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Elway Recalls Familiar Feeling From '96

Posted Jan 16, 2013

John Elway knows the feeling of a devastating playoff loss. He also knows how to bounce back from it.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There are plenty of similarities between the 1996 Broncos' postseason loss to Jacksonville and the club's most recent loss against Baltimore.

The most important one is the way the team must handle it.

In '96, the top-seeded, 13-3 Broncos fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars by three points at home in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs. They bounced back from the loss to win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and '98. Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway was the quarterback of those teams.

"Looking at how we deal with it, it's the same," Elway said. "The bottom line is -- it will be something that these players will remember for a long time. They'll never forget what happened on Saturday. They'll never forget that, and I think we'll use that as we did in '96. It was a great incentive for us to come back and have even a better year the following year, as we did in '97."

With the playoff experience from his playing days under his belt, Elway knew there was always a possibility that the season could come to a screeching halt with a heartbreaking loss. That was how his 14th season in the NFL ended.

It also turned out to be how quarterback Peyton Manning's 14th season as an NFL starter ended.

"Having been through this before, and having been disappointed before, I realized that this was a possibility," Elway said. "And unfortunately, it happened."

Wide receiver and recent Ring of Fame inductee Rod Smith was also a part of those Denver teams from 1996-98. Much like Smith likely felt after the loss in '96, wideout Demaryius Thomas expressed via Twitter on Sunday that he was lamenting the 38-35, double-overtime loss.

"Still hurting," Thomas tweeted.

Smith recognized a young man in a similar situation to his own a decade-and-a-half ago.

"I know what you feel like," Smith tweeted at Thomas. "Happened to us in 96. Reflect on a very good season. Rest a little. Then go back to work. #fuel2win"

Elway couldn't recall exactly how long it took him to put the loss to Jacksonville behind him. But he pointed out one more similarity between the 1996 and 2012 teams that helped him move past his loss as a player and will help the current Broncos move past Saturday as well.

"It didn't take long because I felt like we had a good football team coming back, as we do now," he said.

And if the team is able to turn misery into motivation this offseason like Elway, Smith and teammates did, then the 2013 Broncos could eventually find a similarity to the 1997 Broncos.

"Once you get back in, you feel good about it and you get that opportunity to go back and compete for next year's Super Bowl," Elway said. "And that's what we'll do."