As the decade comes to an end, DenverBroncos.com is remembering some of the best players and moments from the last 10 years. In this installment, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the decade.
Read on for a trip through a 10-year stretch in which the Broncos won five division titles, reached two Super Bowls and won a world championship.
10. Anderson knocks off the Patriots
C.J. Anderson's 48-yard overtime winner was a sign during the 2015 season the Broncos were good enough to win a title. With Brock Osweiler at quarterback in place of an injured Peyton Manning, the Broncos held tough against the defending AFC champions. After a back-and-forth regulation, Anderson took a toss toward the left side of the line of scrimmage and broke a tackle as he sprinted toward a snowy end zone. The finality of the play made it even better. Anderson raised his right index finger in the air before he crossed the 20-yard line and then stretched his arms wide as he crossed the goal line. It was the first of two wins for the Broncos over the Patriots that season, and Anderson's run meant a great deal in this one.
9. Von tops the list
Von Miller had more sacks this decade than any player in the NFL, and he now sits atop the Broncos' all-time sack list with 106 quarterback takedowns. Simon Fletcher, who recorded 97.5 career sacks, held the billing since 1993 — and he was in Denver on Dec. 15, 2018. On that Saturday night, Miller took down Cleveland's Baker Mayfield to force a Browns punt and record the 98th sack of his career. Miller's signature moment came a few years earlier in Super Bowl 50, but this record — which signifies his prolonged greatness — should not be minimized.
8. Another AFC Championship
The Broncos' 2015 AFC Championship win over the Patriots gave Denver a second chance at that elusive third Super Bowl title. The Broncos' last playoff game in Denver featured a pair of early touchdowns from Peyton Manning to Owen Daniels, and the Denver defense gave Tom Brady fits. Von Miller and the "No-Fly Zone" shut down several last-gasp attempts from the Patriots. The Broncos sealed the win when Bradley Roby intercepted a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, and they were headed to Super Bowl 50.
7. Back to the Super Bowl
For the first time since the 1998 season, the Broncos earned a trip back to the NFL's biggest stage. That's what puts this AFC Championship win above the Broncos 2015 win — and this 26-16 win over the Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship game sure was sweet. The Broncos recorded more than 500 yards of offense and didn't turn the ball over. Manning, meanwhile, threw for a pair of touchdowns and more than 400 yards as Denver avenged a loss earlier that season to New England. After a 15-year drought, the Broncos were headed back to the Super Bowl.
6. Elway re-enters the fold
After a 16-year playing career in which he led the Broncos to five Super Bowl appearances and two world championships, Elway rejoined the Broncos in 2011 as the team's executive vice president of football operations, and he was charged with leading the Broncos back to their past glory. Elway brought executive experience with him from his time with the Arena Football League's Colorado Crush, and he also brought his patented competitiveness. The nostalgia factor certainly played a part, as well. This was John Elway! And he was returning to lead the Broncos. At the introductory press conference, Pat Bowlen noted that perhaps, one day, Elway would raise a Lombardi Trophy and declare, "This one's for Pat!" As Elway returned to Denver, it was hard to predict just how prescient Bowlen's comments would be.
5. Bowlen and Bailey enter the Hall
Floyd Little, Shannon Sharpe and Terrell Davis were all inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the previous decade, and each of their accomplishments should be celebrated. But it's hard to top the moment from August 2019 when Pat Bowlen and Champ Bailey were enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bailey became the first Broncos defender to enter the Hall, and he did so alongside the team's longtime owner. It was fitting, as Bailey has long been considered one of Bowlen's favorite players. Bowlen, who passed away in June after a courageous battle with Alzheimer's, was elected in February as a contributor finalist before he was enshrined posthumously in August. Longtime athletic trainer Steve "Greek" Antonopulos presented Bowlen for enshrinement, and members of the Bowlen family joined Antonopulos to reveal Bowlen's bust. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved with the franchise, and it rightfully takes its place among the best moments of the decade.
4. Manning throws the record-breaker
In 2004, Manning broke Dan Marino's single-season touchdown record when he tossed his 49th score of the season. Three years later, Tom Brady stole the record when he threw 50 touchdowns for the 2007 Patriots. That mark stood until 2013, when Manning obliterated the previous record. Manning threw 55 touchdowns that season, and the one that put him past Brady came against the Texans in Week 14. The Denver quarterback found tight end Julius Thomas for the 25-yard score. Manning and Brady were the league's standard at quarterback for the better part of a decade, and in at least this area, Manning gained an edge. Since he set the record in 2013, no other player has broken 50 touchdown passes.
3. Manning chooses Denver
After the Colts decided to release Manning following the 2011 season, he instantly became perhaps the league's highest profile free agent of all time. Manning chose Denver over a host of suitors, and on March 20, 2012, he entered a packed Broncos team room to be introduced as the team's next quarterback.
"Peyton's one of the best ever to play this game," Pat Bowlen said at the time. "And I feel very fortunate to have him here."
Added John Elway, "I believe he's got a lot of great football left in him."
Elway's comments proved accurate, as Manning led the team to four straight division titles, two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl 50 win. That day, in particular, represented a monumental shift in the Broncos' future potential.
2. Tebow to Thomas
Weeks of Tebow-mania ended in 11 raucous seconds. As Demaryius Thomas took off down the sideline toward the south end zone, Broncos Country broke into celebration over the team's first playoff win since the 2005 season. John Elway threw his hands up into the air on the sideline as his team moved on in the postseason during his first year back with the Broncos. Though Tebow would never start another game in Denver, the electricity of that moment is indelible. Years later, it remains perhaps Thomas' finest play.
1. Winning a world championship
Of all the great moments this decade, it's impossible to top Super Bowl 50. The Broncos' third world championship in franchise history featured a great individual performance from Von Miller and an emotional moment from John Elway on the podium. It also happened to be the final game for one of the greatest players in NFL history, as Manning retired following the game. Few organizations were lucky enough to win a title during the previous decade, and Denver's 2015 team will live on in history as one of the game's best.