The 2011 holiday season is giving the vast multitudes of Denver Broncos plenty to celebrate as the team is far ahead of the dismal preseason predictions of pro football pundits.
This is not written as criticism of what seemed at the time to be logical projection, but serves once again as a reminder that all preseason predictions are predicated on the previous year’s performance.
New year, new leadership and coaching, new results. Or maybe, we should say, new half year.
For all the dramatic developments the Broncos have made this year have come since the team was 1-4, a time frame when Head Coach John Fox acknowledged that he and the coaching staff was stilling getting to know the team. Looks like the “getting to know you” phase is moving along very well.
This is just the third time in Broncos history that the team has been three games under .500 at any point in the year and came back to even.
From 1-4 to 6-5, the Broncos are relevant, the fans are ecstatic and the core mix of young and veteran players bodes well for the future.
But as George Allen liked to say, the future is now, and now is plenty impressive.
The Broncos have joined only the 1971 Miami Dolphins in the post-merger National Football League (1970 to the present) to have a four-game span in which the team committed one or fewer turnovers, held opponents to 60 or fewer points and rushed for 876 or more yards.
Two teams: the 1971 AFC champion Dolphins, and your Denver Broncos this year. That, folks, is one sobering statistic.
The defense, running game, offensive line and special teams all have had major roles in this remarkable turnaround.
And then there is the play of the quarterback.
It seems as though there is a new “first” in every game Tim Tebow plays.
This week’s latest is that in addition to some fine passes at critical junctures—end of the first half and end of the game (both are pretty critical, right?)–his 22 rushing attempts rank as the most carries by a quarterback since 1950 in NFL play.
Also, for the season Tebow has one interception and one fumble on 237 times touching the ball, second lowest figure of any quarterback in the league, trailing only Aaron Rodgers of the World Champion Green Bay Packers.
Like all statistics, it is just a grouping of numbers, but it IS a statistic, nevertheless.
Lots of events happen in a game, and sometimes, over a period of years, there is déjà vu.
When the Chargers had a field goal blocked in overtime, with the block negated by Denver calling time out, this was the second time in history that San Diego had two chances at an overtime field goal to beat the Broncos, each time with the first one blocked, and each time with Denver calling a time out to give San Diego a second chance.
This was the second time—out of two—for it to work out badly for the Broncos. As we all know, Sunday in San Diego the second attempt was wide right, then Tebow drove the Broncos down the field for the winning field goal by Matt Prater.
But back on November 17, 1985 in a game played at Mile High Stadium, Broncos Ring of Fame safety Dennis Smith blocked the field goal, only to have team captain Mike Harden call time out.
Smith said in the huddle—and this seems so incredulous, that he thought he could block it again!
As crazy as that sounds, remember that great players are defined by making great plays at pivotal times in a game.
Smith in fact did block his second kick in a span of 45 seconds, and this time it took an absolutely perfect bounce into the hands of another future Ring of Famer, cornerback Louis Wright, who picked it up on the fly (and he was the fastest player on that field, or most any other field, most of the time) and dashed untouched into the end zone for a 30-24 Denver win.
As Yogi Berra says, sometimes it’s a case of déjà vu, all over again.
Anything can happen when two NFL teams take the field. There is nothing like the theater of the NFL, and the Broncos are center stage in that theater in 2011.
Next performance is at Minnesota this Sunday. The Broncos will be hoping for another curtain call in what has developed into a special season for the team and its fans.