necessary funds, the team was threatening to move to Chicago or Birmingham.
Saban decided to use his #1 pick for an impact player. With the 6th pick, he chose Syracuse All-America Floyd Little, the first 3-time All-America since Doak Walker. With the Broncos' past #1 picks, such as Dick Butkus and Merlin Olsen, choosing the other side in the AFL-NFL bidding wars, Little became the first #1 pick to sign with the team. His signing created a landslide of enthusiasm for the Broncos. Little and other Broncos went door-to-door to solicit funds for the stadium, and he even rode buses to Wyoming, Nebraska and other nearby states to bring in money. In doing so, Little became known as "The Franchise" for his tireless efforts to keep the team in Denver.
Little proved to be every ounce as valuable on the field for the Broncos as well. Saban kept 26 rookies his first season including Little, along with numerous 2nd and 3rd year players. Little was the only bright spot in a dismal 3–11 season. He led the AFL and NFL in punt returns with a blistering 17-yard average. He also led the league in combined yards (rushing, receiving and returns). In 1968, he led the league again in combined yards and became the only player in either league to return a punt for a touchdown in both seasons. That same year, the city of Denver bought Bears Stadium from the Broncos, renamed it Mile High Stadium and leased it back to the Broncos. The purchase made it possible to finish the required expansion.
In 1969, Little was clearly the best back in the AFL or NFL. After just six games, he was more than 300 yards ahead of all running backs, piling up 700 yards when he tore up his knee and missed most of the season. He was named All-AFL for his efforts. In 1970, despite playing with a broken bone in his back and having a record 5 different starting quarterbacks, Little led the AFC in rushing.
In 1971, Little did it again. He not only led the AFC in rushing, but also out-rushed any NFL player with 1,133 yards. However, even with Little's superb prowess and the likes of defensive end Rich Jackson creating havoc on defense, Saban could not bring the Broncos success. He finished in fourth place in the division in all 5 years of his tenure.
In 1970, the Broncos began a home sell-out streak (not including games using replacement players) which has lasted to the present. During their first season as part of the NFL, the Broncos finished 5–8–1 and 4–9–1 in 1971. The team then went 5–9 in 1972, but continued to sell games out. In 1973, John Ralston coached the now-mature Broncos to a 7–5–2 record, the franchise's first winning season, including a dramatic tie with Oakland in Denver's first-ever Monday Night Football appearance that is still remembered as a pivotal game in Broncos history. During the game, announcer Don Meredith famously told the audience: "Welcome to the Mile High City and I really am!" The second game of the 1974 season was a 35–35 tie with the Steelers, the first to take place under the NFL's new overtime rules. The year ended at 7–6–1, for another winning record. In 1975, the Broncos dropped to 6–8, the final season for running back Floyd Little. Otis Armstrong took his place, and despite finishing 9–5 in 1976, the playoffs still eluded them.
Rookie coach Red Miller, along with the Orange Crush Defense (a nickname originating in the early 1970s) and aging quarterback Craig Morton, led the Broncos to a miracle season in 1977. The team won the division with a 12–2 record, beating an injury-rattled Steelers team 34–21. In the conference championship, they faced their division rival and defending Super Bowl champion Raiders, winning a close game 20–17 and sending them to Super Bowl XII. Facing the Cowboys in the New Orleans Superdome, the Broncos played sloppily the entire game, turning the ball over eight times. They were crushed 27–10 by the Cowboys. Despite the disappointing loss to Dallas, their season catapulted the franchise out of the basement and they since have enjoyed four decades of consistency that few teams have matched. The successful season also brought the phenomena of "Broncomania" to a fever pitch, with the team the talk of the town, selling 65,000 Super Bowl T-shirts in 48 hours. Earlier that year, superfan Tim McKernan, better known as the Barrel Man, began wearing only an orange-colored aluminum barrel, boots and a cowboy hat to games, a ritual he repeated for 30 years. The 1978 season saw the Broncos finish 10–6 (the season having been extended to 16 games) and win the division again, but they were routed out of the playoffs by the Steelers 33–10. Another 10–6 season and a playoff appearance followed in 1979, but three division losses reduced the Broncos to a wild card team. They lost to the Oilers 13–7 in the Astrodome.
