It was called Broncomania. It was a feverous and inspiring uprising among seemingly all of the people in the state of Colorado, and in particular, the city of Denver. It was a year that will never be forgotten in the environs of the Rocky Mountains. It was 1977, and it was the first year that the Denver Broncos ever made the NFL playoffs. So what you might say? Well, the Broncos did not just go to the playoffs in 1977. Rather, they went all the way to the Super Bowl.
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1977 Denver Broncos
It’s a rarity for any team throughout NFL history to have never (ever!) gone to the playoffs, and then in just one year, end up in the Super Bowl. But there was more to the 1977 Broncos than just that. Their head coach, Red Miller, was a rookie head coach. He served his time as an assistant in New England, and now he was going to lead a bunch of players that most people never heard of into Super Bowl XII.
Well, he had one player that people did know of…quarterback Craig Morton. Most people thought that Morton was too old and too physically damaged to play anymore in the NFL. But Miller thought differently, and as it turned out, Morton’s veteran leadership was just what the youthful Denver offense needed to become competitive in the tough American Football Conference.
The Orange Crush
The Denver defense, however, was already competitive. They employed a 3-4 Defense, with a good/excellent front seven, and a pretty darn good defensive secondary. They took the moniker of The Orange Crush defense, and it was certainly appropriate. They just crushed their opponents, one after another. They limited the Buffalo Bills to just 63 passing yards and 66 rushing yards.
They held the Kansas City Chiefs to just 80 passing yards and 86 rushing yards. But it got better. The defending World Champion Oakland Raiders could only earn a meager total of 70 passing yards against the Broncos in their first meet of the year. And the always tough Pittsburgh Steelers could accrue only 97 passing yards against the Orange Crush defense. That, my friends, is domination, courtesy of one of the best defenses in the league during the 1970s.
With a defense like Denver’s, victories started coming in bunches. They won their first six games of their 1977 season, including a statement-making 30-7 beat down of their division rivals, the Oakland Raiders. The Orange Crush Defense claimed an incredible total of seven interceptions in that unexpected rout. Things got even better for them as the season wore on. By the time that Denver defeated the defending AFC East Champion Baltimore Colts, they were definitely on a roll. They finished the regular season that year tied for the best record in the league at 12-2.
Denver secured home-field advantage throughout the 1977 postseason, and as it turned out, that advantage turned out to be quite profitable. Their first playoff game was against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a dominant team that was just two years removed from World Champions. But on Christmas Eve, they had to contend with the forceful Broncos.
The game was competitive until the fourth quarter when Denver surged for 13 points en route to a 34-21 victory.
As their beloved Broncos left the field that day, their fans serenaded them with the “new” song, I’m Dreaming of an Orange Crushmas.
The First Playoffs = Super Bowl?
On New Year’s Day, 1978, the Broncos defeated their bitter divisional rivals, the Oakland Raiders, in the AFC Championship Game, by a score of 20-17. It would be the greatest day in Denver Broncos History, at least before Super Bowl XXXII. Broncos wide receiver Haven Moses caught two touchdown passes to lead his team to the NFL’s promised land, the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for the young and inspirational Cinderella Denver Broncos, the Dallas Cowboys proved to be the better team in Super Bowl XII by the score of 27-10. Despite their loss, the Broncos awakened an entire state, and perhaps an entire region of the nation, all in the space of one year’s time. The 1977 Denver Broncos were certainly an unexpected but important team in the annals of the pro game. They proved once again that a team can come from nowhere, and in one year, make it to just a step from the summit of the game.