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Sacco Sez: The memories that loom large 20 years after Denver's opener vs. the Giants on the day before 9/11


The Denver Broncos kick off their 2021 NFL season at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants, and that opens up a treasure trove of memories.

This is not the first time the Broncos have opened the season against the legendary and venerable Giants.

On Sept. 10, 2001, the Broncos officially christened what was then known as Invesco Field at Mile High with a season-opening 31-20 win over the Giants on "Monday Night Football."

The game was a spectacular win for a Denver franchise still riding high, just three years removed from back-to-back Super Bowl championships and playing in a beautiful, new state-of-the-art stadium.

The game was marred only by the broken leg suffered by wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, but it all became a footnote to history less than 12 hours later by the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States of America.

One of the most devastating and grim moments in American history, the attacks shattered a calm and sense of security across the nation. The lives of Americans, their country and the world changed after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as United Airlines Flight 93,

Somehow, just hours before, football fans in Colorado and around the country were focused on the Broncos-Giants game and, particularly for Broncos fans, the injury to McCaffrey. The veteran receiver caught six passes that night for 94 yards and scored a touchdown, and while he remembers the third-quarter injury, just like for everyone else, it seemed much less important as he became aware of what was happening in New York.

"I remember jumping up, making a catch," McCaffrey says. "There was a severe pain in my leg, but at first I just figured I got kicked in the shin. But the trainers all came running out, and when I looked down, I saw that my leg was bending in the wrong direction.

"At that time — and this was before 9/11, of course — I was concerned that my career was over."

It took just minutes before everyone realized that McCaffrey was badly hurt.

A few hours later he was in surgery, and he woke up to a nightmare on the morning of 9/11.

"At first I thought I was watching some sort of movie," McCaffrey recalls. "I had a morphine drip in my arm to help kill the pain, and then I saw the second plane hit the tower. All I wanted to be at that time was home with my family.

"I know we all had similar feelings, that it seemed like the end of the world, and I can't help it, but I think of 9/11 all the time."

As McCaffrey worked to recover, so did America.

Life went on as national and personal recoveries slowly took place, and so too did the NFL.

Professional football did not play the following week, but the Broncos and the NFL returned to play on September 23, when wide receiver Rod Smith set a team record with 14 receptions in a 38-17 win at Arizona.

Now, almost 20 years later to the day, the Broncos once again face the New York Giants.

Photos from the first game that took place at what is now known as Empower Field at Mile High.

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