DENVER -- The Vikings’ stunning, scintillating, shocking, sensational S.O.S. (Save Our Season) catch-and-run, walk-off touchdown to beat the Saints on Sunday summoned comparisons to the most memorable moments in NFL postseason history.
Naturally, two involving the Broncos were cited immediately and prominently among the top 15 of all time.
Rahim Moore, Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas must have stopped what they were doing and gaped and gasped when Case Keenum completed the phenomenal pass to Stephon Diggs that resulted in a 61-yard “Whiff Six” when safety Marcus Williams of New Orleans and the Bayou did a “blew by you” on the potential game-saving tackle.
Moore is remembered in life for failing to prevent the Joe Flacco-to-Jacoby Jones touchdown pass that tied the Ravens with the Broncos with 35 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on Jan. 12, 2013 – a date that lives in infamy in Denver. The Broncos lost in the second overtime.
No matter what T ‘n T achieve in their lives, Tebow and Thomas always will be remembered for their connection on the opening play of overtime in the Broncos-Steelers Jan. 8, 2012, playoff game. The pass play was the longest game-ender ever in OT in the playoffs.
Those two plays – one horrific, one extraordinary for the Broncos – occurred barely a year apart at Mile High Stadium.
Perhaps the most unusual in the legend and the lore of the NFL was “The Immaculate Reception,” when Terry Bradshaw’s pass caromed off the Steelers’ John Fuqua and the Raiders’ Jack Tatum in the 1972 division round playoff game, and Franco Harris picked the ball out of the air just before it hit the ground and ran for a touchdown that gave Pittsburgh the victory. The Steelers were facing fourth-and-10 at their own 40, with 22 seconds remaining and Oakland ahead 7-6 in Three Rivers Stadium.
The Broncos have been in business for 58 seasons, and they’ve played in 42 postseason games (after not experiencing even one from 1960-76), winning 23. They have an 8-2 mark in conference championships and a 3-5 Super Bowl record.
And they’ve made memories good (Tebow & Thomas) and bad (Moore & less).
Here are 14 other games that never will should be forgotten, beginning with the Broncos’ first postseason (1977, with a defeat in Super Bowl 12) and ending with their latest (in 2015 with a victory in Super Bowl 50).
AFC Championship, Jan. 1, 1978 – Jon Keyworth scored from one yard out in the third quarter to give the Broncos a 14-3 lead over the Raiders, but the play that really made the difference in the outcome was a Rob Lytle carry just before inside the 10-yard. The official ruled that he didn’t fumble, but replays later confirmed he had. That play eventually would lead to the NFL considering TV replays to become an integral part of the game.
A John Elway pass was intercepted by Pittsburgh with 2:45 left in the playoff game on Dec. 30, 1984, in Denver. The ball was returned to the Broncos’ 2-yard line, and the Steelers scored for the victory.
On Jan. 4, 1987, in the Broncos-Patriots game, Elway threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Vance Johnson at the end of the third quarter, and the Broncos took the lead and would advance to the AFC Championship in Cleveland.
On Jan. 11, 1987, The Drive. That touchdown throw from Elway to Mark Jackson didn’t win the game, but the Broncos did tie Browns, then won on a field goal in overtime.
On Jan. 17, 1988, The Fumble. Broncos’ defensive back Jeremiah Castille recovered Ernest Byner’s fumble at the Denver 3 with just over a minute remaining to preserve the Broncos’ victory in the AFC title game.
On Jan. 7, 1990, the Broncos edged the Steelers 24-23 on Mel Bratton’s one-yard run with just 2:27 left.
On Jan. 4, 1992, Elway, from his own 2-yard line, guided the Broncos to a winning field goal with 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Broncos’ defeat of Houston got the Broncos to a fourth AFC Championship game in six seasons.
Exactly five years later to the day in Denver, the Broncos suffered one of the worst playoff upsets in NFL history to the Jaguars, primarily because defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry too slowly left the field, and the Broncos were flagged for a 12th man penalty. Instead of being forced to punt, the Jags went down for a touchdown that would be prove to be the game-breaker and heart-breaker for the Broncos.
In 1998 (also on Jan. 4), the Broncos knocked down a Chiefs pass in the end zone on fourth-and-two with 19 second left for the difference in the victory.
A week later Elway threw for two touchdowns in 1 ½ minutes late in the second quarter against Pittsburgh, and the Broncos held on for dear life in the second half to reach the Super Bowl.
Three plays in Super Bowl XXXII – The Helicopter by Elway, Terrell Davis, who was literally blind in the first half because of a terrible migraine headache, scored the go-head touchdown with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter (as the Packers allowed him to score, in order to get the ball back for a potential tying touchdown by Brett Favre) and a fourth-down stop on a Favre pass in the waning moments that gave the Broncos their first victory in five Super Bowls.
In Super Bowl XLVIII outside New York City, the Broncos absorbed a safety on the first offensive play, and the game against the Seahawks went way awry from there.
On Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 in the AFC Championship, the Patriots rallied to pull to within two points (20-18) with 12 seconds to go, but Broncos’ cornerback Bradley Roby intercepted Tom Brady’s two-point pass attempt to advance the Broncos to their eighth Super Bowl.
And on Feb. 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif., the Panthers had the ball trailing 16-10 in the fourth quarter when Von Miller strip-sacked Cam Newton for the second time, causing a fumble that Denver recovered. And the Broncos would score with 3:08 remaining for their third NFL Championship.
When’s the next memory for the Broncos?