Although the Broncos had not won any Super Bowls since John Elway’s retirement, they had remained competitive. From 2000-06, they made the playoffs four times, had six winning seasons and never finished below .500. They weren’t champions, but they were consistently in the hunt.

That changed in 2007, when the Broncos finished 7-9 and were mathematically eliminated from postseason consideration before Christmas.

The Broncos’ worst season in eight years started with promise — a dramatic last-second win at Buffalo and an overtime win over Oakland.

In his 15th season, Jason Elam was perhaps all that separated the year from being a disaster. Four of the Broncos’ seven wins were on walk-off field goals as the Broncos finished with a minus-89 point differential more typical of a five- or four-win team than the 7-9 club they were.

Jay Cutler settled in as the starting quarterback and had a solid first full season under center, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 3,497 yards on 297-of-467 passing with 14 interceptions and an 88.1 rating. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall emerged as a star, helping fill the void created when a hip injury kept Rod Smith out for the year and hastened his 2008 retirement.

But the long-vaunted ground game was inconsistent, struggling after Tom Nalen suffered a season-ending injury. Free-agent pickup Travis Henry didn’t pan out, plagued by injuries and legal and personal troubles that ended his career after the 2007 season.

Worse was the defense, which collapsed in 2007 under injuries and scheme issues. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer had been dismissed after the 2006 season, replaced by Jim Bates, whose defense allowed 107 points over a three-game stretch at midseason. The Broncos finished 30th in rushing defense and Bates was dismissed after the year.

Exacerbating matters was the fact that the Broncos conceded seven touchdowns on various returns, including two to Chicago’s Devin Hester that led to a 37-34 overtime loss at Soldier Field that stopped a two-game winning streak and effectively squelched any chance at a late-season revival.

2007 schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/9 at buffalo bills 15-14
9/16 oakland raiders (OT) 23-20
9/23 jacksonville jaguars 14-23
9/30 at indianapolis colts 20-38
10/7 san diego chargers 3-41
10/21 pittsburgh steelers 31-28
10/29 green bay packers (OT) 13-19
11/4 at detroit lions 7-44
11/11 at kansas city chiefs 27-11
11/19 tennessee titans 34-20
11/25 at chicago bears (OT) 34-37
12/2 at oakland raiders 20-34
12/9 kansas city chiefs 41-7
12/13 at houston texans 13-31
12/24 at san diego chargers 3-23
12/30 minnesota vikings (OT) 22-19

2007 offense

Pos Player Starts
qb jay cutler 16
rb andre hall 1
rb travis henry 7
rb selvin young 8
rb cecil sapp 8
wr brandon marshall 16
wr glenn martinex 1
wr brandon stokely 9
wr javon walker 5
te daniel graham 15
te nate jackson 1
te chad mustard 2
te tony scheffler 7
c/g chris myers 16
c tom nalen 5
t matt lepsis 16
t erik pears 16
g montrae holland 16
g chris kuper 11

Terrell Davis is the 21st inductee into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame on September 23, 2007

2007 defense

Pos Player Starts
de tim crodwer 1
de elvis dumervil 16
de john engelberger 15
de jarvis moss 1
de simeon rice 1
dt sam adams 11
dt arnon gordon 4
dt alvin mckinley 10
dt marcus thomas 5
lb ian gold 14
lb nate webster 13
lb d.j. williams 16
lb jamie winborn 2
cb champ bailey 15
cb dré bly 16
cb karl paymah 3
db domonique foxworth 6
s hamza abdullah 8
s nick ferguson 7
s john lynch 12

Record: 7-9
Second place, AFC West