By Rich Kurtzman
“The only source of knowledge is experience,” Albert Einstein.
For many of the Broncos, the playoffs mean business as usual. That’s because so many of Denver’s players and coaches possess all-important playoff experience.
Peyton Manning is the man everyone wants to talk about – partly because he’s played so well he deserves to be named NFL MVP – and he’s not just a remarkable regular season quarterback. Manning’s played in 19 playoff games, going 9-10 overall, 6-4 over his last 10. The 15-year veteran has been through it all; Wildcard games, road contests, AFC Championships and Super Bowls, and he’s better for it. Manning played eight seasons, repeatedly making the playoffs and losing early, before finally making it to a Super Bowl in 2006 and winning his first NFL Championship. He led the Colts back to the Super Bowl in 2009, only to lose to the New Orleans Saints – a journey he undoubtedly learned from. And against the Ravens – who his Broncos face this Saturday – Manning has won his last nine straight games all-time and 2-0 in the postseason, beating them in 2007 and 2009. He’s never faced the Texans, while Manning is 1-2 against the Patriots, with the single win coming at home with either New England or Houston playing for the AFC Championship on January 20.
But beyond Manning, there are other current Broncos with much playoff experience as well.
Manning’s old chum Brandon Stokley has 13 games of experience, going 8-5, including a Super Bowl win of his own with the Ravens back in 2000. Jacob Tamme was with the Colts and their 2009 Super Bowl run and loss. Champ Bailey’s played in seven postseason games, going 3-4, including the 2005 Divisional game against New England in which he picked off a Tom Brady pass and returned it 100 yards.
“I was young in this league at one point and my first year I made the playoffs,” Bailey said on DenverBroncos.com. “After that, I didn’t make it for the next four years. These opportunities don’t come by that often. I think once everybody understands that, it gives everybody else a different perspective.”
“Games are going to be closer,” the world class cornerback continued. “Teams are going to be better. That’s just how it is. We’ve got to make sure we play all 60 minutes.”
Willis McGahee, who played for Baltimore for so many years, has nine games of experience and the injured running back could return to the team in the AFC Championship game if they win this Saturday. Backup safety Jim Leonhard played three games for the Ravens in the 2008 playoffs, then three more games with the New York Jets the next year.
One of the team’s most experienced players is center Dan Koppen, who went to three Super Bowls, winning two, with the Patriots last decade.
And even most of the younger players – Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and so on – have at least played in the postseason, experiencing two games last year with the cardiac kid Broncos.
There’s also head coach John Fox, who’s 6-4 including a trip to the Super Bowl with Carolina in his second season. Ironically, Fox has his team primed for another deep run in his second year with Denver.
Baltimore may have some experience as well – with many veterans, especially on the defensive side of the ball – but they don’t have nearly as much as Denver. The Broncos know what to expect, know how to prepare, and understand what it will take to achieve champion status through their missteps and successes alike.
The Broncos – Ravens Divisional round playoff game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. MT at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium and will be televised on CBS.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.