January 11, 1987
John Elway who joined the Denver Broncos as the No. 1 pick in the 1983 draft, quickly developed an unique ability to rally his team to last-minute victories. He even surpassed the record of Roger Staubach, who rallied his Dallas Cowboys to fourth-quarter victories 23 times.
However, the superb 98-yard drive he engineered in the closing seconds of the 1986 American Football Conference Championship Game against the Cleveland Browns ranks as pro football's prototype performance in the clutch. The Browns had jumped to a 20-13 lead and the Broncos had muffed the ensuing kickoff when Elway took over, first-and-98 (on their own 2-yard line) with 5:32 to play.
"The Drive" as it ensued:
Play No. 1 - First and 10, Denver 2-yard line. Elway faked a handoff to Gerald Willhite, then passed to Sammy Winder for five yards.
Play No. 2 - Second and 5, Denver 7-yard line. Winder, on a pitchout, ran for three yards.
Play No. 3 - Third and 2, Denver 10-yard line. Denver calls time out. Winder ran over left guard for two-yard gain and a first down.
Play No. 5 - Second and seven, Denver 15-yard line. Forced out of the pocket, Elway scrambled for 11 yards and a first down on the Denver 26.Play No. 4 - First and 10, Denver 12-yard line. Winder carried over left tackle for three yards.
Play No. 6 - First and ten, Denver 26-yard line. Elway completed 22-yard pass to Steve Sewell for a first down on the Denver 48.
Play No. 7 - First and ten, Denver 48-yard line. Elway completed pass to Steve Watson for a 12-yard gain and a first down at the Cleveland 40.
Play No. 8 - First and ten, Cleveland 40-yard line (1:59 remaining).
Elway's pass intended for Vance Johnson is incomplete.
Play No. 9 - Second and ten, Cleveland 40-yard line (1:52 remaining).
Elway sacked for 8-yard loss by Dave Puzzuoli.
Play No. 10 - Third and 18, Cleveland 48-yard line (1:47 remaining).
Elway completed pass to Jackson for 20-yard gain and first down to the Cleveland 28.
Play No. 11 - First and 10, Cleveland 28-yard line (1:19 remaining).
Elway pass intended for Watson is incomplete.
Play No. 12 - Second and 10, Cleveland 28-yard line (1:10 remaining).
Elway pitched a strike to Sewell for 14 yards and a first down on the Cleveland 14.
Play No. 13 - First and ten, Cleveland 14-yard line (:57 remaining). Elway pass intended for Watson is incomplete.
Play No. 14 - Second and 10, Cleveland 14-yard line (:42 remaining). Elway flushed from the pocket and ran nine yards to the Cleveland 5.
Play No. 15 - Third and one, Cleveland 5-yard line (:39 remaining). Elway went to the air for the ninth time in the drive and hit Jackson for the tying touchdown. Rich Karlis adds PAT.
Elway's drive tied the score at 20-20 with :31 seconds remaining in regulation. On Denver's first possession in overtime, Elway marched the Broncos 60 yards in nine plays and the game ended on Karlis' 33-yard field goal with 5:48 elapsed. Elway had delivered the American Football Conference championship to his Denver Broncos teammates with his brilliant generalship that created what will always be known as "The Drive."