Otis Armstrong would become the second league-rushing champion in Broncos history, rushing for 1,407 yards in 1974.
Finally, the Broncos are winners
And, ironically, it was a tie that helped get them there — a tie that was perhaps the Broncos’ best moment of their first 14 seasons.
In 1971, a tie helped seal Lou Saban’s fate. Two years later, Jim Turner’s 35-yard game-tying field goal on Monday Night Football kick-started the Broncos, keeping them on an undefeated streak that would last for a then-Broncos-record eight games.
Even the halftime highlights, narrated by the eloquent Howard Cosell, were scrutinized, and fans of low-wattage teams — including Denver — complained vociferously when their sides were left out of the package.
The Broncos were just 2-3 coming into their Oct. 22 prime-time appearance, but their place on MNF confirmed their growing cachet. The team had talent, and after Charley Johnson led a game-tying drive in the final 38 seconds against the Raiders, it was clear that talent was getting results.
“It was the Raiders, the ‘Evil Empire,’ coming to town. It was Howard coming to town. It was all of that orange,” said Turner when he reflected on the game to The Denver Post in 2000. “And we also just happened to be a pretty good football team.”
Two years after the infamous “half a loaf” game, the Broncos had a far more satisfying deadlock, as delicious as a steak dinner. Instead of killing morale, it raised it. The Broncos went undefeated in their next five games to move to 6-3-2.
A win at San Diego sealed the franchise’s first winning season, and the Broncos finished 7-5-2 and finally with something to show for Ralston’s perpetual optimism.