Monday nights have been wacky in Denver
Snowball game, the Fridge, Belichick's boo-boo — and Sept. 10, 2001
DENVER - The night was Oct. 22, 1973. The music played. The camera focused in on Don Meredith and he introduced viewers to Denver on “Monday Night Football” for the first time.
“Welcome to the Mile High City,” Meredith said, “and I really am.”
Thanks to Jim Turner’s field goal in the waning seconds, the first Monday night game in Denver ended in a 23-23 tie between the Broncos and Oakland Raiders. But the tie felt more like a win to Denver football fans in a day before the city was considered big-league or the Broncos were considered good. Turner called the game a turning point in franchise history.
Although “Monday Night Football” isn’t going anywhere, Monday’s game against the Chiefs marked the final time ABC aired a Monday nighter in Denver. The network’s contract is up after this, the 36th-year of what was once one of the most popular series on TV. Cable partner ESPN will pick up the series next year, and many are wondering if it will ever be the same.
While that debate lingers, one question is already settled. Denver has easily been one of the most exciting venues for ABC under the lights.
A look at some of the memorable Monday night moments in the Mile High City:
- The snow game: The defining Monday night game in Denver came Oct. 15, 1984 when an autumn blizzard hit town before kickoff against the Green Bay Packers. Steve Foley and Louis Wright each scooped up fumbles and returned them for touchdowns to give the Broncos a 14-0 lead after Green Bay’s first two plays on offense. The grounds crew kept busy all night shoveling snow off the sidelines and yard markers. Denver won 17-14.
- The snowball game: With Ray Wersching lining up for a 19-yard field goal at the end of the first half on Nov. 11, 1985, a snowball was thrown onto the field, disrupting holder Matt Cavanaugh’s timing and forcing him to pick up the ball and throw it incomplete. Those three points mattered. Denver won that game 17-16. The next day, the San Francisco Examiner offered a $500 reward for anyone who could find the person who threw the snowball.
- Da Bears: With the Bears threatening to go up by two touchdowns early, Mike Ditka called for a handoff to Refrigerator Perry, who was making his first appearance of the season at tailback, just for “Monday Night Football.” Perry fumbled the ball at the goal line, allowing Denver to stay in the game. Denver still needed 10 points in the fourth quarter for a thrilling 31-29 win that dropped the defending champions to 7-2. The difference in the game was a pair of missed Bears extra points, both after Mike Tomczak had trouble with the holds.
- Shanny’s comeback: Mike Shanahan’s best Monday night moment may have come, believe it or not, in his first year as coach of the Raiders. Down 24-0 at halftime on Sept. 26, 1988, Shanahan and the Raiders came back for a 30-27 overtime win that remains tied as the biggest comeback in Raiders history. Al Davis fired Shanahan early the next season and he came back to Denver as offensive coordinator.
- The hit: One of the hardest hits in NFL history was Steve Atwater’s crushing of huge Chiefs running back Christian Okoye on Sept. 17, 1990. Making it better was that Broncos public-relations man Jim Saccomano had persuaded Atwater to wear a microphone that night, preserving the sound for the hit from Denver’s 24-23 win and turning into an instant classic for NFL films. By the way, John Elway hit Vance Johnson for 49 yards on fourth down with time running out to set up the winning field goal.
- The comeback(s): Montana vs. Elway was great. Montana vs. Elway doing what they did on Oct. 17, 1994 was even better. In one of his many late-game comebacks, Elway took the Broncos 39 yards for a touchdown and a 28-24 lead with 1:29 left. But Montana answered by driving the Chiefs 75 yards in 1:21 and connecting with Willie Davis for the 31-28 win.
- Who cares: Ed McCaffrey suffered a gruesome broken leg in a 31-20 victory over the Giants in the first game played at the new Invesco Field. It was the talk of the town that night. But that night was Sept. 10, 2001. The next day, the McCaffrey injury seemed inconsequential.
- The safety: In possibly one of the most brilliant coaching moves in the history of Monday night, Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted to take an intentional safety with 3:06 left and New England trailing 24-23 to keep the Pats from having to punt from the back of their end zone. After the free kick, Denver started behind its own 20. The New England defense held and after a Denver punt, Tom Brady drove the Pats to a touchdown and a 30-26 win on Nov. 3, 2003. That game turned out to be the second-to-last Monday night game ABC televised in Denver.
Quick look at Week 4 games
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