History Lesson: Broncos 26, Oilers 24 (1991 AFC Divisional Playoffs)

When the Tennessee Titans arrive in Denver this weekend, no doubt the team’s head coach in Mike Munchak and offensive line coach in Bruce Matthews may be reminiscing a little about one of their previous games in the Mile High City.

Reminiscing may be the wrong word, so let’s try lamenting.

oilers warren moon
Oiler’s Warren Moon

You have to go back 22 years ago when the Houston Oilers were six years away from moving to Tennessee and eight years away from becoming the Tennessee Titans. And on this afternoon in Denver, Warren Moon was the starting quarterback, Munchak was the starting left guard and Matthews the starting center. Of course, all three have taken their rightful place in Canton, Ohio.

And in this AFC divisional playoff encounters, Houston would get off to a phenomenal start against the Denver Broncos and quarterback John Elway.

Early in the second quarter, the visiting Oilers owned a 21-6 second-quarter lead thanks to three touchdown passes from Moon, one each to Haywood Jeffires, Drew Hill and Curtis Duncan.

Wow. Here was head coach Jack Pardee and his team with a sizable lead in a playoff game.

Sound familiar?

The Oilers’ epic 32-point collapse against the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Playoffs was still a year away. But this eventual loss would be pretty painful in its own right.

Just 39 seconds before halftime, the Broncos capped off a 12-play, 88-yard drive with a Greg Lewis one-yard touchdown run to narrow Houston’s lead to 21-13 heading into intermission.

John Elway

Denver would inch closer to 21-16 thanks to a 49-yard field goal by David Treadwell while the Broncos’ defense shut out the Oilers in the third quarter. But Pardee’s club would go up again by eight early in the final quarter thanks to a 25-yard kick by Al Del Greco. And things would get even more interesting when Lewis capped an 80-yard march with another one-yard score to get the Broncos within a point, 24-23.

Then the real drama began. With 2:07 left on the clock, Elway and his team took over on their own two-yard line.

Sound familiar?

Actually, it wasn’t quite “The Drive.” But it also wasn’t a casual stroll. Twice the Broncos had to convert on fourth down, the first on fourth-and-six and later on fourth-and-10, the latter when Elway found wide receiver Vance Johnson for a 44-yard gain and a first down on the Houston 21-yard line with 50 seconds to play. Three plays later, Treadwell connected from 28 yards out with less than 20 ticks left on the clock and Denver would complete the rally, 26-24.

On week later, the Broncos would find themselves in the AFC Championship Game at Orchard Park, New York against the Buffalo Bills. Marv Levy’s club would survive, 10-7, and Elway would not finish the game, replaced by another former player turned NFL head coach in quarterback Gary Kubiak, the current leader of the Houston Texans.

Sound familiar?


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