The Denver Broncos are back in the Super Bowl. This will mark the team’s seventh appearance in the big game and its first since back-to-back wins in 1998 and ’99. For die-hard Bronco fans – and is there any other kind? – it has been a long time coming.
Moreover, the Broncos are going into it with a full head of steam after post-season victories over the Chargers and Patriots and a 13-3 record in the regular season. With that, the 2013 Broncos became the only team to score more than 600 points in a single season and only the third to pass 7,000 net yards.
Not only that, but Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning set records of the most touchdown passes (55) and most passing yards (5,477), topping any other quarterback in National Football League history. He set a new NFL record with nine four-touchdown games in one season; the previous record, held by Pennsylvania native Dan Marino, was six.
Manning also set a record for the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass. He had a 68.3 percent pass-completion rate, as well as a remarkably low 1.5 percent interception rate.
It just goes on. Matt Prater kicked a 64-yard field goal, breaking the NFL record. Manning threw 659 passes with 450 completions, a franchise record. Eric Decker is the only receiver in Broncos history to catch four touchdowns in a single game. Demaryius Thomas tied an 18-year-old franchise record for most receiving touchdowns in a season.
Win or lose come Sunday – there are no ties in a Super Bowl – for the Broncos, this season has been one for the books. And with that it has been a long-awaited treat for Denver fans. In something of a an irony, it may also be a gift that keeps on giving.
In a decision announced in May 2010, but which may have been tied to the desire to recognize New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks, the league awarded the 2014 Super Bowl to the northern New Jersey sports complex that is home field to both the New York Giants and the New York Jets. In a first for the 48-year history of the event, Sunday’s Super Bowl will be played in a stadium that is both in the north and outdoors.
There have been others in northern cities, but always in domed stadia, not under open skies. That could be particularly noteworthy this Sunday in that much of the northeast, including New Jersey, has been experiencing record cold.
What that means for the Broncos is unclear. As for the actual game, probably not much. Many observers think Manning is not as good playing in the cold. But the Broncos routinely play in cold venues around the country, and Denver itself can be chilly as well.
But that last observation is just the point: If the Super Bowl can be played outdoors in a particularly frigid New Jersey winter, why not play it another year in what is a typically more conducive Denver? After this year, the cold of an outdoor game at a mile-high stadium cannot be an excuse to pass over the Broncos’ home field.
The next Super Bowl venue to be chosen is for the Super Bowl in 2018. And Denver should be in the running.
For now, all there is to be said is “Go Broncos!” or, perhaps, “Omaha!”