As the decade comes to a close at the end of the month, we take a look back and pay tribute to the 10 best Denver Broncos plays of the 2010s.
10. Bradley Roby’s fumble return for a touchdown at Kansas City.
It was Week 2 of the 2015 season and a Thursday Night Football matchup between the Broncos’ and the Chiefs’ was on tap at the deafening confines of Arrowhead Stadium. The Peyton Manning-led Denver team had lost two straight in Kansas City and both teams entered the game with 1-0 records. Manning struggled early on and threw a pick-6 to Marcus Peters as the Broncos’ fell behind 14-0. But late in the fourth quarter with the Broncos’ down 24-17, Manning took Denver on an 80-yard drive in under two minutes, culminating in a 19-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders on 3rd-and-10 with 39 seconds on the clock. After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, the Chiefs had the ball on their own 20 with 36 seconds left in regulation. Instead of taking a knee, Kansas City ran the ball with Jamaal Charles. Bad decision. Brandon Marshall stripped the football from Charles and Bradley Roby picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown, leading to an improbable 31-24 victory. Safe to say, the Broncos stole this one from the Chiefs.
9. Tim Tebow’s Miracle in Miami (2-point run)
Denver started the 2011 season 1-4 as the first five weeks involved poor play from Kyle Orton, sparking a quarterback controversy. After the team’s bye week, Tim Tebow was called upon to get the Week 7 start on the road against the Dolphins. The first 54 minutes of the contest could not have gone worse for Tebow and the Broncos offense. With 5:23 left in the fourth quarter, Denver found themselves down 15-0 and Tebow was 4-for-14 throwing the ball for 40 yards. Then the magic started. Tebow led the Broncos down the field on an 80-yard touchdown drive, avoiding the shutout. But it was just the beginning. After recovering an onside kick, Tebow anchored a 56-yard drive and scored the 2-point conversion with a short run of his own, tying the game at 15. That run was special because it seemed effortless and sparked hope in Broncos fans that Tebow could continue to run the ball in for scores in the future. In overtime, Matt Prater nailed a 52-yard field goal to give the Broncos an 18-15 win and a jumpstart to their inconceivable 2011 season.
8. C.J. Anderson’s OT touchdown run to beat New England
The Broncos and Patriots squared off on Sunday Night Football in Week 12 of the 2015 season in a battle of arguably the two best teams in the AFC. It was a snowy night in Denver and the teams were deadlocked at 24 after regulation, forcing free football to be played. On Denver’s third offensive play of overtime, C.J. Anderson took a toss play around the left side, followed his blockers and 48-yards later, found paydirt. A walk-off touchdown run to send the Patriots home. “To be honest, I don’t know what happened. The hole opened up, I just took off and ran it in through,” Anderson said postgame. Anderson also noted quarterback Brock Osweiler changed the play in the huddle that led to the game-winning TD. The two teams would later meet again in the AFC Championship.
7. Matt Prater’s NFL record 64-yard field goal
It was December 8, 2013 and the temperature in Denver was 18 degrees at kickoff. The high-powered Broncos played host to the Tennessee Titans on a Sunday afternoon. On a day where Peyton Manning completed 39 passes, setting a Broncos franchise record, the biggest headlines from the game came elsewhere. As time expired in the first half, Matt Prater and Denver’s special teams unit trotted out onto the field to attempt a 64-yard field goal. Prater split the uprights and set an NFL record for the longest field goal made, a mark that still stands today. Prater broke the previous record of 63-yards set by Tom Dempsey and former Bronco, Jason Elam.
6. Peyton Manning breaks all-time touchdown record
Peyton Manning entered Week 7 of the 2014 season needing three touchdowns to break Brett Favre’s all-time touchdown record of 508 touchdown passes. The Broncos were playing the 49ers on Sunday Night Football and all eyes were on No. 18. The national audience did not have to wait long as Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas for an eight-yard touchdown in the second quarter for No. 509 in his illustrious career. It was a well-placed throw and Thomas did his part by dragging his foot for the score. After the record-breaking touchdown, several receivers played keep away from Manning, tossing the ball back and forth to each other while Manning unsuccessfully tried to grab it. Manning later revealed this game of keep away was rehearsed during the week prior at practice.
