American Football Database
1986 Denver Broncos season
Head Coach Dan Reeves
General Manager John Beake
Home Field Mile High Stadium
Record 11–5
Place 1st AFC West
Playoff Finish Lost Super Bowl XXI
Previous season Next season
1985 1987

In 1986 the Denver Broncos finished the regular season with a record of 11–5, won the AFC Championship over the Cleveland Browns, and lost Super Bowl XXI to the New York Giants.


NFL Draft

Round # Pick Player Position College
4 104 Jim Juriga Guard Illinois
5 134 Tony Colorito Nose Tackle USC
6 151 Orson Mobley Tight End Salem
6 161 Mark Jackson Wide Receiver Purdue
7 188 Ray T. Phillips Linebacker North Carolina State
8 217 Bruce Klosterman Linebacker South Dakota State
9 244 Joe Thomas Wide Receiver Mississippi Valley State
10 271 Victor Hall Tight End Jackson State
11 301 Thomas Denby Running Back South Carolina



1986 Denver Broncos staff
Front office
  • President and Chief Executive Officer – Pat Bowlen
  • General Manager – John Beake
  • Director of Player Personnel – Reed Johnson

Head coaches

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches

  • Special Teams – Chan Gailey

Strength and conditioning

  • Strength and Conditioning – Al Miller



1986 Denver Broncos roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

Rookies in italics
Active, Inactive, Practice squad

Regular season

The Broncos won their first six games of the season, before being felled by the then-5-1 New York Jets on Monday Night Football. They won two more games to improve to 8–1, tied with the Jets for the best record in the league. Although they would go 3–4 down the stretch, alternating wins and losses, Denver still finished ahead of the Seahawks and Chiefs in first place in the AFC West.


Week Date Opponent Result Game site Record Attendance
1 September 7 Los Angeles Raiders W 38–36 Mile High Stadium 1–0
2 September 15 at Pittsburgh Steelers W 21–10 Three Rivers Stadium 2–0
3 September 21 at Philadelphia Eagles W 33–7 Veterans Stadium 3–0
4 September 28 New England Patriots W 27–20 Mile High Stadium 4–0
5 October 5 Dallas Cowboys W 29–14 Mile High Stadium 5–0
6 October 12 at San Diego Chargers W 31–14 Jack Murphy Stadium 6–0
7 October 20 at New York Jets L 10–22 The Meadowlands 6–1
8 October 26 Seattle Seahawks W 20–13 Mile High Stadium 7–1
9 November 2 at Los Angeles Raiders W 21–10 Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 8–1
10 November 9 San Diego Chargers L 3–9 Mile High Stadium 8–2
11 November 16 Kansas City Chiefs W 38–17 Mile High Stadium 9–2
12 November 23 at New York Giants L 16–19 Giants Stadium 9–3
13 November 30 Cincinnati Bengals W 34–28 Mile High Stadium 10–3
14 December 7 at Kansas City Chiefs L 10–37 Arrowhead Stadium 10–4
15 December 13 Washington Redskins W 31–30 Mile High Stadium 11–4
16 December 20 at Seattle Seahawks L 16–41 Kingdome 11–5


AFC West
Denver Broncos 11 5 0 .683 378 327 L-1
Kansas City Chiefs 10 6 0 .625 358 326 W-3
Seattle Seahawks 10 6 0 .625 366 293 W-5
Los Angeles Raiders 8 8 0 .500 323 346 L-4
San Diego Chargers 4 12 0 .250 335 396 L-2


Round Date Opponent Result Game site Attendance
Divisional Playoffs January 4 New England Patriots W 22–17 Mile High Stadium
AFC Championship January 11 at Cleveland Browns W 23–20 (OT) Cleveland Stadium
Super Bowl XXI January 25 N New York Giants L 20–39 Rose Bowl

They won their divisional playoff game against the Patriots at home 22–17. They then played the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland for the AFC Championship. The game culminated in the famous "Drive", where John Elway led a 98-yard drive for a touchdown pass to Mark Jackson to tie the game and send it to overtime, where they won by a field goal, 23–20.

AFC Divisional Playoff

AFC Championship Game

This game is best remembered for The Drive when the Broncos drove 98 yards to tie the game with 37 seconds left in regulation, and Denver kicker Rich Karlis made the game-winning 33-yard field goal 5:38 into overtime.

