’97 Broncos named 50th-best team in NFL history

Jan 25, 1998; San Diego, CA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis (30) carries the ball past Green Bay Packers linebacker Bernardo Harris (55) and defensive tackle Santana Dotson (71) during Super Bowl XXXII at Qualcomm Stadium. The Broncos defeated the Packers 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Peter Brouillet-USA TODAY Sports

In coordination with the NFL’s 100th season, the league has been cycling through the 100 best teams from the last century.

The 1997 Denver Broncos have been named the 50th best team of all-time, according to the NFL Network.

The ’97 Broncos put together a stellar season, compiling a 12-4 record while leading the league in yards and points scored behind an offense that included John Elway, Terrell Davis and Ed McCaffery.

Mike “The Mastermind” Shanahan creates the best offense in the NFL and Elway, then 37 years old, threw for 3,635 yards and 27 touchdowns in the ’97 season. That was all en route to his first Super Bowl victory after years of shortcomings and frustrations.

That said, the path to the Lombardi trophy was no easy task. Despite their 12-4 record, the Broncos failed to win the AFC West as the 13-3 Kansas City Chiefs took the crown. This resulted in a divisional showdown in the ’97 playoffs. In fact, they dubbed it the “revenge tour.”

First up, a matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars who beat Denver the year before, when the Broncos were 13-3. The orange and blue made sure to impose their will, winning 42-17.

Next up were the Chiefs, who beat the Broncos 24-22 earlier that season. The Broncos managed to grind out a 14-10 victory in Arrowhead Stadium to advance to the AFC Championship Game. From there, Denver defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-21 — enacting revenge on a Week 15 loss — to advance to the Super Bowl for a showdown with the Green Bay Packers. Those Packers were then led by a young but dangerous Brett Farve and fresh off a Super Bowl victory from the year prior.

Denver entered the game as 11-point underdogs, but prevailed in the end, winning by a score of 31-24.

The marquee moment of that particular game was the helicopter run from Elway.

With 2:16 left in the third quarter and the game tied at 17 points apiece, Denver faced a critical third down on the Packers 12-yard line.

Elway took the snap, scrambled around the pocket, and decided to sprint into the open field in an attempt to reach the first down marker. As Elway approached the first down marker, he leaped into the air and was crunched by three Packers’ defenders, resulting in a helicopter-like tackle.

Elway reached the first down, which led to the Broncos scoring a touchdown a couple of plays later, and the rest is history.

Super Bowl XXXII was also the one in which Terrell Davis suffered a migraine but was used by Shanahan as a decoy on an Elway bootleg touchdown. Davis returned heroically from the migraine in the second half to push Denver to the win as he secured the Super Bowl MVP trophy.

While the Broncos would go on to capture the title once again in 1998, the ’97 season will always hold a special place in the heart of Bronco Country as the first Super Bowl victory.

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