Way Back When: John Elway's many comebacks vs. Kansas City

Jim Saccomano

It is so easy to see and feel the current frustrations that Denver Broncos fans have with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Misery does not need any repetition from me, so let me just skip to better times.

During the great career of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, the roles were reversed.

Not only did Elway completely dominate the Chiefs, but while he was setting the record for fourth-quarter comebacks, his favorite victims in Mile High Stadium games were the Chiefs.

He had five fourth-quarter comebacks against the Chiefs, and I vividly remember the angst and misery on the faces of my public relations counterparts from Kansas City before, during and after the Elway magic.

Three of his comeback wins came in December, making him an ultimate Grinch.

Plus, the people were just so nice, and they were in such abject misery after each loss, that I felt for them.

A little bit.

But those feelings quickly dissipated as I celebrated another Broncos win.

In December of 1998, the Chiefs had a 28-21 fourth-quarter lead before he led two scoring drives, the second ending with a touchdown pass to tight end Shannon Sharpe with 3:34 left. Broncos win!

In December of 1993, Joe Montana threw two touchdown passes to put KC ahead as the game entered the fourth quarter. But that was before Elway threw his third of the day and kicker Jason Elam connected on a 53-yard field goal with two minutes left. Broncos win!

In December of 1985, he and the offense took over with 1:53 left and Denver trailing by six, but a rapid drive culminated in a Sammy Winder touchdown with 1:31 still left on the clock. Broncos win!

My two favorite comebacks have been saved for last.

In September of 1990, the Broncos hosted the Chiefs on “Monday Night Football.”

It was a hard-fought game that the Chiefs once again led, and with 1:44 left the Broncos took the ball for their last possession, down 23-21.

I was on the field and remember one KC employee quietly saying to another, “This time we have got him. This time we have him.”

Almost on cue, Elway threw incomplete, incomplete and incomplete, giving the Broncos fourth down with time running out.

The normal thing would be to throw to the marker for a first down. Not John Elway.

He fired a 49-yard bomb to Vance Johnson. I asked him about it numerous times, but he always calmly responded that he did it because he could.

David Treadwell kicked the winning field goal with four seconds left and time expired.

The Chiefs trudged off like a bully had just kicked sand in their faces. Again.

But my favorite comeback was the game when the fans left in huge numbers, then stormed the gates to get back in. Truly. But it happened before most of them could get back into the venerable old stadium.

It was in October of 1992 and the Broncos had not scored a touchdown in the first 58 minutes of the game.

The score was 19-6, Chiefs.

And then it happened. With just under two minutes left, Elway connected with Mark Jackson over Pro Bowl cornerback Albert Lewis for a score.

Then the Broncos tackled the kickoff return man near his own end zone and Denver forced a punt.

The Broncos returned the punt 28 yards and took over in Kansas City territory. Fans were now storming the gates, and the great quarterback quickly directed another touchdown drive, this time to Vance Johnson for 12 yards and once again beating Lewis.

There were 38 seconds left. Broncos win!

So nothing should be taken away from the recent Kansas City success, but we would do well to remember that there is an ebb and flow to every rivalry. That is truly what makes a rivalry, each team taking turns ripping the emotional fabric out of the other team and its fans.

And you never know when the worm will turn.

But when it again turns in Denver’s favor, it is going to be quite a feat to match Elway’s series of comebacks against the Kansas City Chiefs.


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