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Way Back When: Remembering The Drive II

The Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1998 and became known as the Titans following the 1998 season. The NFL announced that the name "Oilers" would be retired, a first in league history.

The Broncos' opponents this week, the Houston Texans, played their first season in 2002, and the variables of scheduling are such that the Broncos do not have a long history playing the new Houston team.

But if you include Houston's previous franchise, there were plenty of memorable games against the old Houston Oilers. 

There were many, including one of the greatest games and comebacks ever in old Mile High Stadium, in the 1991 Divisional Round of the playoffs on Jan. 4, 1992.

That day, the Broncos advanced to their fourth AFC Championship Game in six years by defeating Houston by a 26-24 margin in one of the most thrilling home games in Denver history.

Among other things, it was a matchup of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks — John Elway for the Broncos and Warren Moon for Houston.

Moon passed for 325 yards and three touchdowns while Elway accounted for 257 yards and one passing touchdown and 39 more yards on the ground.

The Oilers jumped out to a 14-0 first-period lead and things looked grim for Denver, but no one could do comebacks like Elway, and this was one to savor.

He threw a 10-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Vance Johnson in the second quarter, but then the Oilers silenced the Mile High Stadium crown of 75,301 with Moon's third scoring strike, leaving the Broncos behind in the second quarter by a 21-6 margin, as a fumbled snap by the usually sure-handed holder, Gary Kubiak, led to a missed conversion.

No one may have thought it at the time, but the Oilers had scored their final touchdown of the day. 

In a second-quarter drive that covered 88 yards in 12 plays, Denver scored on a 1-yard run by running back Greg Lewis, cutting Houston's lead to 21-13.

Broncos kicker David Treadwell kicked a 49-yard field goal in the third stanza, but the Oilers answered with one of their own at the start of the fourth to make the score 24-16.

The Broncos started at their own 20 on the next possession and converted a fourth-and-4 from the Houston 41 to keep the drive going. Lewis again scored on a 1-yard run to cut Denver's deficit to one, 24-23, with seven minutes remaining.

A very competitive game was about to edge toward greatness for Broncos fans and misery for the visiting Oilers.

Houston proceeded to march past midfield, but the Broncos' defense stood strong and self-inflicted wounds prevented from the Oilers from getting in scoring range. Then, Houston punter Greg Montgomery hit a beautiful 44-yard punt in his only kick of the day, pinning the Broncos at their 2-yard line with just 2:07 remaining.

There were press-box mutterings reminding all of "The Drive" at Cleveland just five years earlier, but just as quickly, it was noted that magic is a fleeting thing.

Fans in the stands behind the Houston bench could see Moon pacing, and his lips could be read to the tune of "Too much time left. Just too much time."

Too much time, and Elway at quarterback.

View photos from "The Drive II," John Elway's drive against Houston in the 1991 Divisional Round playoffs that set up David Treadwell's game-winning field goal.

Elway found wide receiver Michael Young for a 22-yard gain on first down, but three plays later, the Broncos had a fourth-and-6 from the 28. Elway dropped back, then scrambled left upfield and ran out of bounds a yard past the first down marker.

Three consecutive incompletions again left Denver with a do-or-die fourth-down situation. Elway again dropped back and scrambled left, deftly avoiding being sacked by a pass rusher he could not have seen behind him, and as he headed upfield he tossed a pass to Johnson, who paused long enough to haul it in before dashing to the Houston 21 for a 44-yard gain.

Euphoria swept Mile High Stadium, which seemed never louder to longtime observers.

Running back Steve Sewell ran for 10 yards on first down, and two plays later, Treadwell came on for the game-winning 28-yard field-goal attempt.

The snap was low, but Kubiak trapped it on the ground and recovered to place it perfectly. Treadwell kicked it through and Denver led for the first time all day, with 16 seconds left.

Houston was left demoralized and unable to counter the Broncos' scoring drive with just 12 seconds remaining.

After the game, Broncos head coach Dan Reeves asked Elway what had made him step up to avoid a certain sack, from a rusher he could not have seen, before scrambling and passing to Johnson for the key 44-yard gain.

In the manner of all great players who sometimes have a sixth sense on the field, Elway said, "I don't know. I just had a feeling someone might be there."

Reeves just smiled and shook his head at the greatness of anticipation shown by his brilliant quarterback, and the fans still were buzzing with excitement at witnessing one of the greatest comebacks and playoff games in Denver Broncos history.

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