Kicked out of the playoffs

In the end, the Broncos were three long field goals away from the playoffs.

Three blasts from beyond 50 yards robbed the Broncos of two home wins. The first, a 53-yard field goal from Miami’s Olindo Mare with six seconds left in Week 6, canceled out a 55-yard field goal from Jason Elam just 39 seconds earlier and allowed Miami to escape with a 24-22 win.

Six weeks later, Indianapolis’ Mike Vanderjagt snatched away a potential home win on a snowy night with a game-tying 54-yard field goal at the end of regulation and a 51-yard game-winner in the subsequent overtime.

Those defeats, along with a sweep at the hands of the Oakland Raiders, left the Broncos with a 9-7 record.

They would be eliminated just after kickoff of their regular-season finale and were left to demolish Arizona 37-7 with their season no longer in the balance.

That game was started by Steve Beuerlein, which in itself was noteworthy. Four days earlier, on Christmas morning, head coach Mike Shanahan informed Brian Griese that he was being relieved of his starting duties after throwing two interceptions in the previous weekend’s loss at Oakland.

The Broncos had gone into that game knowing that two wins in their final two games would give them the AFC West crown. Griese knew the significance of the game; After an inconsistent season, it was his chance to establish himself as the long-term, title-contending quarterback. He called the game the biggest of his career.

And in that game, he didn’t even make it out of the second quarter. He re-injured his knee after throwing two interceptions as the Broncos fell behind 21-0. Beuerlein entered and rallied the Broncos back within 21-16, but a Zack Crockett touchdown run on the following series finished off the Broncos.

It was a year of individual achievement. Rookie running back Clinton Portis replaced the retired Terrell Davis and ran for 1,508 yards and 15 touchdowns. Future Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe returned after two years with the Ravens and racked up 61 receptions despite missing three games to injury.

But for the second consecutive season, the team fell short of the playoffs and ended the year looking for a new long-term quarterback.

Ted Sundquist is promoted to general manager after six years as director of college scouting

AFC-NFC Pro Bowl 2002

The Broncos are represented in the annual AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in Honolulu by tight end Dwayne Carswell, kicker Jason Elam, linebacker/special teams player Ian Gold, cornerback Deltha O’Neal, defensive tackle Trevor Pryce, wide receiver Rod Smith and linebacker Al Wilson.

2002 schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/8 st. louis rams 23-16
9/15 at san francisco 49ers 24-14
9/22 buffalo bills 28-23
9/30 at baltimore ravens 23-34
10/6 san diego chargers 26-9
10/13 miami dolphins 22-24
10/20 at kansas city chiefs (OT) 37-34
10/27 at new england patriots 24-16
11/11 oakland raiders 10-34
11/17 at seattle seahawks 31-9
11/24 indianapolis colts (OT) 20-23
12/1 at san diego chargers (OT) 27-30
12/8 at new york jets 13-19
12/15 kansas city chiefs 31-24
12/22 at oakland raiders 16-28
12/29 arizona cardinals 37-7

The Broncos conclude season ticket renewals and waiting list additions for 2002, leading to an anticipated 33rd consecutive season of home sellouts.

2002 offense

Pos Player Starts
qb steve beuerlein 3
qb brian griese 13
rb mike anderson 12
rb olandis gary 2
rb clinton portis 12
wr ashley lelie 1
wr ed mccaffrey 16
wr rod smith 16
te dwayne carswell 7
te jeb putzier 1
te shannon sharpe 13
c tom nalen 7
g/c ben hamilton
t blake brockermeyer 1
t matt lepsis 15
t ephraim salaam 16
g steve herndon 9
g dan neil 16

Rookie running back Clinton Portis ties a Broncos record by becoming just the second player in franchise history to score four touchdowns in a game

Clinton Portis

Running back Clinton Portis closes his rookie season with a 228-yard rushing effort in a win vs. Arizona at INVESCO Field at Mile High to finish the season with a franchise rookie-record 1,508 rushing yards, the fifth-best rushing season by a rookie in NFL history.

2002 defense

Pos Player Starts
de bertrand berry 1
de kavika pittman 15
de trevor pryce 16
dt lional dalton 13
dt chester mcglockton 15
dt monsanto pope 1
dt montae reagor 1
lb keith burns 1
lb ian gold 16
lb john mobley 16
lb al wilson 15
cb deltha o'neal 14
cb tyrone poole 4
cb denard walker 16
s sam brandon 2
s kenoy kennedy 5
s izell reese 15

Record: 9-7
Second place, AFC West