Ranking the Broncos’ Top 10 Moments in the ‘Championship Uniform’ Era: John Elway, Demaryius Thomas’ List of Highlights


It’s the end of an era in Denver. After 27 seasons without significant changes to their uniforms, the Broncos will sport a new look for the 2024 season.

While some aspects of their old uniform remain (including the color/number schemes as well as the logo), the Broncos are parting ways with a uniform that was part of a rich period in franchise history. Denver won each of its three Super Bowls in its old uniform; the Broncos actually won their first Lombardi Trophy in the first season (1997) after dropping the “Orange Crush” jerseys, which are now back in circulation as the team’s new alternates.

In addition to their three Super Bowl victories, the Broncos have won five AFC titles, seven division titles and made the playoffs 10 times between 1997 and 2023. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, however, the franchise’s current eight-year drought without a playoff appearance, making it perhaps the right time for a new look in Denver.

The Broncos have had no shortage of great moments in the 27 seasons under their old uniforms. Here’s my ranking of Denver’s 10 greatest moments in their “Championship Era” uniforms.

Honorable Mention: Manning’s Milestone

Peyton Manning’s record-breaking 2013 season started off with a bang. In the season opener, Manning tied an NFL record by throwing seven touchdown passes against the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens. Manning would go on to win his record fifth league MVP that year after throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards, both of which are NFL records.

10. Dethrone the champions

While other teams had issues with them, the Broncos had no issues with the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots when it came to the playoffs. Denver was 3-0 in the playoffs against New England during that span, including a 27-13 upset victory in the 2005 divisional round that ended the Patriots’ dreams of a triple.

The highlight play of the game was Brady’s 100-yard pick-off by Champ Bailey that set up a short touchdown run by Mike Anderson late in the third quarter.

9. 2,000 for TD

Despite home-field advantage for the playoffs, there was plenty of drama in the Broncos’ 1998 season finale. Needing 170 rushing yards to reach 2,000 for the season, Terrell Davis rumbled for 178 yards despite an injury. The milestone capped an MVP season for Davis, who undoubtedly would have broken Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing yardage record of 2,105 had he not been pulled early during several of the Broncos’ blowout victories during the year.

8. Elway’s final return

Fittingly, John Elway’s final home game included one of his patented comebacks. Leading the Jets 10-0 in the AFC Championship Game, Elway kicked off the comeback with a 47-yard run to Ed McCaffrey that set up the Broncos’ first touchdown. Denver then scored on its next three drives to punch its second straight ticket to the Super Bowl.

7. Upset in Arrowhead

The Broncos’ 1997 playoff revenge tour included a divisional round showdown against arch-rival Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. In a classic defensive duel, the Broncos took the upper hand when defensive back Darrien Gordon broke up a pass just short of the end zone on the Chiefs’ final offensive play.

In addition to defense, Denver’s 14-10 victory was fueled by Davis, who had 101 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

6. Manning’s Broncos punch their first Super Bowl ticket

Manning brought his rivalry with the Patriots with him from Indianapolis when he arrived in Denver in 2012. One of his biggest wins against the Patriots came in the 2013 AFC Championship Game. in which Denver never trailed, Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-16 victory. His favorite target that day was Thomas, who caught seven passes for 134 yards and a score.

5. Thomas torches the Steelers in overtime

No one who watched will ever forget how the 2011 AFC Broncos-Steelers showdown ended. On the first play of overtime, Demaryius Thomas turned a short pass from Tim Tebow into an 80-yard game-winning touchdown against the Steelers’ top-ranked defense.

It was just one of many big plays Thomas made during his stellar nine-year career with the Broncos, which included five Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring.

4. Broncos survive Brady, Patriots’ comeback attempt

The 2015 AFC Championship Game is truly one of the most underrated championship games in NFL history. This included a gutsy performance from Manning (who threw two early touchdowns), a dominant effort from Von Miller (2.5 sacks and an interception), and a thrilling comeback attempt from Brady in the game’s final moments.

Trailing 20-12 with less than two minutes to play, Brady and Rob Gronkowski gave the Patriots life when the duo connected on a 40-yard run. They connected again moments later for a touchdown (on a fourth-down play) that set the stage for a two-point conversion attempt that tied the game.

The attempt, however, was interrupted by Bradley Roby, giving Manning a victory in his final clash with Brady.

3. Back-to-back Broncos

Everyone expected an epic Super Bowl matchup between the Broncos and the Vikings, who were 15-1 during the regular season. But the Vikings were upset in the NFC title game by the Falcons, setting the stage for a lopsided Super Bowl.

With Atlanta ready to shut down Davis, Elway took center stage en route to an MVP performance in the final game of his Hall of Fame career. Elway threw for 336 yards and a touchdown and even ran for a score in Denver’s 34-19 victory.

2. “This one’s for Pat”

Similar to Elway, Manning finished his Hall of Fame career after helping the Broncos win a Super Bowl. When Manning and the Broncos’ offense did just enough, Denver’s defense did the rest by stopping league MVP Cam Newton, who completed less than half of his pass attempts. Miller’s 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles earned him the Super Bowl MVP award.

After the game, Elway dedicated the victory to former Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who died in 2019.

1. “This one is for John”

Without a doubt, the Broncos’ greatest victory to date occurred on January 25, 1998. An 11-point underdog entering Super Bowl XXXII, Denver managed to shock Brett Favre and the rest of the defending champion Packers behind an aggressive defense, the running of game MVP Terrell Davis (who ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns despite missing almost the entire second quarter with a migraine) and the tenacity of Elway, whose conversion key on third down on a run late in the third quarter changed the momentum of the game in the Denver game. service.

The Broncos’ 31-24 victory marked the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory. It also ended the AFC’s 13-game Super Bowl losing streak.


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