Edgar Kaiser, Jr. purchased the Broncos from the Gerald Phipps family in 1981. The Bowlen family, including Pat and his two brothers John Bowlen and Bill Bowlen, and sister Marybeth Bowlen, purchased the team from Kaiser in 1984. Quarterback John Elway arrived in 1983. Originally drafted by the Baltimore Colts as the first pick of the draft, Elway proclaimed that he would shun football in favor of baseball (he was drafted by the New York Yankees to play center field) unless he was traded to one of a selected list of other teams, which included Denver. During the 23 seasons prior to Elway's arrival, Denver used over 24 different starting quarterbacks.
Under Elway and head coach Dan Reeves (hired in 1981), the Broncos became one of the most dominant AFC teams of the 1980s, winning 3 AFC championships (1986, 1987, 1989), with Elway winning the NFL MVP Award in 1987. The first two Super Bowl appearances were preceded by storied victories over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Championship game, each acquiring its own nickname: The Drive in 1987, in which the Broncos drove 98 yards to score a late game-tying touchdown, and The Fumble in 1988, in which Brown Earnest Byner lost the ball and a game-tying touchdown late in the game. However, the Broncos lost all three Super Bowls during this period by at least three touchdowns. In fact, Super Bowl XXIV against the San Francisco 49ers was the most lopsided Super Bowl in NFL history.
During the 1980s, the Broncos played in at least two storied Monday Night Football games. On October 15, 1984, the Broncos played a famed game against the Packers during a major blizzard. The following season, on November 11, 1985, the Broncos won a Monday Night Football home game when a fan threw a snowball onto the field during 49ers kicker Ray Wersching's field goal attempt. 49ers holder Matt Cavanaugh picked up the ball and threw it incomplete, losing 3 decisive points in a 17–16 loss. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Elway's strong receiving corps of Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson and Ricky Nattiel was nicknamed the "Three Amigos" after the popular movie. Early in the 1980s, the Broncos were the first NFL team to play the song "Rock and Roll, Pt. 2" (AKA "the Hey Song"), during games.
Reeves was fired following an 8–8 1992 campaign and replaced with Wade Phillips, a move often attributed to Reeves' stormy relationship with Elway. Following campaigns of 9–7 and 7–9 in 1993 and 1994 respectively, Phillips was fired and the Broncos named former Broncos quarterbacks coach Mike Shanahan Head Coach.
In 1995, the Broncos debuted a new Zone blocking scheme under Mike Shanahan and rookie running back Terrell Davis, who would quickly emerge as an All-Pro running back. The Broncos established a tradition in 1996 where the offensive linemen do not talk with the media as a form of bonding. This was evident during the player introductions for the starting lineup on nationally-televised prime time games as the linemen would not introduce themselves. How they were introduced has varied over the years as sometimes, another offensive player introduces them and during other times, the announcers introduce the offensive linemen. Due to a rule change within the NFL in 2007, this tradition came to an end. For the 2007 season each player is required to make themselves available for media interviews. On a Sunday Night Football game against the Steelers, the linemen introduced themselves.
In 1996, Shanahan's second season, the Broncos went 13–3 and appeared on their way to another Super Bowl appearance. However, they were defeated by the Jacksonville Jaguars in a stunning 30–27 divisional round loss. In 1997, the Broncos went 12–4, securing a wild card spot in the playoffs. Following playoff wins over the Jaguars, Chiefs and Steelers, the Broncos faced the heavily favored Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Davis led the Broncos to their first Super Bowl victory, 31–24. Although Elway completed only 12 of his 22 passes, throwing one interception and no touchdowns, he executed what was perhaps the game's best-known play, known as The Helicopter, when he boldly ran for a crucial first down while surviving strong hits from two safeties as he jumped through the air like a propeller. Terrell Davis was able to overcome a severe migraine headache that caused him blurred vision and rush for 157 yards and three touchdowns to earn Super Bowl MVP honors.
