After missing the playoffs for the fifth season in a row, Denver Broncos fans have very little to cheer about come January. As Denver fans watch the same old successful teams (Packers, Steelers, Ravens, Patriots, etc.) competing in the playoffs this year, it’s hard to believe that 12 years have passed since John Elway and company hoisted their second Lombardi trophy in Miami after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. As we reminisce about the golden age of Denver Broncos football, here is a look at the men in orange and blue who put up the best numbers in terms of fantasy production in the history of the organization.
Quarterback: John Elway – The man who needs no introduction. He played in 21 postseason games in 16 seasons. His offensive totals: 4,780 yards passing, 25 passing touchdowns versus 18 interceptions, 445 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns. Best Game : There are too many to choose from, such as the 1987 AFC Championship game against Cleveland, the 1992 Divisional Playoff game against Houston, Super Bowl XXXIII against Atlanta, but statistically speaking his greatest game was against the Browns in the 1990 AFC Championship game. Elway threw for 385 yards, 3 touchdowns and ran for another 39 yards, defeating the Browns for the third time in the AFC Championship game in his career. That was Cleveland’s last AFC title game appearance. Honorable Mention: Jake Plummer – four games, 885 yards passing, five touchdowns, four interceptions, and three fumbles.
Running Back: Terrell Davis – He didn’t play in the NFL for very long, but at his peak Davis was the best running back around. He played in eight playoff games, rushing for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those totals would be the reflection of a pretty good season for most running backs and Davis put up those numbers in what is the equivalent of half a season. He also picked up 131 receiving yards. Best Game: Even though Terrell ran for almost 200 yards and scored twice against the Dolphins in the 1999 Divisional Playoffs, his greatest game was during Super Bowl XXXII where he rushed for 157 yards and scored three touchdowns. He had to exit the game in the second quarter with a migraine, but would return in the second half. Imagine how many more yards he could have rushed for if he’d played the entire game. Honorable Mention: Sammy Winder- 11 games, 461 yards rushing, 386 yards receiving, three touchdowns.
Tight End: Shannon Sharpe – He’s unquestionably one of the greatest tight ends of All Time and the best one the Broncos ever had. He played in 12 playoff games with the Broncos (another six with Baltimore), totaling 505 receiving yards and scoring two touchdowns. Best Game: In a losing effort in the 1994 Wildcard game against the Raiders, Sharpe caught 13 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. During the 1997-98 playoff run he averaged 37 yards a game. He didn’t always put up big numbers in the postseason, but he certainly forced defenses to pay a great deal of attention to him which freed up Ed McCaffrey and Rod Smith. Honorable Mention: Clarence Kay – 11 games, 132 yards receiving, two touchdowns.
Wide Receiver: Rod Smith – Another famous lifelong Bronco, Smith made 13 postseason appearances, racking up 860 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Best Game: Super Bowl XXXIII was Rod Smith’s career defining game. He helped secure John Elway’s Super Bowl MVP award by hauling in five catches for 152 yards and one touchdown, which was an 80 yard bomb that opened the flood gates for the Broncos offense. Honorable Mention: Vance Johnson – 10 games, 715 yards receiving, four touchdowns.
Kicker: Jason Elam– The All Time scorer for the Broncos, he was nothing but clutch in the playoffs. He was the Broncos’ kicker in 14 playoff games where he was 15 of 18 on field goal attempts for 83% and only missed one extra point. Best Game: He came through when it mattered most in Super Bowl XXXII. He made four extra points and a huge 51 yard field goal that put the Broncos in front by two scores which prevented the Packers from taking the lead the rest of the game. Honorable Mention: Rich Karlis – 12/18, 67% field goal percentage, longest 48 yards, 19/19 on extra points.
Defense: The ‘97-‘98 Broncos – The 1970’s and 80’s had the famous Orange Crush defense, but those teams could never win the big one. That all changed in the mid-90’s when Denver acquired some key free agents (Bill Romanowski, Neil Smith, Darien Gordon, Alfred Williams). These stout defensive teams shut down their opponents and came up with crucial turnovers when they were most needed. The 1997 squad was involved in four playoff games, where they tallied 11 sacks, five interceptions, four fumble recoveries, and allowed their opponents an average of 18 points per game.
The 1998 defensive team was even more ruthless. In three postseason games they recorded three sacks, seven interceptions, six fumble recoveries, scored a touchdown and allowed an average of less than 11 points per game. Best Game: 1999 Divisional Playoff game against Miami. They dominated one of the all-time greats in Dan Marino. Marvin Washington recorded a sack, Darrius Johnson and Bill Romanowski both nabbed interceptions and Neil Smith returned a fumble recovery 79 yards for a touchdown. They also held the Dolphins to just three points.
Honorable Mentions: 1986-87 Broncos – In a two year period of six games these defensive units’ tallied 11 sacks, a safety, six interceptions, and five fumble recoveries. However, the Super Bowl loses to the Giants and Redskins inflated their points against average to 25 in ’86 and 28 in ’87.