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Five great moments from John Lynch's Broncos career

For the sixth consecutive year, John Lynch is a Hall of Fame finalist.

He's come close; he made through the cut to 10 modern-era finalists in 2016 and 2017. But the member of the Broncos' Ring of Fame and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor remains at the doorstep, although to his credit, he isn't fretting.

"If you like things you have absolutely no control over, it's awesome," he said with a laugh last week.

But Lynch understands that just being in the conversation year after year is an accomplishment worth savoring.

"I was just telling someone, to be on that list with guys like this," he said, gesturing to Ring of Famer and fellow Hall finalist Steve Atwater, "it's incredibly humbling, each and every time. And I'm never going to complain about it. I'm just going to enjoy it and who knows? Maybe someday it happens."

There are plenty of reasons why "someday" should be now for the nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro -- including his performances for the Broncos, which are highlighted by five games:

Broncos at Buccaneers - Week 4, 2004

Early in John Lynch's first and only game in Tampa after the Buccaneers released him in March 2004, he kept his feelings in check. He soaked in the raucous standing ovation that greeted him when he was introduced with Denver's starting defense.

But as the taut, hard-hitting game progressed, Lynch's steely demeanor began cracking.

"I felt the emotions wear on in the second half," Lynch said after the Broncos' 16-13 win. "I was struggling with cramping. It had nothing to do with the heat. It's just that sometimes when you unload that adrenaline early, it's tough to deal with it."

Despite the emotions and the searing 100-degree on-field conditions that left a slew of Broncos taking IV fluids on the flight home, Lynch had enough to deliver the most crucial tackle of the game. With 3:54 left in the third quarter, he stuffed Tampa Bay's perennial Pro Bowl fullback, Mike Alstott, on a key third-and-2, providing the turning point of the game. The Bucs never got another first down, and the Broncos subsequently drove to Jason Elam's game-winning field goal.

After the postgame handshakes, Lynch's cool facade crumbled. Cameras followed him as he walked through the northwest tunnel of Raymond James Stadium, and he broke down in tears.

"I think finally everything hit me," Lynch said. "I anticipated that it might come at some point."

But it was the return he cherished, and it showed just how much more he had left to give. When the Bucs released him, some felt Lynch had nothing left. As it turned out, he became the only player in Broncos history to play at least four seasons and make the Pro Bowl each time.

Broncos vs. Colts - Week 17, 2004

Denver needed a win to seal its second consecutive postseason berth, and got it in a 33-14 romp that saw Lynch deliver the biggest blow, hammering Colts tight end Dallas Clark to force a football loose. Under the rules of the time, it was not ruled an illegal hit because Clark was judged to have completed the catch, but an instant-replay turned the pass into an incompletion and the play into a controversial 15-yard penalty.

Still, the message had been sent.

"You never try to hurt somebody, you always try to play clean, but you do want them to remember (big hits)," Lynch said at the time. "I just broke on the ball, tried to make a play on the ball and dislodge it."

Lynch played through a fractured thumb that forced him to wear a cast in the Broncos' wild-card loss to Indianapolis the following week.

Broncos vs. Patriots - Week 6, 2005

Although the playoff win over the Patriots three months later is what most Broncos fans remember about the season, it was Lynch's stellar performance in their regular-season meeting that made it possible for the Broncos to host that playoff duel, rather than play it in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Lynch broke up four Tom Brady passes -- including three on third downs that ended New England drives -- in the first half as the Broncos built a 21-3 halftime lead en route to a 28-20 win. It marked a personal-best single-game total for pass breakups for Lynch in his Broncos career.

Broncos at Chargers - Week 17, 2005

Nothing was on the line when the AFC West rivals met to complete the 2005 regular season. Denver was locked into the No. 2 seed in the AFC postseason, while San Diego, despite a 9-6 record, was already eliminated from playoff consideration.

But Lynch didn't know any gear other than fifth.

"You owe it to yourself, your teammates and the people who pay to watch the game, to go play hard," Lynch said after the game. "My parents always taught me anything you do, you do it 100 percent, for so many reasons. First of all, you owe it to your organization and your teammates, but second of all, I've been around this too long, if we go out there and kind of be unsure, you're going to get hurt, so we made up our minds that we were going to go play hard."

Games in San Diego always meant something to Lynch, who grew up in nearby Torrey Pines.

Nine years earlier, his fourth-quarter interception against the Chargers helped the Buccaneers snap a staggering 16-year, 12-game losing streak in the Pacific Time Zone. In January 2003, he won a Super Bowl there.

"I used to watch Broncos-Chargers games in the stands," he said at the time. "Every time I look up I see the seats where we used to sit."

On New Year's Eve 2005, he was San Diego quarterbacks' worst nightmare, posting strip-sack fumbles of both Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.

The sack of Brees ended his season and forced him into subsequent shoulder surgery; it also led to a Broncos 1-yard touchdown run one play later. The sack of Rivers resulted in a safety that put the game on ice, as Denver went on to win, 23-7.

It marked the second consecutive game in San Diego that saw Lynch force two fumbles; he did it one year earlier in a 20-17 Broncos defeat.

Broncos vs. Bengals - Week 16, 2006

With the Broncos needing a win to stay alive in the playoff race and their secondary reeling from a string of injuries, Lynch delivered with seven tackles -- including two for losses -- and a clutch forced fumble from Bengals running back Rudi Johnson 4:10 into the fourth quarter.

Lynch's hit on Johnson jarred the football loose, allowing Elvis Dumervil to recover and stopping a Bengals drive that had seen them march 32 yards in five plays, putting them within range of a field goal. The play proved crucial, as the Broncos ended up escaping with a 24-23 win that kept their playoff hopes alive for one more week.

Lynch also prevented a touchdown by clobbering Cincinnati wide receiver Chris Henry at the goal line in the first half.

"John Lynch was everywhere," linebacker Al Wilson said after the game.

Those were words that could have applied to Lynch for many of his four seasons in orange and blue, years that saw him add luster to an already sterling resume that is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Check out the best photos of John Lynch, a 2020 finalist for selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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