What a long, strange journey it has been for the Broncos

Credit: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

It is easy to say that the Super Bowl is the biggest game for the Denver Broncos this season.

But Sunday’s game is even more than that for the Broncos. It is a must win.

This has been two years in the making for Denver. From the moment they signed Peyton Manning to play quarterback, Broncos Country had dreams of another Lombardi Trophy.

There were plenty of questions about Manning coming off four neck surgeries but he has answered every single one of them. He had two of his best seasons in a Broncos uniform. This season he has the best season by a quarterback in the history of the NFL.

There have been plenty of bumps on this journey to lovely East Rutherford, N.J.

The Broncos went 13-3 in Manning’s first season only to lose their first playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The loss involved a big gaffe by safety Rahim Moore and a Manning pick in overtime. It was a devastating loss.

That defeat served as motivation for the Broncos this season. They knew they had unfinished business. But this season was no cake walk either.

The offseason started badly, with two Broncos front office members getting DUIs and being suspended. Star linebacker Von Miller was then suspended for the first six games for violating the NFL’s drug policy, he came back but never seemed the same and tore his ACL in the second to last game of the year. He was hardly a factor.
The Broncos second-best defensive player, Champ Bailey, hurt his foot in the preseason and was never fully healthy until about a month ago. He is now in his first Super Bowl and feeling better than ever.

Then there was the health scare with head coach John Fox. He started by feeling faint during the bye week and ended up needing heart surgery. The coach missed the toughest stretch of the Broncos season but Denver with Jack Del Rio at the helm went 3-1 and continued their run to the No. 1 seed.

There were some bad losses along the way, too. No one was too shocked when the Broncos lost Manning’s homecoming in Indy but the other two losses were baffling. Denver blew a 24-point lead in New England and were manhandled by San Diego on a Thursday night in December. But Broncos got their revenge.

Denver beat both of those teams on their way to the Super Bowl. The Broncos used both games as motivation, just like the Ravens’ loss, to put themselves over the top.

After all the craziness, stumbles and excitement, the Broncos are right where they wanted to be. They have a chance to win their third Super Bowl title. It has been 15 years since the Broncos have been in the Super Bowl. It has been a long, long wait.

But the season is a failure without the Super Bowl title. John Elway didn’t bring Manning to Denver just to get here. Manning is here to win titles. Pat Bowlen didn’t open up his checkbook to pay players like Wes Welker, Terrance Knighton, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and others to watch his team walk off the field without the trophy.

The window is not wide open. While Manning said he will be back next season, no one knows what the future holds after that. A lot of the Broncos star players are on short contacts or becoming free agents. It will be impossible for Denver to keep all of those guys.

A win won’t come easy against the Seahawks. They bring a tough defense with big-talking Richard Sherman and a punishing run game with Marshawn Lynch. No easy task for Denver but the Broncos need to find a way to win the game.

The journey is about to come to end. The ending that everyone wants is just one win away.

Follow Chris on Twitter (@ChrisSchmaedeke).

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