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Sundays with Sacco: Before 51st meeting with New England, a trip back to No. 1

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

It seems like it's always the Patriots, doesn't it?

If so, that is because it really is so, and it is not just the very obvious connection of two very good teams playing for the AFC Championship, nor is it even just about the 17th meeting—an extraordinary number—between two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

That seems to be all the media and fans talk about, and it is legitimate by its scope, but there is a great deal of common ground shared by these two teams.

It started back at the very beginning, when the Broncos and Boston Patriots were among the American Football League's first eight teams in the league's inaugural 1960 season.

Generally, many would say, "Who cares?" but it's like looking back through the yellowed pages of a family scrapbook at what your grandfather's father looked like.

Lou Saban was the head coach of the Patriots, and he eventually became the head coach of the Broncos who first led Denver to respectability.

The very first game played in AFL history was in Boston, when the Broncos beat Boston and the two Denver touchdowns were scored by a Hollywood stuntman (Al Carmichael) and by the first African-American placekicker in football history (Gene Mingo)—on a punt return.

Pretty unusual, huh?

The Patriots and the Broncos were certainly among the poorer relatives of the AFL, with neither having a first-class home in those early years. In fact, they played each other in baseball parks in those early years. The Broncos' first home was Bears Stadium, and the two teams actually played four times in Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.

Flip through photos of each of the 16 head coaches in Broncos history.

I mentioned that they shared a head coach in Lou Saban, but he wasn't the only one to have spent time on the coaching staffs of both the Broncos and Patriots. Red Miller, who would eventually lead the Broncos to their first Super Bowl appearance, had been an assistant on Denver's staff in his salad days. He then became the offensive coordinator of the Patriots (by then they were the "New England" Patriots, reflecting a move to a new stadium in Foxborough, Mass. outside of Boston) before rejoining the Broncos as a first-time head coach in 1977.

Even Bill Belichick was with the Broncos for one season, on Red's staff back in 1978 before he moved on to his own great success. In fact, Bill shared an office with future Broncos general manager John Beake.

It is (not was, but is) not much of a office, barely large enough for one person but then shared by two, and that office, in the same building, is still there today.

The first two guys who kicked off between the Broncos and Patriots had careers one could not have imagined when 21,597 curiosity-seekers elbowed their way into Boston University's Nickerson Field on Friday night, Sept. 9, 1960.

But Denver kicker Gene Mingo didn't only made pro football history as a kicker; his overall play and pioneer status earned him a spot in the Broncos Ring of Fame.

And Gino Cappelletti followed up his career as a Boston wide receiver and placekicker with a decades-long role in the radio booth calling Patriots games.

When the two teams played each other in Denver on the 50th anniversary of the AFL, we had Gene and Gino, old friends who had not connected in years, be honorary captains and go out for the coin toss together.

This is the 51st all-time meeting between the two old rivals, and it is the fifth time the two have met in postseason play. For the record, Denver is 3-1 all-time vs. New England in the postseason, including 3-0 in Denver.

And this moment in history will have its page, but further pages also will be written.

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