The following season, the Broncos began the year by winning their first thirteen games. The first loss of the season came at the hands of the Giants, as Kent Graham hit Amani Toomer late in the fourth quarter to steal a 20–16 victory. The loss took the wind from the sails of what would have been a highly anticipated Monday Night Football matchup on the road against the Miami Dolphins for two primary reasons. First, the Broncos would have had a chance at reaching perfection against the only franchise to achieve such a goal. Second, Elway would have gone head-to-head against Dan Marino for only the second time, an oddity of scheduling since both quarterbacks were drafted the same year and both played in the same conference. Elway would play his worst game of the season in a 31–21 loss, and the Broncos would finish the season 14–2. Adding levity to an intense quest for a perfect season, one week normally gregarious tight end Shannon Sharpe refused to speak to the media, leading Shanahan to add to the injury report: "TE Shannon Sharpe (laryngitis) probable." Terrell Davis became the fourth back to rush for 2000 yards (he would finish with 2,008) during the regular season and won the NFL MVP award. In the playoffs, the Broncos defeated the Dolphins and Jets in the AFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl XXXIII. Following the win against the Jets, Elway took one final lap around the field in what would be his final game at Mile High Stadium. Two weeks later in the Super Bowl, Denver defeated the Falcons, led by former coach Dan Reeves, 34–19 to win Super Bowl XXXIII and defend their title. Elway, playing in his final NFL game, won the Super Bowl MVP award.
Since Elway's retirement following the 1998 season, Denver has had only three losing seasons (1999, 2007 and 2010) and has made the playoffs as a wild card three times (in 2000, 2003 and 2004), and as a division champion six times (2005, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 ). The Broncos only won 3 playoff games from 1999 to 2012. Since 2012 and the signing of free agent Peyton Manning, they have won four playoff games, including the 2013 and 2015 AFC Championship Games.
Edgar Kaiser, Jr. sued Pat Bowlen, claiming that the 1984 sale of his shares in the team included an agreement which he contended granted him right of first purchase of any sale of shares in the team. Kaiser claimed Bowlen violated this agreement by offering Elway a 10% stake of the company that holds ownership of the team. In 2004, a jury ruled in favor of Kaiser and a Federal judge decreed that Kaiser was entitled to purchase back 10 percent of the Broncos using the identical purchase terms offered to Elway. Bowlen appealed and won, as an appellate court ruled that the structure of the Bowlen-Elway deal did not violate the original agreement.
Original owner Bob Howsam, who went on to more fame as the highly successful general manager and club president of the Cincinnati Reds and the "Big Red Machine" dynasty of the 1970s, died in 2008, and his Broncos successor Gerald Phipps died in 1993. Kaiser died in 2012.
Brian Griese, son of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese, took over as quarterback upon Elway's retirement. Griese led the team from 1999–2002, compiling a record of 34–30. Though the team made the playoffs in the 2000 season under Griese, he never took a snap in the postseason for the Broncos. A shoulder injury he suffered during a gutty Monday Night performance against the arch-rival Raiders (in what would be, ironically, the final Monday Night affair at Mile High Stadium), shelved him for most of the remainder of the season. Thus, Gus Frerotte started the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, a 21–3 defeat. The Broncos would finish with winning records under Griese but miss the playoffs in 2001 and 2002.
Former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer replaced Griese as quarterback prior to the 2003 season. He would lead the team to a 49–26 record and a 1–3 playoff record from 2003 to 2006. Prior to the 2005 season, the Broncos were plagued by early season success followed by late season flops. In both 2003 and 2004 they started the season 5–1 and ended 10–6.
After losing the 2005 season opener, the Broncos won five straight games, defeating the Chargers 20–17, Chiefs 30–10, Jaguars 20–7, Redskins 21–19, and the two-time defending champion Patriots 28–20, on October 16. Denver lost the next game to the Giants on October 23 by a final score of 24–23, in the game's final minute. The following week, the Broncos routed the defending NFC champion Eagles, 49–21, on October 30. In that game, the Broncos became the first team in NFL history to have two players, Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell, rush for over 100 yards and another player, Jake Plummer, pass for over 300 yards in a single game. Denver then defeated the Raiders on November 13, 31–17. The next game, the Broncos shut out the Jets 27–0 in Denver on November 20. It was the Broncos' first shutout win since 1997 (when the team blanked the Panthers that season). Denver then went on to defeat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, winning in overtime, 24–21, on a Jason Elam 24-yard game-winning field goal. One of the key plays prior to the field goal was a 55-yard run by Ron Dayne, who filled in for the injured Tatum Bell. Denver lost to the Chiefs in the next game, 31–27, on December 4, but won against the Ravens the following week, 12–10. On December 17, the Broncos defeated the Bills, 28–17. On Christmas Eve 2005, the Broncos clinched the AFC West division title, as they finished with a record 8–0 at INVESCO Field at Mile High by defeating the Raiders, 22–3. On December 31, 2005, the Broncos got season-win #13 in a season-sweeping on the road against their division rivals, the Chargers, with a final score of 23–7.
