This is going to be fun. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. The Broncos are heading back to the Super Bowl, and the journey begins on Sunday.
Sure, the Broncos will beat the Colts (you already knew that, right?). But after that is where things get dicey. Fear not; this thing plays out nicely.
If you’re looking for statistical analysis or an X’s and O’s approach as why and how, you won’t get it here. Well, not today, we – the columnists in this space and across Planet Media for that matter – have been dishing out that kind of gobbly-gook for more than 17 weeks. And where has it gotten us?
Every columnist can dig up a carefully crafted sentence or two proving how exactly right he was (or are); while every critic can probably expose one that’s entirely off base. On the season, I believe I’ve told the Broncos they need to pass more, run more, go for it and be more conservative. Granted, that wasn’t all in one week, more observation from week to week based on personnel, momentum, wild hairs, you name it. It was all sincere, but not always on point.
But Denver will return, and here’s why.
There are simple, undeniable truths, and one of them is that the Broncos are a damn good football team. From top to bottom, they’re one of – if not the – most-talented teams in the postseason on both sides of the ball. In the NFL, talent wins more often than not. There are not a lot of Hoosiers-type stories in the league’s storied history (maybe none). The Broncos record of 38-10 during the past three seasons serves as an indicator that this notion is true. But in the postseason, either bad luck or injuries have gotten the best of them. Right now, the Broncos are relatively healthy.
And Lady Luck shines on everyone eventually, too. Where there’s talent, the odds eventually balance out. Andrew Luck is great, but he doesn’t have the talent around him – not Denver talent.
And let’s not forget Peyton Manning – still one the finest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Still at the top of NFL. Still completely capable of putting a team on his back and winning it all. “He looks old,” you say. Phooey. What were you saying about John Elway entering the twilight of his career? Everyone knows what Elway went on to do.
“All fine and well,” you say. “But how will the Broncos get past the Patriots (or, the Ravens, should Lady Luck make an even quicker appearance)?” I don’t know. But I had no idea how the 12-4, destined to the road, 1997 Broncos would beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, either. That year during the regular season, the Broncos were drubbed 35-24 in Pittsburgh. Elway threw for 248 yards – just 17 of 42 – and Terrell Davis could only muster 75 yards on the ground. Three Rivers Stadium was this year’s Foxboro.
And Three Rivers was only problematic if the ’97 Broncos could get past the Chiefs at Arrowhead first. A 9-1 Broncos team visited Kansas City in November that year and came away losers. That wasn’t all that unusual, however, as they hadn’t won there since 1994 – and that might have been a fluke for the then 7-9 Broncos anyway.
But win in both places they did. Neither Arrowhead nor Three Rivers proved to be insurmountable. Nobody thought it would happen, not outside of the Broncos locker room anyway.
It was onto the Super Bowl where Denver would once again faced a heavily favored opponent in the Green Bay Packers – which will be the case on Feb. 1 when they square off for a rematch against the Seahawks. Even during the game, Packers safety Eugene Robinson called the Broncos “the Indianapolis Colts,” a grave insult at the time. But against the odds, the Broncos emerged victorious.
Perhaps a tougher road is a better road. A battle-tested Broncos – a team that didn’t breeze through the 2014 season like they did in 2013 – will be better off even if they’re not “better.” Foxboro is just a place, no different than Three Rivers.
The Denver Broncos can and will return to the Super Bowl and the journey starts on Sunday. Buckle in.