Remember the Ravens.
I know it’s a new year and “Auld Lang Syne” asks us to contemplate whether “old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind.”
But, as Broncos fans, we would be in a delusional state of denial if we were to sweep under the rug what happened to our beloved Orange and Blue around this time last year.
Sorry for the buzz kill, Broncos Country, but do you remember what it felt like to see the ball that Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tuck booted into the frigid and rarified Denver air last January, as it sailed through the uprights at Invesco Field at Mile High?
If you don’t, you were either passed out drunk or are lying.
I remember it like it was yesterday: Defeated and deflated after an exhausting four-hour game, I collapsed in my couch and stared at the TV, asking myself, ‘Did that really just happen?’
When I awoke the next morning, I experienced a serene glimmer of hope that what had happened was just a bad dream. Alas, it wasn’t.
The incomprehensible loss was painful — and it was one that Broncos fans have experienced before. In 1997, the Broncos were offensively loaded and were championship material when an upstart Jacksonville Jaguars team came into Denver and shocked the world.
To be sure, the Broncos have done their part to try to erase those memories. They rebounded from the Jaguars loss to win back-to-back Super Bowls. And this year, Peyton Manning has broken more records than were destroyed during the 1979 Disco Demolition Night promotion in Chicago.
But for rabid sports fans like me, nothing short of winning or a lobotomy can erase bad memories.
And I’m not talking about regular season wins; those mean nothing. Everything that happened September through December was just an extension of the Broncos’ preseason schedule. Only January and February matter in this town.
This weekend, the Broncos welcome the San Diego Chargers to Denver, and with them arrives the hated Philip Rivers. No one outside of San Diego likes Rivers. And as adorable as his on-field three-year-old-like temper tantrums might be to Chargers fans, we here in Denver simply loathe the guy.
It would be nice to punish the Chargers for embarrassing us at home a few weeks ago. Vegas isn’t giving the Bolts much of a chance, positioning Denver as 10-point favorites.
But the Broncos were laying heavy betting timber to the Ravens, as well. And just like the Ravens, the Chargers are playing well at the right time and are coming into the Mile High City on a hot streak, with nothing to lose.
The Broncos — loaded with perhaps the greatest arsenal of offensive talent in league history and an aging Hall of Fame quarterback — absolutely must beat the Chargers this weekend.
We cannot lose to Philip Rivers. And we cannot lose at home in the first round of the playoffs — again.
Is Denver the best team in the AFC? Yes. Is Denver the best team in football? One can make a strong argument.
But the best team doesn’t always win in January.
Do I think Denver will win the Super Bowl this year? Yes. But that necessarily means that we must not lose Sunday.
The Broncos’ combined record this season against the other three remaining AFC playoff teams is 1-3.
The Revenge Tour starts now.
Remember what San Diego did to us at home a few weeks back.
Remember that Philip Rivers is utterly obnoxious.
Remember what it felt like to see Peyton Manning lose during his emotional return to Indianapolis this year.
Remember Tom Brady. Remember being up 24-0 to the Patriots before suffering a miserable loss.
But, above all: Remember the Ravens.
Aside from sports-column writing, Vic Vela covers the Legislature for Colorado Community Media. Vic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @VicVela1.