Stalled Progress

As the Broncos’ second decade began, Lou Saban had not exhausted the reservoir of credibility and fan goodwill he carried with him from Buffalo via a one-year stop at Maryland.

Floyd Little was everything the Broncos had hoped he would be; had he not suffered a late-season knee injury, he would have likely led pro football in rushing yardage, and his 5.0-yards-per-carry average made him the most potent ground threat who had ever played for Denver.

And even though Steve Tensi had never flourished enough to seize the quarterback job, Saban was cobbling together a decent collection of talent, with future Ring of Famers Rich Jackson at defensive end and Billy Thompson at cornerback.

Each of Saban’s first three seasons had seen incremental improvement, from 3-11 in 1967 to 5-9 in 1968 and 5-8-1 a year later. Even the uniforms had changed; the iconic “D” with a horse was introduced in 1968, and would have a longer reign than any Broncos logo to date.

But the AFL-NFL merger created new divisions, and thrust the Broncos into treacherous waters. Denver’s placement in the AFC West meant that the road to the playoffs went through defending world champion Kansas City and perennially powerful Oakland.

It was not a road the Broncos could successfully navigate, as they finished a disappointing 5-8-1 to open the 1970s. Pete Liske, Al Pastrana and Tensi all started at quarterback, but none could establish himself as a long-term solution. Little racked up a then-career-high 1,062 yards from scrimmage before his knee injury and Jackson notched 10 sacks.

But after a 4-1 start, the Broncos lost seven of their last nine games to finish 5-8-1 and crank up the heat on Saban, who had yet to get the team over the hump.

January 17, 1970
Rich Jackson, Dave Costa, Floyd Little, Mike Current and George Goeddeke play in All-Star Game on West team

1970 schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/20 at buffalo bills 25-10
9/27 pittsburgh steelers 16-13
10/4 kansas city chiefs 26-13
10/11 atoakland raiders 23-35
10/18 atlanta falcons 24-10
10/25 at san francisco 49ers 14-19
11/1 washington redskins 3-19
11/8 at san diego chargers 21-24
11/15 oakland raiders 19-24
11/22 at new orleans saints 31-6
11/29 at houston oilers 21-31
12/6 at kansas city chiefs 0-16
12/13 san diego chargers 17-17
12/20 cleveland browns 13-27

1970 offense

Pos Player Starts
QB pete liske 9
qb al pastrana 3
qb steve tensi 2
rb willis crenshaw 12
rb floyd little 14
rb fran lynch 2
wr al denson 14
wr john embree 1
wr mike Haffner 7
wr bill van heusen 5
te billy masters 2
te jim whalen 13
c larry kaminski 14
t steve alexakos 1
t jay bachman 1
t sam brunelli 12
t mike current 14
g george goeddeke 14
g mike schnitker 2
g bob young 12

September, 1970
Season ticket sale hits record number of 43,584

In their first regular-season game against a team that was a part of the NFL before the merger, the Broncos defeat Pittsburgh 16-13 in front of 50,705 at Mile High Stadium.

1970 defense

Pos Player Starts
de pete duranko 14
de rich jackson 14
dt dave costa 14
dt paul smith 14
lb ken criter 1
lb carl cunningham 14
lb fred forsberg 13
lb jerry inman 1
lb chip myrtle 2
lb dave washington 11
cb cornell gordon 14
cb pete jaquess 2
cb alvin mitchell 1
cb billy thompson 9
cb bob wade 2
s charles greer 14
s paul martha 12
s george saimes 2

Record: 5-8-1
Fourth place, AFC west