The Broncos entered the playoffs for the third consecutive year with the momentum of a four-game winning streak. Denver finished the regular season with a record of 13–3, tying them with the Seattle Seahawks for second best overall record in the league, behind the 14–2 Indianapolis Colts. Denver was seeded number two in the AFC behind the Colts. On January 14, 2006, the Broncos defeated the two-time defending champion New England Patriots, 27–13, in the divisional round – denying the Patriots from becoming the first NFL team ever to win three consecutive Super Bowl championships. The last team with an opportunity of winning three consecutive Super Bowls before the Patriots were the Broncos themselves. The Broncos' playoff run came to an end after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship, 34–17, on January 22, 2006. Denver turned the ball over four times and were outscored in the first half, 24–3. The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL.
The Broncos surprisingly drafted a quarterback, Jay Cutler, following the season in which Plummer nearly led them to the Super Bowl. Plummer's erratic 2006 performance led to his benching in favor of Cutler 12 games into the season. Cutler would go on to lead the Broncos to a 2–3 record in the team's last five games. The Broncos finished the 2006 season tied for the last Wild Card spot with the Chiefs, with a 9–7 record, but lost the tiebreaker due to the Chiefs owning the better AFC West record (4–2 to the Broncos 3–3).
The 2006 season marked longtime wide receiver Rod Smith's last season as a Bronco after 13 seasons. A hip injury that required two hip replacement surgeries effectively ended Smith's career prior to the 2007 season, and Smith officially retired in July 2008.
2007 marked Jay Cutler's first full season as the Broncos' starting quarterback. However, the team suffered through several injuries to key players, including Rod Smith, Tom Nalen, Ben Hamilton, Javon Walker, Jarvis Moss and Ebenezer Ekuban, and finished the season with a 7–9 record, the team's first losing season since 1999. Perhaps the most notable event was a Monday Night Football home loss to the Green Bay Packers, in which the team set a franchise record for tickets distributed for the game, with 77,160 tickets (76,645 fans attended the game). 2007 also marked longtime placekicker Jason Elam's last season in a Broncos uniform after 15 seasons. Elam played with the Atlanta Falcons from 2008–2009, before retiring as a Bronco in March 2010.
In 2008, Cutler passed for 4,526 yards, breaking Plummer's Broncos record for passing yardage in a single season. However, 2008 was the third consecutive year the Broncos failed to make the playoffs, this time in spite of holding a three-game lead over the Chargers with three games left to play.
In 2008, the Broncos got off to a 4–1 start, which included a controversial home win against division rival San Diego Chargers, but struggled through a mediocre stretch in the middle of the season. After 13 games, the team was sitting in first place in the AFC West, with an 8–5 record, three games ahead of the Chargers, who were 5–8. However, in the next two weeks, the Broncos suffered back-to-back losses to the Panthers and Bills, while the Chargers won two straight. This set the stage for the 2008 season finale, when the Broncos and Chargers met at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium to decide the AFC West division title. The Broncos were blown out 52–21 by the Chargers, and would become the first team in NFL history to enter the final quarter of a regular season with a three-game lead and squander the division lead. The Broncos and Chargers finished the season tied at 8–8, but the Chargers won the AFC West based on a better division record (5–1 to the Broncos 3–3). The Broncos missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
On December 30, 2008, two days after the disastrous season-ending collapse in San Diego, Mike Shanahan, the longest-tenured and winningest head coach in Broncos' franchise history, was fired after 14 seasons. Two weeks later, on January 11, 2009, the Broncos hired former New England Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as the team's new head coach. Three months later, following a turbulent transition from the Mike Shanahan era to Josh McDaniels, the team traded Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears for quarterback Kyle Orton.
