Joel Reichenberger: It’s all in the surprise
October 25, 2009
Steamboat Springs — The best football game I ever attended was the 2003 Big 12 Championship.
I worked the game, covering it for the school newspaper at Kansas State University. We were still students, but we pretended to be pros and, like everyone else in the press box, prided ourselves in not cheering.
Few things in my life proved as difficult as I watched, jaw on the desk, as my K-State Wildcats laid a beating on the No. 1 and widely considered invincible Oklahoma Sooners.
I had written a cocky column before the game professing confidence in the Cats, but realistically, neither I nor anyone else thought they had a snowball’s chance in this October.
But I was wrong, and that proved the difference between that colossal win and all the other games I’ve ever seen.
It’s that same logic that has made the first stretch of this Denver Broncos season such a joy.
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No one in the world would have ever predicted the team to be 2-0, let alone 6-0.
Everyone knows the reasons.
The team looked on the brink of disaster.
Its best two players demanded to be traded, and one was.
Half of the great advantage gained from that trade – one of the two first-round picks fleeced from Chicago – was traded and used in the second round of the April draft on a player that stunned Mel Kiper and his ESPN cronies.
New coach Josh McDaniels replaced the often disappointing but undeniably steady hand of longtime coach Mike Shanahan. After 14 years of a coach that was widely known as the “Mastermind,” the Broncos almost impossibly seemed to have found someone even more arrogant.
It all seemed to come to a head in the waning seconds of the season’s first game. Desperately trying to move the ball down the field, Denver’s new quarterback, Kyle Orton, chucked a pair of pathetically hopeless passes to a comically over-covered Brandon Marshall.
Magic, of course, happened. One of those passes was deflected, caught and zipped the length of the field for the winning touchdown, and the team never looked back.
Since that miracle, Denver hasn’t just been lucky. The team is good, and more than that, it’s fun to watch. It rarely gives off the impression of being better than the team on the other sideline, but, thanks to a suddenly hard-nosed defense, always hangs just close enough to make a charge at the end to win the game.
Marshall, the star the team refused to trade, regained his composure and has developed into the team’s cold-blooded closer. The offensive line has become a stonewall, Orton a great decision-maker and the defense among the league’s best.
All those reasons have combined to make for a great first six weeks to the season.
The overarching reason it’s all been so fantastic, though, is that no one in their wildest dreams saw this coming.
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