Week 4 still has one game left to its name before it is consigned to the history books, but with neither the Green Bay Packers nor the Philadelphia Eagles on the Broncos’ regular-season docket, it’s appropriate to turn the focus to next Monday night’s visit from the Baltimore Ravens … who come in flying as one of the league’s last unbeatens at 4-0.
This will mark the eighth time since the AFL-NFL merger that the Broncos have faced a team that opened the year with four or more wins without a loss, and Denver has been fairly successful in this situation, winning five of the previous seven contests like this — including all three such games played in Denver. The Broncos even won one such game when they were 1-5, turning back the then-6-0 San Diego Chargers 12 years ago.
Denver’s history in such games includes one Monday Night Football appearance, one effort that got the Broncos on the cover of Sports Illustrated and two heartbreaking road losses in a pair of the league’s most problematic road environments. Read on for more …
Broncos (4-0) at Raiders (4-0)
Result: W, 30-7
Looking Back: To understand the significance of this game, don’t merely look at the fact that the Broncos would eventually win the AFC Championship — look at where the Raiders were. The franchise was at its zenith, winners of 17 games in a row (including the 1976 postseason run to Super Bowl XI). Their average margin of victory in that streak was 13.7 points per game. Thirteen of the 17 wins were by multiple scores. And yet the surging Broncos came into Oakland and flattened the Raiders, intercepting a franchise-record seven passes, one of which Louis Wright returned 18 yards for a score to cap one of the Broncos’ all-time signature wins.
Raiders (4-0) at Broncos (3-1)
Result: W, 16-13
Looking Back: Mike Harden intercepted two passes and Gerald Willhite scored the Broncos’ only touchdown as they dealt the defending world champions their first loss of the year and got Sammy Winder on the cover of Sports Illustrated. No cover jinx in this case; the Broncos would win their next seven in a row, stretching their win streak to 10 en route to their first division title since 1978.
Broncos (1-5) at Chargers (6-0)
Result: W, 20-15
Looking Back: Teams combined for seven field goals among placekickers John Carney and Jason Elam. Fortunately for the Broncos, Elam’s two connections from 54 and 25 yards were supplemented by touchdowns from Leonard Russell and Shannon Sharpe, while Denver’s defense — which had been gashed for 37 points by the San Diegans on opening day — kept its end zone unblemished to hand the eventual AFC champions their first loss of ’94.
Patriots (4-0) at Broncos (5-0)
Result: W, 34-13
Looking Back: Monday Night Football clash of AFC’s top two teams from the previous year was tight at intermission after New England scored 13 straight following Broncos’ 14-0 opening-quarter outburst. Denver seized control in the third third quarter with 1-yard touchdown runs by John Elway and Terrell Davis sandwiching a 21-yard Scott Bentley field goal. Bentley drilled a 33-yarder to close out the scoring. Davis and Rod Smith each accounted for over 100 yards: Davis had 178 (171 rushing, seven receiving) and Smith snagged five Elway passes for 130 yards.
Chargers (4-0) at Broncos (3-1)
Result: W, 26-9
Looking Back: Game wasn’t as close as the score indicated; a late Chargers touchdown made the final ledger respectable. Chargers would finish at .500 following unbeaten first quarter of the season. This was also Clinton Portis’ first start; he ran for 102 yards and scored on a pass from Brian Griese. Denver took a 19-0 lead before Chargers finally etched the scoreboard with a Steve Christie field goal; Deltha O’Neal’s 28-yard interception return for a score finished off the Bolts.
Broncos (4-0) at Chiefs (4-0)
Result: L, 24-23
Looking Back: A game forever tinged by controversy after there appeared to have been some blocks in the back early in Dante Hall’s backbreaking 95-yard fourth-quarter punt return. “I got blocked in the back,” then-Broncos wideout Chris Cole admitted after the game. “But we’re in Kansas City, man.” No call was made, and the Chiefs would eventually get to 9-0 before falling at Cincinnati in a game that would portend better days along the Ohio River.
Two weeks later …
Broncos (5-1) at Vikings (5-0)
Result: L, 28-20
Looking Back: An odd game that the Broncos nearly tied in the final moments. Minnesota scores on wacky hook-and-lateral play as time runs out in first half to take 14-7 lead; substitute starter Steve Beuerlein plays what would turn out to be his final NFL game as he fractures a pinky; third-teamer Danny Kanell comes in with a 28-7 deficit and leads Broncos to three scores and has them in the red zone late before drive stalls. However, fortunes diverged as the season progressed. While the Broncos would eventually rally to win five of six games after the bye and make the playoffs, the Vikings lost their next four after this win and finished out of the playoff money at 9-7.