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The 7 biggest moments in Denver Broncos history

The 7 biggest moments in Denver Broncos history
Posted at 2:40 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 16:40:30-04

DENVER — The Broncos have had their struggles in recent years — including a rash of injuries this season — but it's not hard to find the high points in their history.

The franchise has been chock full of great memories, from Super Bowl wins and appearances to greatness at the quarterback position to sustained winning for decades.

We decided to compile the seven biggest moments in franchise history. We're fairly certain most Broncos fans will agree with these — at least the top three.

But lists are meant to be debated, so have at it:

7. March, 21, 1984: Pat Bowlen buys the Broncos.

It can sometimes be hard to measure the impact of a team owner (unless things aren't going good). That wasn't the case with Pat Bowlen.

Bowlen purchased the team in 1984 and turned into one of the greatest owners in NFL history and the greatest sports owner in Colorado history. Under Bowlen's leadership, the Broncos posted the same number of Super Bowl appearances as losing seasons — seven. Bowlen, who died in 2019 after a battle with Alzheimer's, demanded excellence, fostered a culture of winning and provided endless resources to help the Broncos compete for titles. Bowlen was ultimately elected to the Hall of Fame, joining John Elway and other team legends.

Pat Bowlen
Denver Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen looks on during an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/ Jack Dempsey)

6. March 2012: Signing of free agent of Peyton Manning.

The Broncos had struggled to find a mainstay at quarterback after John Elway's retirement. Then the Indianapolis Colts moved on from Peyton Manning. Elway and the Broncos convinced Manning to come to Denver, and Manning proved he still had plenty left in the tank, tossing 37 touchdowns and leading Denver to a 13-3 record in 2012.

The Broncos would lose in the divisional round that postseason, but Manning came back even stronger in 2013, winning the MVP and leading Denver to its sixth Super Bowl appearance. Manning struggled in 2015, his final season, but the Broncos' stout defense powered Denver to its third Super Bowl title.

Peyton Manning, Pat Bowlin, John Elway
FILE - In this March 20, 2012, file photo, new Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, center, is flanked by Broncos owner Pat Bowlin, left, and vice president John Elway during a NFL football news conference at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo. Manning was coming off neck fusion surgery that sidelined him in 2011 when the Colts released him so they could turn their team over to rookie Andrew Luck. Despite the uncertainty over his health, Manning was courted by several teams and chose the Broncos. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

5. May 2, 1983: Trading for John Elway

The Broncos didn't draft Elway. Fortunately, Elway had no interest in the team that did select him No. 1 overall in the 1983 draft, the Baltimore Colts. After Elway announced his intention to play baseball for the New York Yankees, the Colts traded him to Denver for offensive lineman Chris Hinton and quarterback Mark Herrmann to the Colts. Elway stuck with football, and the trade only changed the Broncos franchise forever.

John Elway, Jack Elway
FILE - This April 26, 1983, file photo shows Stanford university quarterback John Elway announcing that he’ll play baseball for the New York Yankees rather than sign with the Baltimore Colts, as his father Jack looks on, during a news conference in San Jose, Calif. The rest as Denver Broncos fans will tell you, is history. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

4. Jan. 1, 1978: AFC Championship win over the Raiders

New year, new franchise.

The Broncos' win over the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game put Denver sports on the map. Denver was no longer the dusty old cowtown of the NFL, and the Broncos were going to their first Super Bowl. Denver would lose to the Cowboys, 27-10.

But before the 1977 season, the Broncos were a middling (albeit, popular) franchise that had never made the playoffs. Their postseason run under coach Red Miller was the beginning of three decades of success.

Football Games  AFC  Championship  1978 Denver  vs Oakland
Haven Moses of the Denver Broncos holds the ball high as he scores his second touchdown of the 20-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game, which sends the Broncos to the Super Bowl on Jan. 1, 1978 in Denver. (AP Photo)
Broncos vs Raiders
This was the scene in the stands in Denver, Jan. 1, 1978 after the Denver Broncos beat the Oakland Raiders, 20-17 in the AFC championship game to win the right to go to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo)
Broncos vs Raiders
The Denver Broncos won the AFC Championship Game against Oakland Raiders in Denver, Jan. 1, 1978 as fans tore down the goal posts to celebrate the occasion. The victory sends the Broncos to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo)

3. Feb. 7, 2016: Super Bowl 50 win over the Carolina Panthers

The Broncos returned to greatness as former player Gary Kubiak led the team to a third title and Von Miller led a historically great defense. Quarterback Peyton Manning, like another Broncos great, went out on top with a championship. But given the stage, it was Miller who played the game of his life, totaling 2 1/2 sacks and stripping the ball from Cam Newton in the fourth quarter to clinch the game. Earlier in the game, Miller had forced a Newton fumble that resulted in a touchdown. Miller was named Super Bowl MVP.

Von Miller wins MVP honors at Super Bowl

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning's mom wants him to retire

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

2. Jan. 31, 1999: Super Bowl 33 win over the Atlanta Falcons

John Elway's final game was a good one: A second consecutive Super Bowl win and the game MVP award, after he threw for 336 yards against the Falcons. Denver won 34-19, becoming the sixth franchise to win back-to-back Super Bowls.

John Elway, Cornelius Bennett
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 1999, file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway (7) stiff-arms Atlanta Falcons linebacker Cornelius Bennett during the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami. The first time the Falcons made the Super Bowl, they put on quite a show. Just not in the game. The colorful team known as “The Dirty Birds” arrived in Miami squabbling over the way they departed their chartered jet, and they closed the week with one of their defensive leaders being arrested for trying to solicit a prostitute. In the end, it wasn’t a surprise when they were blown out by the Broncos in Elway’s final game. (AP Photo/Doug Mills, File)

1. Jan. 25, 1998: Super Bowl 32 win over the Packers

The first championship will always be the best championship. After three Super Bowl losses and early playoff exits, Elways got his Super Bowl ring with a 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers. Terrell Davis earned game MVP honors, rushing for 157 yards and three touchdowns. But it was one run from Elway that Broncos fans might remember best.

With the game tied 17-17 in the third quarter, the Broncos faces 3rd and 6 from the Packers' 12-yard-line. Elway decided to scramble for the first down. When he reached the marker, he dove — and got spun like a helicopter by two Green Bay defenders. But Denver got the first down, and Davis scored two plays later to put the Broncos ahead.

During the trophy presentation, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen summed up how Broncos Country was feeling: "This one's for John!"

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 1997, file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway holds the Super Bowl trophy as he celebrates the Broncos 34-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego. Elway's 1997 Denver Broncos team that won the first of back-to-back championships after losing in his first three trips to the title game ranked 49th in voting by a nationwide panel of 59 football historians and media who regularly cover the NFL. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

It’s a season of big sports events airing this fall on Denver7. Check out our upcoming schedule:

  • Sept. 29: MLB Wild Card Series
  • Sept. 30: MLB Wild Card Series
  • Sept. 30: NBA Finals Game 1 on Denver7
  • Oct. 1: Broncos vs Jets on Denver7
  • Oct. 1: MLB Wild Card Series (If needed)
  • Oct. 2: NBA Finals Game 2 on Denver7
  • Oct. 4: NBA Finals Game 3 on Denver7
  • Oct. 6: NBA Finals Game 4 on Denver7
  • Oct. 9: NBA Finals Game 5 on Denver7
  • Oct. 11: NBA Finals Game 6 on Denver7
  • Oct. 13: NBA Finals Game 7 on Denver7