5. Broncos stop New England’s 2-point conversion in AFC Championship
In January of 2014, the Broncos defeated the Patriots in the AFC Championship for the right to play in Super Bowl XLVIII. Just two short years later, the two AFC stalwarts found themselves locking horns yet again with the same exact circumstances in play. An AFC title game with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl. And when the Broncos stopped the Patriots’ 2-point conversion, Denver went back to the big game, this time winning it all.
4. Peyton Manning breaks the single-season touchdown record
Over the years, Manning and Brady, two fierce competitors, have had their share of heated battles. Two of the best at their position to ever do it, they hold some of the most distinguished records in the sport. In 2004, Manning set the single-season touchdown record with 49 touchdowns. In 2007, Brady overtook the record, throwing for 50. So it was only fitting that it was Manning who was on pace to break the record again in 2013. Heading into Denver’s Week 16 matchup at Houston, Manning had 47 touchdowns. The stage was set. In the fourth quarter, Manning tied the record on a 20-yard strike to Eric Decker. A mere two-and-a-half minutes later, Brady’s mark was shattered as Manning connected with Julius Thomas on a 25-yard score, giving “The Sheriff” his 51st on the season. During the game, Manning also eclipsed 5,000 passing yards in a season for the first time in his career. “It was very special,” said Manning postgame. “Very rarely during an NFL game do you get to have a moment like that.”
3. Rahim Moore and the Mile High Miracle
It was Peyton Manning’s first season in a Broncos uniform. After a sluggish 2-3 start to the season, Denver reeled off 11 consecutive victories. The team wrapped up the division title with ease and secured a first-round bye, as well as home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. First up in the Divisional Round was the Baltimore Ravens who came into a frigid Sports Authority Field at Mile High undeterred. A back-and-forth affair was on display and the game was tied at 28 after three quarters of action. With 1:15 remaining and the Broncos ahead 35-28, the Ravens had the ball deep in their own territory with no timeouts to speak of. On 3rd-and-3, Joe Flacco launched a prayer in the direction of receiver Jacoby Jones who was streaking down the sideline. Safety Rahim Moore misjudged the flight of the ball and let it sail over his outstretched arms and into the hands of Jones who caught the pass and strolled into the end zone to tie the game at 35 with 31 seconds remaining. The Broncos would go on to lose in double overtime after Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal. The infamous 70-yard touchdown pass and blunder by Moore is etched in the minds of Broncos’ fans for eternity for all the wrong reasons.
2. Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas in OT
The 2011 season had just about everything. A quarterback change in Week 7. A division title with an 8-8 record. And Tebow to DT. An extraordinarily weak AFC West allowed Denver to sneak into the playoffs with a .500 record after finishing in a three-way tie for first place with the Raiders and the Chargers. However, the Broncos owned the tiebreaker over both of them, thus capturing their first division title since 2005. Their prize for winning the West was a first-round date with the Pittsburgh Steelers, at home of course. Following an inspiring performance by Tebow, Denver and Pittsburgh entered the extra session tied at 23. On the first play of overtime, Tebow connected with Thomas for an 80-yard catch-and-run giving the Broncos the walk-off win. It was the quickest ending to an overtime game in NFL history.
1. Von Miller’s strip-sack for a touchdown in Super Bowl 50
The best Broncos play of the decade comes from the Super Bowl MVP himself, Von Miller. Denver was playing in their second super bowl in three years and they faced a Carolina Panthers team that had lost just once all season. Cam Newton won the NFL MVP in 2015 and was playing at an extremely high-level entering the big game. From the first snap, the Denver defense led by Miller, greeted him rudely. Right in the center of the action all afternoon long, Miller got to Newton in the first quarter, forcing a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by Malik Jackson, giving the Broncos’ a 10-0 advantage. But Miller was not done. In the fourth quarter, Miller applied pressure on the man who was drafted one slot ahead of him in the 2010 NFL Draft and forced his second fumble of Newton. T.J. Ward alertly pounced on the football at the nine-yard line with just over four minutes left in the game. Miller finished the Super Bowl with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, earning MVP honors.