The Browns scored first when quarterback Bernie Kosar threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to running back Herman Fontenot at the end of an 86 yard drive. But the Broncos then scored 10 unanswered points: Karlis' 19-yard field goal and running back Gerald Willhite's 1-yard rushing touchdown. Cleveland kicker Mark Moseley's 29-yard field goal before halftime tied the score, 10–10. The teams exchanged punts before Kosar completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Brian Brennan with 5:43 remaining in regulation. Elway then led his team from their own 2-yard line to tie the game on wide receiver Mark Jackson's 5-yard touchdown reception with 37 seconds left in regulation. Karlis' game-winning field goal in overtime capped a 60-yard drive after the Browns were forced to punt.

1 2 3 4 Total
Broncos 0 10 3 7


Browns 7 3 0 10


at Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

The Drive Play by Play

The Browns had jumped to a 20–13 lead and the Broncos had muffed the ensuing kickoff when Elway took over, first-and-10 on their own 2-yard line, with 5:32 to play in the game.

1. – First down and 10, Denver 2-yard line. Sammy Winder 5-yard pass from Elway.

2. – Second down and 5, Denver 7-yard line. Winder 3-yard run.

3. – Third down and 2, Denver 10-yard line. Winder 2-yard run.

4. – First down and 10, Denver 12-yard line. Winder 3-yard run.

5. – Second down and 7, Denver 15-yard line. Elway 11-yard run.

6. – First down and 10, Denver 26-yard line. Steve Sewell 22-yard pass from Elway.

7. – First down and 10, Denver 48-yard line. S. Watson 12-yard pass from Elway.

Two-minute warning

8. – First down and 10, Cleveland 40-yard line (1:59 remaining). Incomplete pass by Elway, intended for Vance Johnson.

9. – Second down and 10, Cleveland 40-yard line (1:52 remaining). Dave Puzzilli sack of Elway, 8-yard loss.

10. – Third down and 18, Cleveland 48-yard line (1:47 remaining). Mark Jackson 20-yard pass from Elway.

11. – First down and 10, Cleveland 28-yard line (1:19 remaining). Incomplete pass by Elway, intended for Watson.

12. – Second down and 10, Cleveland 28-yard line (1:10 remaining). Steve Sewell 14-yard pass from Elway.

13. – First down and 10, Cleveland 14-yard line (:57 remaining). Incomplete pass by Elway, intended for Watson.

14. – Second down and 10, Cleveland 14-yard line (:42 remaining). John Elway 9-yard run (scramble).

15. – Third down and 1, Cleveland 5-yard line (:39 remaining). Mark Jackson 5 yard pass from Elway for the touchdown. Rich Karlis then adds the extra point to tie the game.

Super Bowl XXI

They played the Giants in Super Bowl XXI, losing 20–39, the first of Elway's five Super Bowls and the first of his three losses. Despite leading 10–9 at halftime, the Broncos collapsed in the second half as the Giants scored 30 points to Denver's ten.


Team stats

Denver scored 378 points during the year, sixth in the NFL. They gave up 327 points, 15th in the league.

The Broncos were 17th in the league in total offense, with 5,489 yards. They had 3,811 passing yards and 1,678 rushing yards. They had 22 passing touchdowns and 17 rushing touchdowns.

They were 17th in the league with 3,755 passing yards given up and 15th with 1,891 rushing yards given up. They were 21st in overall defense with 5,646 yards given up.

The team's 11–5 record is their sixth-best 16-game season in franchise history.

Player stats

  • John Elway had 280 completions for 3,485 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also had 52 rushes for 257 yards, third highest on the team, and one rushing touchdown. He was fifth in the league in completions, ninth in total yards, and tenth in touchdowns.
  • Mark Jackson had 38 receptions for 738 yards and one touchdown. Steve Watson had 45 receptions for 699 yards and three touchdowns. Vance Johnson had 31 receptions for 363 yards and two touchdowns. Clint Sampson had 21 receptions for 259 yards. Orson Mobley had 22 reception for 332 yards and one touchdown.
  • The primary running back Sammy Winder had 240 rushes for 789 yards and 9 touchdowns, seventh highest in the league. He also had five touchdown receptions, giving him 14 total touchdowns for the season, fourth in the league. Gerald Willhite had 85 rushes for 365 yards and five rushing touchdowns and 64 receptions for 529 yards and 3 receiving touchdowns.
  • Rich Karlis kicked 20 field goals out of 28 attempted, including the game winning field goal in the AFC Championship Game. He kicked 44 out of 45 extra points.

Awards and honors


AFC East Central West East Central West NFC
Buffalo Cincinnati Denver Dallas Chicago Atlanta
Indianapolis Cleveland Kansas City NY Giants Detroit LA Rams
Miami Houston LA Raiders Philadelphia Green Bay New Orleans
New England Pittsburgh San Diego St. Louis Minnesota San Francisco
NY Jets Seattle Washington Tampa Bay
1986 NFL DraftNFL PlayoffsPro BowlSuper Bowl XXI