With their new quarterback, Denver began 2009 well by winning the first six games. The first three wins included a rally at the Bengals, 12–7, as well as relatively easy wins vs. the Browns, 27–6, and Raiders, 23–3. The next three wins came against a tougher stretch of opponents, vs. the Cowboys, 17–10, vs. the Patriots, 20–17 in overtime, and Chargers, 34–23. The Broncos' revamped defense played a huge role in each of the six wins.
But after the bye week, the team suddenly collapsed, losing four in a row. They managed to break their losing streak, with back-to-back routs of the Giants and Chiefs. Those would be the Broncos' last wins, as they dropped their remaining four matches, including a one-point loss to the Raiders at home followed by a close 30–27 defeat at the Eagles. Denver's last hope of getting into the playoffs ended with a 44–24 home loss to Kansas City. Ending the season with an 8–8 team record, Kyle Orton had 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 3,802 yards and a quarterback rating of 86.8.
While starting out with a 6–0 record, an ankle injury against the Washington Redskins and injuries to the offensive line caused Orton to struggle late in the season. Despite putting up 431 yards in the regular season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was two interceptions from Orton that brought the Broncos' season to a close and ended Denver's chance of a playoff appearance.
With a potentially uncapped 2010 NFL season, Orton became a restricted free agent, but later signed a tender on April 16, 2010.
Notable offseason roster moves included the trades of fullback Peyton Hillis (to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (to the Miami Dolphins for draft picks) and tight end Tony Scheffler (three-team trade with the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles), as well as the draft selections of Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and All-American Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow was a heavily hyped draft pick, partly because Denver traded three draft picks to select him.
On August 4, shortly after the start of training camp, the Broncos suffered a devastating blow to their defense, when outside linebacker/defensive end Elvis Dumervil suffered a torn pectoral muscle in practice. Though there was speculation that Dumervil would be able to return as early as November, he was placed on Injured Reserve on September 3, and missed the entire 2010 season. Also on August 4, the Broncos added free-agent running back and Denver native LenDale White to their roster. However, on September 2, during the team's last preseason game (at the Vikings), White suffered a torn Achilles tendon, and missed the entire 2010 season. On September 4, wide receiver Brandon Stokley was placed on injured reserve, and later released.
The Broncos opened the 2010 season with a 24–17 loss to the Jaguars, in which the teams alternated scores, but the Broncos never led in the game. On September 14, two days after the loss to the Jaguars, the Broncos acquired running back Laurence Maroney in a trade from the New England Patriots (for a 2011 fourth-round selection). In Week 2, the Broncos cruised to a relatively easy 31–14 win against the Seattle Seahawks, in the team's home opener. On September 20, just a day after the win over the Seahawks, tragedy struck the Broncos organization, when wide receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead in his Centennial, Colorado home of an apparent suicide, at the age of 23. In Week 3, the Broncos lost 27–13 at home to the Indianapolis Colts. Kyle Orton threw for a career-high 476 yards, but the Broncos were plagued by red-zone miscues. In Week 4, the Broncos rallied for a 26–20 win at the Tennessee Titans. In Week 5, the Broncos lost 31–17 to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, a venue that has been none too kind to the Broncos. In Week 6, the Broncos suffered a heartbreaking 24–20 loss at home to the Jets, aided by a costly pass interference penalty on safety Renaldo Hill that enabled the Jets to rally for the win in the game's final two minutes. In Week 7, the Broncos were annihilated 59–14 at home by the Raiders for their worst loss since 1963. In Week 8, the Broncos lost 24–16 to the 49ers. The game was played at Wembley Stadium in London, as part of the International Series.
Following the team's Week 9 bye, the Broncos cruised to a relatively easy 49–29 home win over the Chiefs in Week 10. Kyle Orton had a career-high four touchdown passes and threw for 296 yards. His passer rating was 131.5 earning him the title of AFC offensive player of the week. In Week 11, the Broncos were no match for the Chargers on Monday Night Football, losing 35–14 at Qualcomm Stadium.
