I woke with a start from the dream I will no doubt have for several more weeks: Joe Flacco escaped the tenacious Denver rush and heaved the ball into the frigid air. Seventy yards later, it was a touchdown for the visiting Ravens, tying the game and sending the divisional playoff game into overtime. Only it wasn't a dream. It was how all my excitement and enthusiasm died last Saturday. Forty seconds away from a trip to the AFC Championship Game, the Denver Broncos let the Baltimore Ravens crawl back into the game, and in double overtime, let them win it.
As a dispassionate observer, I might have appreciated the game for what it was: A heavyweight bout between two legends, Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis, going toe-to-toe for six quarters, since only one could emerge victorious. The trouble with that is I'm not a dispassionate observer. As the path worn in my living room floor from pacing while I watch, I am a very passionate, or at least impatient observer of the Denver Broncos.
Last year, I watched as Tim Tebow did his Christian best to bring Denver a Super Bowl title. It was a great story. Comeback wins, an fierce defense, and plenty of last minute touchdowns and field goals. There was a good deal of luck that came along with last year's team. This year, Tebow was sent packing, and the quarterback position was upgraded to Hall of Fame status with Peyton Manning. After a slow start, all engines got running, and the Broncos went on an eleven game tear to finish as the top seed in the AFC playoff bracket. That gave them a week off, to practice and prepare. It gave them home field advantage. It didn't give them the luck they needed to get past the Baltimore Ravens, who just happened to be one of their victims on the way to that week off.
In the end, there were plenty of opportunities for the Broncos to win the game. But they made too many mistakes, including an uncharacteristic three turnovers from Mister Manning. When it was Raven's kicker, rookie Justin Tucker, booting through that winning field goal, I felt my own sudden death. Now we start over again. There will be plenty of football to watch in the next few weeks. None of it will feature the Denver Broncos. They are done for another year. I can work on the finish of the wood floor where my pacing has worn it down. I can go out on Sundays. I can watch football dispassionately. For about seven more months.