Invesco Field finally feels like home to the Broncos
DENVER – The Denver Broncos were perfect at home for the first time since John Elway led them to consecutive championships at creaky, old Mile High Stadium.Now, Mile High is a memory and a parking lot outside the sleek Invesco Field with its fewer rowdies, lower decibels and more mink coats.In joining the Seattle Seahawks as the only teams to go unbeaten at home this season, the Broncos earned their first home playoff game in the post-Elway era and a first-round bye as the AFC’s second seed. They also turned 5-year-old Invesco into an intimidating environment for the first time.”That’s tremendous. You want to establish that this is a tough place to play and there’s no better way to do it than going perfect at home,” safety John Lynch said. “At some point, we’re going to have to go on the road, but we bought ourselves one game here and it’s a credit to the fans. They turned it on this year.”
So did the Broncos, who hadn’t posted an 8-0 home record since winning 24 straight regular season games from 1996-98 when the “Mile High Thunder” atmosphere and star-studded roster that included Elway, Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis, Gary Zimmerman and Shannon Sharpe were a lethal punch for opponents.”This reminds me of what I knew Denver as when I used to come play here,” suggested Lynch, who starred for Tampa Bay before joining the Broncos two years ago. “It’s so loud we can’t hear signal calls in the huddle on defense and that’s the way it should be. It’s a lot of fun to play here.”Invesco, however, isn’t as deafening as the old place, which was built for minor league baseball and needed portable east stands and separate south stands to accommodate football, a fortuitous confluence that allowed the stadium to rock like no other.This one has 132 luxury suites and 8,800 club seats. Gone are the moveable east stands that were pushed by hydraulics and invited fans to stomp their feet. The south stands, Denver’s answer to Oakland’s “Black Hole” section where equal parts insults and objects were likely to be thrown, are there in name only now, connected to the rest of the dazzling stadium.Instead of a thunder, there’s a rumble.
“For some reason, it’s not as loud, it really isn’t,” kicker Jason Elam said. “And I don’t think any of the fans would say it is. I’m not sure if that’s in the construction of the stadium or what it is. We do have a good crowd, though. They do a great job for us. But probably the biggest thing, we have a good team again.”The Broncos retooled their roster in the offseason, adding veteran defensive linemen Courtney Brown, Michael Myers and Gerard Warren from Cleveland along with free agent tight end Stephen Alexander. They re-signed linebackers Ian Gold and Keith Burns and drafted defensive backs Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth.All have played major roles in Denver’s return to prominence.”I really applaud the front office for the moves they went out and made,” Lynch said. “A lot of people didn’t know if they were good moves or not. I didn’t quite know, to be perfectly honest, but they made us a better football team. Having some guys back from injuries – Mike Anderson – has made us a better football team.”We really believe that we’ve got something special here.”
They do at home, at the very least.The Broncos posted three 6-2 marks and one 5-3 record since moving into Invesco in 2001, but their only playoff games in that span were wild-card trips to Indianapolis, where they were blown out each of the last two postseasons.The Broncos (12-3) know the road to the Super Bowl very likely will travel through the RCA Dome this year, where the Colts (13-2) went 7-1. But they like their chances of postseason success thanks to a good mix of youthful talent, veteran leadership and a nice team chemistry – plus a chance to play at home in mid-January.”Everything is in place,” linebacker Nick Ferguson said. “It is exactly where we wanted to be – in our hands. We have to do something with it. No sense being in this position and not making something great come out of it. Our work is not done. It’s just starting.”
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