On November 27, 2010, just a day before the team's 36–33 home loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 12, the Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels were fined $50,000 each as a result of a videotaping scandal, during the team's aforementioned Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers in London. In Week 13, the Broncos fell 10–6 to the Chiefs, clinching the team's third losing season since 1999 and removing them from playoff contention. Afterwards, Josh McDaniels was fired and running backs coach Eric Studesville took his place for the remainder of the season. McDaniels's tenure as head coach, which had gotten off to a good beginning with the team's 6–0 start to the 2009 season, ultimately turned into a total fiasco with a win/loss record of 11–17 before his firing, combined with the Raiders disaster, the expenditure of first-round draft picks on Tim Tebow (who could have been taken in the second or third round), the videotaping episode, and the trading away of key players such as Brandon Marshall. In Week 14, the Broncos were crushed 43–13 at the Arizona Cardinals. In Week 15, the Broncos lost 39–23 to the Raiders, in Tim Tebow's first career start. In Week 16, the Broncos rallied for a 24–23 win over the Texans, on the strength of Tim Tebow throwing for 308 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for another touchdown. In Week 17, the Broncos fell 33–28 at home to the Chargers to finish 4–12.
In 2011, John Elway returned to his old team as general manager. McDaniels' replacement as head coach was (surprisingly enough), John Fox, who wasn't re-signed from Carolina after that team finished 2–14. After taking LB Von Miller from Texas A&M with the 2nd pick in the 2011 draft, the Broncos' offseason was marked by waffling over the fate of Kyle Orton. It was widely expected that he would be traded to Miami where he could be reunited with Brandon Marshall, but negotiations broke down and he remained a Bronco.
Tim Tebow was relegated to 3rd string QB behind Orton and Brady Quinn as the Broncos opened on Monday Night Football against their rival, the Oakland Raiders. There was no repeat of the 59–14 blowout, but an extraordinarily sloppy game ensued as both teams racked up penalties. In the third quarter, Orton threw an interception that the Raiders used to set up a 63-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski (only the third of this length in league history) and eventually win 23–20.
Kyle Orton's playing suffered under repeated fan calls to switch to Tim Tebow as their starter and the Broncos entered their bye week at 1–4. Tebow was then installed as starting QB and Orton cut loose as a free agent. At this point, the Broncos' fortunes quickly turned around. They beat the struggling Dolphins in what was described as Tebow's triumphant return to his home town of Miami. The Broncos won their next six games all in spite of numerous controversies over Tebow's playing style (an overwhelmingly run-based QB in a season where QBs like Drew Brees set record passing stats). In Week 15, the Patriots arrived in Denver and rolled over the Broncos. They lost their two remaining games to Buffalo and Kansas City, but were still able to clinch the AFC West title and host a playoff game. For the second time in four seasons, the AFC Western Division was a tie among teams with an 8–8 record, the title being decided by tie-breakers.
Hosting their first playoff game since 2005, the Broncos battled the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round. The game went into overtime and on the opening drive, Tebow threw Demaryius Thomas a short pass and Thomas took it 80 yards to the house winning 29–23. Denver's improbable season came to an end when they headed to New England and were again buried by the Patriots 45–10.
Most football analysts dismissed the Broncos' playoff run as a fluke resulting from bad luck and a weak AFC West division. Thus, on March 20, the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, who had just been released by the Indianapolis Colts. The following day, Tebow, despite being extremely popular with most of the Bronco fanbase, was traded to the New York Jets in exchange for a fourth-round draft selection.
Despite widespread skepticism about Manning's age, injuries, and rustiness, he delivered an impressive performance in the season opener at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers (a rematch of the previous season's wild-card game), throwing for 253 yards and two touchdown passes in a 31–19 Broncos' victory. Manning also threw his 400th touchdown pass in that game, the third quarterback to do so after Dan Marino and Brett Favre (Manning did it faster than either, however). Knowshon Moreno ran for another touchdown and cornerback Tracy Porter intercepted Ben Roethlisberger in a mirror image of his celebrated interception returns during the 2009 postseason.
