Saturday, Jan. 4, 1997 shall live in infamy in Broncos’ history.
And in the memories, misery and minds of Hall of Famers John Elway, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe and Gary Zimmerman, six other players selected that season to the Pro Bowl, Mike Shanahan, Broncos’ current defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and Hall of Shamer Michael Dean Perry.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, in their second season and 12.5-point underdogs, pulled off the biggest non-Super Bowl playoff upset ever in the NFL in Denver and likely kept the 13-3 Broncos from three consecutive Super Bowls.
Elway and Shanahan agreed years later the 30-27 loss was the worst of their careers. Sharpe said the Broncos “always will look back and say ‘I can’t believe we didn’t win this game.’”
More than 16,000 games have been played in the league’s 100-year history, and NFL.com has ranked the Broncos-Jaguars game as the 78th best.
Coloradans would disagree.
The Florida-Times Union chose the Jags’ victory over the Broncos at Mile High Stadium the franchise’s greatest moment.
In the Jaguars’ 25th season, and the Broncos’ 60th, they meet again — for the 13th time. The series is tied at 5-5 in the regular season and 1-1 in postseason.
Including The Vile High Shocker.
Jacksonville could ruin the Broncos season again.
Only one team since the playoff format was broadened in 1990 has recovered from a 0-4 start to reach the postseason.
The Chargers didn’t win in 1992’s September, but won 11 of 12 to become a wild card.
If the Broncos bow to the Jaguars, can they prevail in 10 of their remaining games? Uh.
The Broncos are 21/2-point favorites over the 1-2 Jaguars, who aren’t sizzling in the AFC, either, despite Gardner “Mustache” Minshew becoming the greatest thing since Otto Rohwedder introduced a bread-slicing machine in 1928.
Minshew was drafted in the sixth round this year by Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations.
Coughlin did not invite me to dinner Saturday night. He Hate Me.
The original Jax Jags coach is back in Denver.
The Broncos were loaded in ‘96 in Shanahan’s second season as coach. Elway and Davis (1,848 yards rushing and receiving) were in the backfield, with Sharpe at tight end, Rod Smith, Anthony Miller and Rod Smith as wide receivers, and an offensive line including Zimmerman, Tom Nalen and Mark Schlereth. The defense featured Steve Atwater, Alfred Williams, Bill Romanowski, John Mobley, Tyrone Braxton and defensive nose tackle Perry.
As QB Mark Brunell says now, nobody gave the Jaguars a chance to win then.
The Broncos had a 12-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, but surprisingly trailed 13-12 at the half. With Brunell and running back Natrone Means — who would run for 140 of the Jaguars’ 208 rushing yards — the underdogs were up by 12 at the outset of the final quarter, aided by Dean’s blunder. On fourth and 5, the Broncos were called for 12 players on the field. Dean was slug-slow and failed to get to the sideline. The Jags kicked a field goal to lead 23-12. The Broncos rallied for too little, too late and fell by three points.
Afterward, in the visitors’ locker room, Coughlin held up the front sports page of The Denver Post from that morning and asserted that a cynical column (by someone he named), distributed to players at breakfast, was the primary reason they prevailed.
The columnist wrote 800 satirical words. These were some:
“Jacksonville Jagwads? What league are they in? When did the NFL start letting USFL teams participate in the playoffs? ... After the Broncos dispense with these Jagwads today, do they face the Barcelona Bobcats or Birmingham Power & Light? ... Who do these upstart Jagwads think they are, anyway, coming to Mile High Stadium, where the Broncos haven’t lost this season and only once ever in the playoffs? ... It will not be a Jag War. Broncos 31, Jags 10. Can we get a legitimate NFL team in here next Sunday?’’
Jacksonville and the Jag … uars were not pleased, and still haven’t gotten over it or gotten a sense of humor.
So, my prediction for Sunday’s game: Saxonville and the powerful Jaguars will defeat the Broncos 78-3.