Everybody who saw the Broncos’ heart-stopping 15-14 win at Buffalo was astonished, captivated, electrified and stunned by the finish.
This is my 30th year with the Broncos, and I have never seen a finish like that.
Neither had anyone else among a veteran press corps whom I informally polled after the game.
Game-winning field goals at the final gun are nothing new in the National Football League, but for the kick to take place in that amount of time, without any clock stoppage, is remarkable.
Basically, the Broncos ran two plays in 18 seconds, the pass from Jay Cutler to Javon Walker, and then, with no clock stoppage, the offense left the field and the special teams took the field, lined up without flinching, snapped, and kicked.
The very first positive sign came from the Buffalo fans. They were shouting, “5…4…3…” and they stopped, realizing suddenly that the kick was going to get off, and Jason Elam had his 21st game-winning field goal.
That is great clock management by Mike Shanahan, and hence, great coaching.
But in addition to knowledge and preparation, the game takes a lot of nerve, and that was a great and decisive move by the coaching staff.
The team mobbed Elam on the field, engulfing the kicker in a pile of players reminiscent of a baseball team on the mound after winning the World Series.
I have not seen any version of that piling on in my career.
It was fantastic to observe, with the entire sequence of two plays and celebration coming in less than one minute.
Field photographers rushed the pile to get a shot of the euphoria, and it was quite a scene.
In the course of the game, did you notice a new feature of the uniform for four of the Broncos?
John Lynch, Champ Bailey, Tom Nalen, and Jay Cutler have been named by their teammates as captains for 2007, and this year the NFL is going with a captain’s “C” in the upper right front of each player’s jersey.
This is a great addition to the uniform, very familiar to hockey fans but not always done in football and not previously done as a league-wide initiative by the NFL.
In each case, these players are team leaders, players who set the tone for the team by their play, practice habits, and attitudes, and often for their community work as well.
It is great to see them recognized by the “C” patch, especially knowing that over the course of a season, television will find numerous instances when the focus is on one of these players, reminding everyone about the leadership qualities they represent.
A lot of time is spent pointing fingers at a very small minority of players who do something negative, so it is gratifying to me and many others within the game to see that playing field leveled out by recognition of our captains, representative of the best that the game has to offer.
The final thought on the Buffalo game is that celebration happens fast; it was a great plane ride home, and very satisfying to watch the highlights on all the local news shows and national highlight shows.
But now it is on to the next game, and that scintillating victory at Buffalo finds its place in Bronco lore and the 2007 highlight video.