Following that, however, the Broncos lost two straight, to the Atlanta Falcons (27–21), and the Houston Texans (31–25). In Week 4, the Denver Broncos faced their most hated rival, the Oakland Raiders; the Broncos dominated the game from the start and won 37–6. In Week 5, they traveled to New England, rekindling the Brady-Manning rivalry of seasons prior. Despite being blown out twice last year, Manning and the Broncos managed to keep it close, but ultimately lost 31–21. In Week 6, the Broncos faced another division rival, the San Diego Chargers; the Broncos were 2–3 at the time while the Chargers were 3–2. At half-time, the Broncos were being blown out 24–0. However, in the second half, Manning threw for three touchdown passes, cornerbacks Tony Carter and Chris Harris intercepted Philip Rivers, and the Chargers were held scoreless. In a comeback victory, the Broncos topped the Chargers 35–24 and tied for first in the AFC West.
What the Broncos did not know at the time, however, was that their victory over the Chargers would be the start of a complete turnaround. Following a Week 7 bye, the Broncos won their final ten games to compile an 11-game win streak. Throughout all of this, Manning silenced his critics by playing at an MVP-caliber level and the Broncos' offensive and defensive numbers rose in the rankings along with him. The Broncos ended the season at 13–3, clinching both the AFC West (their first consecutive division title since 1986–1987) and the AFC's #1 seed. On January 12, 2013, the Broncos made their 2013 playoff debut against the Baltimore Ravens in Denver, only to lose 38–35 in double overtime. Baltimore went on to win Super Bowl XLVII.
In 2013, the Broncos went 13–3, and scored a record 606 points in the season, including an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes from Manning, in completing the first division title three-peat in their history. This time, they lived up to preseason expectations, defeating San Diego 24–17 (after leading 17–0) in the AFC Divisional, and New England 26–16 (after leading 20–3) in the AFC Championship to advance to face the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Coming into the game, the team was a 2.5-point favorite, but on the opening play, Manning missed an errant snap, resulting in a Seahawks' safety. This was the start of a miserable game for the Broncos, as they were drilled 43–8 by the Seahawks, the third-largest blowout in Super Bowl history (the largest, ironically, was the 1989 Broncos' losing Super Bowl XXIV 55–10). The game was never in doubt, as the Seahawks led 36-0 at one point. The Broncos were one of the few teams ever to attempt (and complete) a 2-point conversion in the Super Bowl. The 8-point play was scored when the game was already out of reach. The Broncos' team that scored an NFL-record 606 points in the regular season, along with another 50 in the playoffs, was held to just 8 points in the game by the No. 1-ranked Seahawks' defense.
In 2014, the Broncos attempt to return to the Super Bowl and win. They beat Manning's previous team, the Indianapolis Colts, and then defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. Their week 3 game was billed as a Super Bowl rematch against the Seahawks. The Seahawks seemed to have the game won in the fourth quarter, however Manning led the Broncos on a late-game comeback to tie the game 20-20. Ultimately, however, the Seahawks were the victors with a 26-20 win. Later on in the season, Manning threw for his 509th touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers, the most by any NFL quarterback in NFL history.
In 2015, the Broncos, sporting the NFL's top-ranked defense, completed a 12-4 regular season en route to the franchise's NFL-record-tying eighth Super Bowl at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The season began with a seven-game winning streak interrupted by a road loss to Manning's old team. Peyton Manning broke the all-time passing yardage record previously held by Brett Favre in a week nine home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. However, the day's celebration was hollow as Manning was intercepted four times and ultimately benched during the game in favor of backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. Osweiler helped the Broncos to five wins in seven starts in relief of the injured Manning, including overtime triumphs over eventual playoff teams Cincinnati and New England.
Manning returned to the lineup during the final week of the regular season, helping the Broncos rally to a victory over the San Diego Chargers. A Patriots loss to Miami coupled with the Broncos' win, allowed Denver to enjoy the AFC's top seed and home-field advantage for the playoffs. Denver defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16 in the divisional round and got a second victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship game by the score of 20-18. The Broncos' victory was sealed when cornerback Bradley Roby intercepted a 2-point conversion attempt with less than a minute to go in the game. Super Bowl 50 pitted the Broncos against the favored Carolina Panthers. The Broncos' defense created three lost fumbles and an interception and scored a defensive touchdown to power the team to a 24-10 victory, the third NFL title for the franchise. Von Miller, who had 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Peyton Manning made history as the first quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl for two different teams. Gary Kubiak became the fourth coach to win a Super Bowl in his first year with a new team. The Broncos' third championship tied them for seventh-most Super Bowl wins all-time, along with the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders.
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