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Sundays with Sacco: A new beginning

Posted Sep 6, 2015

As the Broncos prepare for their season opener, here's a look back at some of their more memorable ones from the past.

When it comes to this or any other new NFL season, the most accurate prediction comes from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived about 500 years B.C.

When asked by his students about the ability of past events to guarantee those of the future, Hericlitus said, "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for the river is not the same river and he's not the same man."

You just never know what you will see, or what it all will mean 10 weeks down the road. And so we go, into the 2015 season with great excitement and expectations shared by the Denver Broncos organization and fans of Broncos Country alike.

Opening night against the Baltimore Ravens will be an electric way to start, but really, the opponent is just a part of what makes the moment.

There have been a lot of special times on opening day at home.

For starters, back at the very beginning, the Broncos opened their existence in 1960 with five straight road preseason games and then with their first three regular season games on the road as well, so it was actually the team's ninth game before the home fans got to enjoy (if you can call it that) those mustard-and-brown uniforms. For the record, the Broncos beat the Oakland Raiders, with future Ring of Fame quarterback Frank Tripucka defeating future Super Bowl champion coach Tom Flores, who was the Raiders' signal caller back in the day.

In 1962 Denver introduced orange and blue to local fans in the home opener--but it was not at our home stadium! Due to Triple-A baseball stadium commitments—as ridiculous as that sounds today—Bears Stadium was not available and fans got their first look at the orange uniforms at the University of Denver's Hilltop Stadium, which long since has been visited by a wrecking ball. Denver beat San Diego (which was quarterbacked by future presidential candidate Jack Kemp), 30-21.

In 1975 the Broncos opened against Kansas City and rookie Rick Upchurch set an NFL record, since broken, for total rushing, receiving and return yards in a game with 284.

On opening day in 1986 the Broncos defeated the Raiders at home by an exciting 38-36 score, but fans that day saw a first and one-time-only event as future Hall of Famer John Elway caught the only touchdown pass of his pro career, from running back Steve Sewell.

New players are always part of the opening-day equation, but what people often do not realize is that players are informed to come see the coach and personnel people when they are being released, not to be told they have made it.

So it was a nervous moment created for rookie barefoot placekicker Rich Karlis in 1982. Karlis won the job, made the team, but sat nervously in his hotel room waiting for the phone to ring with negative news.

But the phone never rang, and eventually went over to the team facility for the regularly scheduled team meeting, still looking over his shoulder waiting for a tap that never came.

He made the team, exhaled, and proved to be a fine NFL kicker, but even today Rich still chuckles about his cut day moment that preceded his first regular season game.

This year's new beginning is also a blast from the past, as fans anxiously look forward to Broncos family member Gary Kubiak taking over on the sidelines.

The team has a new head coach in Kubiak, new coordinators (Broncos veterans Rick Dennison on offense, Wade Phillips on defense and Joe DeCamillis on special teams), but one huge constant at the center of the offense.

A huge one.

Peyton Manning comes into his fourth season in Denver owning NFL records that have to be savored to be believed.

The stats are staggering, But just for fun, here are a few once again.

- Manning comes into 2015 campaign needing 2,148 passing yards to own the all-time record.
- He already owns the all-time career touchdown record (530), season touchdown record (55), season passing yards record (5,477) and the record for touchdowns in a single game--seen, which coincidentally he set on opening day two years ago.
- Manning has combined brilliance with consistency over length of career to a numbing degree for stats gurus.
- He has had 91 300-yard games in his Hall of Fame career.
- Manning has had 14 4,000-yard seasons, 10 with 350 or more completions and 15 straight seasons with 25 or more touchdown passes.

But the beauty of all that is it means nothing to him as he and the new coaches and players get ready for 2015.

Pretty to look at, nice to have, but it is all about "now" and not at all about statistics.

From Pat Bowlen to John Elway to Gary Kubiak to Peyton Manning, it is all about the wins.

The Broncos have an all-time opening day record of 35-19-1, and when the season opener has taken place in the Mile High City the home mark is an even more impressive 26-7-1.

This is a single minded, one-goal organization headed up by the only owner in NFL history to have 300 wins in his first 30 years as owner. Since Mr. B. has owned the team, Denver has had more Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons.

Such is the mindset that the Denver Broncos will take into 2015, and the expectation is that the crazed citizens of Broncos Country will be cheering every moment.

As the Greeks said back in and before the times of Hericlitus, "Let the games begin."