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Sacco Sez: Broncos' written history with Patriots

Relive the Broncos vs. Patriots series history with photographs dating to the first game in AFL history on Sept. 9, 1960.

Whenever the Broncos play the Patriots in this era, it's all about Tom Brady, particularly in the last four years when Denver had the equally brilliant Peyton Manning at quarterback.

But from the decades before that going back to 1960, there is perhaps a stronger connection between the Broncos and Patriots than with any team other than Denver's longtime AFC West rivals in Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego.

The two teams played in the very first game in AFL history, with three future Ring of Fame members taking the field for Denver: quarterback Frank Tripucka, who threw the first touchdown pass in Bronco history in that game, safety Austin "Goose" Gonsoulin and running back/kicker/punt return specialist Gene Mingo.

Take a look back at the Broncos' AFC Championship win over the New England Patriots. (Photos by Eric Bakke, unless noted)

Mingo recorded all kinds of history that night, beginning with his breakthrough achievement as the first African-American placekicker in pro football history. He also scored the game-winning touchdown in Denver's first win with the league's first punt return touchdown.

The two teams played twice annually during the history of the AFL, from 1960-69, and when they played in Denver in the 50th anniversary season of the AFL, I arranged for the honorary captains to be the two kickers from that first game five decades earlier: Mingo, for the Broncos, and Gino Cappelletti, his counterpart from the Patriots.

They shed some hugs and tears in recalling their long association, with Cappelletti at that time still providing the color commentary for the Patriots' radio broadcasts.

The Broncos have had former Patriot coaches as head coach three times, including Lou Saban, Red Miller and Josh McDaniels.

And of course New England head coach Bill Belichick was with the Broncos when his career was just getting underway in 1978. He actually shared an office — a very tiny office — with future Broncos general manager John Beake in 1978. Of course, both men grew into far bigger jobs as time continued.

And the Patriots once lost a head coach to the University of Colorado, as Chuck Fairbanks resigned his position in New England to become head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes in 1979.

This is the 52nd game in the rivalry, and Denver is 26-20 in regular season play, including 17-9 at home — which includes Bears Stadium, Mile High Stadium and Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The Broncos are 4-1 against the Patriots in postseason pay, including a 4-0 mark at home.

With the last two decades having brought multiple Super Bowl championships to both Denver and New England, many fans have likely forgotten or never known that the Broncos had complete domination over the Patriots in the Mile High City for a period of 31 years, from 1969 through 1999.

This included the entirety of John Elway's career, one in which he never lost a home game to the Patriots.

Elway led the Broncos to a 22-17 home playoff win over the Patriots in 1986 on his way to "The Drive" in Cleveland in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl XXI.

And Elway, now Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager, has seen his team defeat New England in Denver for the AFC Championship twice in the last three years.

Of course, none of this has any relevance on this game this year, as different players compete on an entirely new day in a situation that is all its own.

But history has its own fascination, and these two teams have a unique history.

Including preseason, they have played here in Denver at Bears Stadium, University of Denver's Hilltop Stadium, Mile High Stadium and Sports Authority Field at Mile High, while road games for Denver have included games at Providence, Rhode Island (preseason), Boston University's Nickerson Field, Fenway Park (yes, the Broncos have played four football games there), Jacksonville, Florida (preseason), Ute Stadium at the University of Utah (preseason), Schaefer Stadium and the Patriots' current home at Gillette Stadium.

Each one of those games created its own history in its own moment of time, and so too does this matchup in Denver.

Winston Churchill once said, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

The Broncos and Patriots have written plenty, and they take pads and pens in hand for another chapter this week.

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