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NFL – 1986 AFC Divisional Playoffs – New England Patriots VS Denver Broncos


There are many Denver Broncos fans and pundits that consider this 1986 AFC Divisional Playoffs game to be one of the best victories in their storied history in the NFL….as Broncos quarterback John Elway ran for a touchdown and passed for another one as he led Denver to a victory….while running back Sammy Winder rushed for 102 yards and caught a pass for 16….and although New England won the turnover battle (2-0)….they were outgained by Denver in total yards 441 to 271….while their quarterback Tony Eason was sacked five times.

In the first quarter, Elway’s completions to Steve Sewell and Steve Watson for gains of 39 and 21 yards propelled the team on a drive to the Patriots 4-yard line…..where from there, Elway tried to run the ball for a score….but was tackled just short of the end zone….and while believing he had crossed the plain….Elway angrily spiked the ball into the ground….which drew a penalty that pushed the team back five yards….where they ended up having to settle for Rich Karlis’ field goal to go up 3-0.  In the second quarter, the Patriots took the lead when Eason completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stanley Morgan to cap an 87-yard drive….however, the Broncos countered with an 82-yard drive to score on Elway’s 22-yard touchdown run….then later in the second quarter, New England linebacker Johnny Rembert’s interception of an Elway pass on the Broncos 29-yard line led to Tony Franklin’s 38-yard field goal….which tied the game at 10 by the end of the forst half.

In the third quarter, Denver drove 80 yards in 15 plays on a drive that consumed more than nine minutes and ended with Karlis’ 22-yard field goal to give them a 13-10 lead. The Patriots responded with a trick play….a flea flicker that involved fullback Mosi Tatupu taking a handoff and then pitching the ball back to Eason….who threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Morgan to retake the lead, 17–13….but Elway then threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Vance Johnson for the go-ahead score on the last play of the third quarter….giving the Broncos a 20-17 lead.

New England had four possessions in the fourth quarter….but the first three ended in punts….while Broncos defensive end Rulon Jones ended the last one by sacking Eason in the end zone for a safety with 1:32 left in the game….and although Elway had a rough day in the winning effort by completing only 13 of 32 passes for 257 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions…..as the Pats Eason completed 13/24 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns….while also rushing for 23 yards. His top target was Morgan….who caught three passes for 100 yards and two scores. Broncos punter Mike Horan averaged 49 yards per kick on his five punts….and placed three of them in the 20….including the final one that set up Jones’ game-clinching safety.

Simply put, this was an awesome NFL playoff game that is well worth watching over and over again.

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