For me, it all started in October of 1984. It was a mild—almost balmy—Colorado afternoon that quickly transformed into an epic snowstorm that eventually framed a Broncos/Packers game on that Monday night.
As an eight-year old, it was the first Broncos game I ever watched and the first time I heard the name John Elway. And while #7 would have plenty of standout performances in a Hall-of-Fame career, this one wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy.
The start to the game was more than noteworthy, however. After barefooted kicker Rich Karlis (who wore a moon boot onto the snow-covered field) got things rolling, the Broncos defense proceeded to force a fumble on each of Green Bay’s first two offensive plays. Steve Foley returned the first for a score; Louis Wright took the second to the house. Less than a minute in, and Denver was up 14-0.
As the game went on, the only thing more relentless than the snow fall was the on-field banter from Denver linebacker and current ESPN analyst, Tom Jackson who was wired for sound by NFL Films. The Broncos held on for a 17-14 win on their way to a 13-3 season and an AFC West title.
The Broncos and Packers boast a collective 11 Super Bowl appearances. While today’s game isn’t likely to be tagged as “historical”, despite facing one another just once every four years (every three before 2002) in the regular season, there is no lack of history between these storied franchises:
September 20, 1987
The favored Broncos struggled on a muddy field at Milwaukee County Stadium. Missed Denver opportunities resulted in a 17-17 tie. Of more significance, it appeared as though the Week Two contest might be the last for the season. Thanks to a labor dispute, the following week’s games were cancelled. The next three were played by replacement “scabs” before the regulars returned. After a slow start, the Broncos finished the regular season 6-1 on their way to their second straight Super Bowl appearance.
December 30, 1990
The Broncos beat the Packers 22-13 at Mile High Stadium to close out a disappointing 5-11 season as running back Sammy Winder (3rdall-time leading rusher in franchise history) “Mississippi Mud-Walked” into retirement.
December 8, 1996
Having clinched home field advantage for the AFC Playoffs with a 12-1 record, Denver sat the majority of their starters. Back-up quarterback (and current Vikings offensive coordinator) Bill Musgrave struggled in a 41-6 loss. The Broncos ended up dropping two of their last three and never regained their mojo, falling to heavy underdog Jacksonville in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs, while the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XXXI.
January 25, 1998
The Big Win, of course. Terrell Davis returned from an early migraine headache to run for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Both John Elway and the defense were far from spectacular, but proved opportunistic and stepped up when it mattered, as Denver beat the Brett Favre-led Pack 31-24, winning the first of back-to-back Super Bowls.