In honor of 0-5 Giants, the 9 worst upsets in Broncos history

ENGLEWOOD - There is reason for the Denver Broncos to not look past the 0-5 New York Giants this Sunday, or the 1-4 Los Angeles Chargers the following week and ahead to their AFC West showdown at Kansas City on Halloween Eve.

In fact, we at 9News found 9 reasons for the Broncos to not look past Eli Manning and the woeful Giants.

The Broncos may be 11.5-point favorites but a loss Sunday would not be the worst home upset in franchise history. Here are the nine worst home upsets in Denver history with opponent, final score and date. (Update: This list has changed from worst to worst at home, to avoid confusion, and, again in honor of the underdog Giants playing Sunday in Denver). 

9. New York Titans, 46-45, Nov. 22, 1962

Contrary to what Bronco fans think about the team’s early years, the franchise wasn’t always terrible. The exception was 1962 when Jack Faulkner’s Broncos started 7-2 in a 14-game season which at the time tied them with the Dallas Texans for the American Football League’s best record.

The Broncos then lost their final five games, the most devastating of which was against Bulldog Turner’s Titans, who finished the season 5-9.

The Broncos fell behind 17-0 but rallied for a 45-32 lead following a 49-yard Gene Mingo field goal with 5:57 remaining.  But the Titans scored a touchdown on their next possession and then Al Frazier fumbled away the kickoff, setting up another quick score for New York.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-17, AFC Championship, Jan. 22, 2006

Not only were the No. 2-seeded Broncos 3.5-point favorites against the No. 6-seeded Steelers, who upset Peyton Manning’s heavily favored Indianapolis Colts the week before, but Denver had the best Super Bowl odds, at 8-5, of the four remaining playoff teams (Carolina and Seattle in the NFC).

But second-year Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger kept carving up the vaunted Denver defense on third-and-long conversions and the Broncos were never in it, as they were down, 24-3 at halftime.

The reason this upset wasn’t ranked higher was the Steelers were a good team that got hot late in the season to go on to defeat Seattle in Super Bowl XL and they would win it all again three years later.

7. Cincinnati Bengals, 23-10, Oct. 25, 2004

This is similar to the Broncos’ current situation. The present-day Broncos are 3-1 going up against the 0-5 New York Giants this Sunday at eventually-to-be-renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Twelve years earlier, the Bengals with second-year head coach Marvin Lewis came to Denver with a 1-4 record while the Broncos were 5-1.

Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson in the first quarter and running back Rudi Johnson later rumbled for a 36-yard touchdown while the Broncos offense committed three turnovers.

The Broncos finished 5-5 to settle for an AFC wild card spot. They then got smoked by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in a first-round playoff game for a second consecutive season.

6. Buffalo Bills, 30-23, Dec. 21, 2008.

The Broncos were 8-5 with a three-game lead on 5-8 San Diego with three games to go. After losing to John Fox’s Carolina Panthers in game 14, the Broncos still figured to clinch the AFC West title by beating the Bills, who entered this game 6-8 with three consecutive losses, largely because of poor quarterback play from Trent Edwards and J.P.  Losman.

As they did two years earlier against the 49ers, the Broncos jumped ahead 13-0. And again, as they did against the 49ers, the Broncos folded from there. Edwards wound up gaining confidence as the game went on.

The Broncos had two chances to tie it late in the fourth quarter but Cutler from the Buffalo 15 was intercepted at the 1 to kill one drive. On the next possession, Cutler drove the Broncos to the Bills’ 15 with 44 seconds remaining but he badly overthrew a wide-open Brandon Stokley in the end zone.

5. Oakland Raiders, 20-19, Dec. 20, 2009

The Broncos started 6-0 under first-year coach Josh McDaniels and were 8-5 entering this game against the decimated Raiders, who were not only 4-9, but playing without starting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who suffered an injury before the game, then Charlie Frye during it.

But the Denver defense allowed 241 yards rushing and JaMarcus Russell – JaMarcus Russell! – came through with a clutch, game-winning drive in the final minutes. With the Broncos up 19-13, Russell completed an 11-yard pass to convert a fourth-and-10 with 2:22 remaining and later hit Chaz Schilens for a 10-yard touchdown with 39 seconds left.

The Broncos then lost their final two games and joined 1978 Washington and the 2003 Vikings as the only teams to miss the playoffs despite a 6-0 start.

4. San Diego Chargers, 9-3, Nov. 9, 1986

San Diego entered the game 1-8 and the Broncos were 8-1. But before he came through two months later with his iconic “Drive,” John Elway suffered perhaps the worst home game in his career. Not only did he complete 13 of 31 with three interceptions, Elway lost a fumble at the Chargers 10, threw one pick to safety Jeffrey Dale at the San Diego 11 and another to Dale in the Chargers’ end zone.

San Diego would finish 4-12 while Elway regrouped to lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

3. San Francisco 49ers, 26-23, Dec. 31, 2006

The Broncos were 9-6 and needed a win against the 6-9 49ers to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. A Champ Bailey 70-yard pick six off Alex Smith gave the Broncos a 13-0 lead with 2:09 left in the first half. But Smith threw a touchdown pass to finish off the first drive of the second half and on the Broncos’ first possession of the third quarter, Cutler, who was knocked out in the first half with a concussion, threw a pick six to Walt Harris to put the 49ers ahead. That night, Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting.

2. Baltimore Ravens, 38-35, second overtime, Jan. 12, 2013, 2012 season second-round playoff

Peyton Manning’s first regular season in Denver finished with 11 consecutive wins and the No. 1 AFC playoff seed. One of those wins was a month earlier in Baltimore, where the Broncos were up 31-3 on the Ravens in the fourth quarter.

On a frigid day in Denver, the Broncos were up, 35-28, and the Ravens were facing third-and-3 at their own 30-yard line with 41 seconds left when quarterback Joe Flacco stepped up in the pocket and delivered a moon ball deep down the right sidelines. Broncos’ safety Rahim Moore misplayed the ball and it dropped in the arms of Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard, game-tying touchdown.

Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal in the second overtime and the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-30, Jan. 4, 1997, 1996 season second-round playoff

Seems like in many of their crushing upsets, the Broncos had two-score leads, only to falter. The Broncos clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed on December 1 and five weeks later, they were up on the second-year expansion team, 12-0 after the first quarter. But the Broncos couldn’t stop Jaguars’ quarterback Mark Brunell or running back Natrone Means and this loss spoiled what may well have been the NFL’s only Super Bowl title threepeat.

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