Published: January 12, 2014
They came from both coasts. They traveled by air and land. They brought with them beverages of all kinds and let the smell of grilling meat scent the air around Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday.
Before the Denver Broncos knocked off the San Diego Chargers in an AFC divisional game - more than three hours before kickoff - fans took to the parking lots and streets surrounding the stadium to enjoy themselves.
Flags of all kinds - USA, Colorado, Broncos - soared in the stiff, cold wind that swirled across the lots. But after last season's divisional game that never reached 10 degrees, Sunday's wind appeared to hardly register with fans.
"We're really excited, a little nervous," said Denver's Scott Lockhart, who tended bar at a mobile, horseshoe-shaped pub on wheels. "It's not as cold as it was last year, wind's not helping though. Seems like there's a lot more excited people out here than there were last year."
Lockhart's moving pub sat about a football-field's length from a giant-sized screen showing the San Francisco 49ers taking on the Carolina Panthers.
It wasn't just Broncos fans enjoying the scene. Uriah Rohrbacher, a 27-year-old Chargers fan from Portland, Ore., met up with his father and 11-year-old Broncos fan, Trevor Rohrbacher, who lives in Clinton, Conn.
Trevor was not pleased with his dad's LaDainian Tomlinson jersey. Why?
"Because I hate the Chargers," Trevor said.
Uriah wasn't the only Portland resident in town to watch the game. Marianne Donaldson, who got married at Fountain-Fort Carson a number of years ago, walked through the grounds holding a bright-orange sign that said, "From Portland Oregon! #18 Manning we love ya!!"
"They (the Broncos) better win," Donaldson said, smiling. "We came last year for the playoffs. We went to Seattle and they lost too. If they're down, we're leaving the stadium. I don't want any part of it."
The Broncos were never down, leading throughout before closing out the Chargers 24-17 and advancing to next weekend's AFC championship game home game against the New England Patriots.
Some tailgaters started lining up Saturday morning outside the stadium, waiting to grab the best spots. It didn't seem like there was a bad one. Every corner overflowed with drinks and grills. On the menu: anything the fans could dream up.
Tim Hancock, of Brighton, and Preston Pandolfo, of Parker, worked a grill together, tending ribs, rack of lamb, green chile and bratwurst.
They both wore Broncos jerseys and wore the early look of fans hopeful for a long playoff journey - unlike last year's outcome.
"When the clock goes zero," Pandolfo said, "it'll be a different outcome."