Remembering a Play: Joe Flacco and the Mile High Miracle

Sports Remembering a Play
Remembering a Play: Joe Flacco and the Mile High Miracle

Eleven years removed from this horror show, it still physically pains me to see Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco heave up a prayer in my hometown and watch it turn into the Mile High Miracle. Denver Broncos coach John Fox subsequently giving up his thirty second opportunity to move into field goal range to try to win, and instead telling his GOAT-tier quarterback Peyton Manning to kneel and go to overtime, will be one of the last things I see when my life flashes in front of me before I die.

In my Meet the New Editor-in-Chief autobiographical post for Splinter’s launch, I detailed the very real and very legal customs of us extremely sane and normal and not at all over-the-top football fans out here in the Rocky Mountains.

It’s actually in the Colorado constitution that you have to get your blood dyed before every football season so you can literally bleed Bronco orange and blue for the next four months.

Comparing the Broncos to the sun in the Denver sports world overstates the sun’s importance to our solar system. They are truly our civic religion, and this play is a festering open wound on the city’s psyche.

This is the second installment in our new Splinter sports series of Remembering a Play, where we honor the Deadspin/Defector cultural phenomenon of Remembering a Guy. Our first was a joyous post celebrating newly-minted Hall of Famer Vince Carter dunking poor Frédéric Weis into the Earth’s core at the 2000 Olympics.

Remembering this Play evokes the opposite kind of emotion. I’m dragging you all to hell with me.

To set the scene, picture a group of friends in their early to mid 20s dressed in not at all obnoxious bright orange jerseys, drinking pitchers of cheap beer in a booth during the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The winner of the Denver Broncos versus the Baltimore Ravens would go to the AFC Championship game, and had my beloved Broncos won this home game, they would have hosted Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Denver the following week with a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

Instead, my sports heart got ripped out and fed to me in front of a bunch of callous Patriots fans. Baltimore waltzed into Foxboro the next week and won, then they defeated both Colin Kaepernick’s San Francisco 49ers and the Louisiana Superdome’s failing power grid en route to a stolen Super Bowl Championship from its rightful owner, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

This first year as a Bronco was their best opportunity to win a title in the Peyton Manning era. The 2013-2014 offensive juggernaut that got stomped in the Super Bowl did not have a great defense, and the 2015-2016 championship team survived a litany of razor-thin margins that in hindsight look like a minor miracle. This 2012-2013 team that finished first in the AFC was the most balanced Broncos team Peyton commanded.

Manning had his annual showdown for AFC supremacy with Brady all lined up, and it looked like the NFL’s marquee game would feature Bronco orange and blue for the first time. We were back, baby! My team had finally made it out of the post-John Elway wilderness and was ready to reclaim its rightful spot at the top of the NFL’s pecking order.

The Denver defense had a lead and just had to close out the last forty-five seconds at home, with Baltimore needing to go seventy yards just to send the game to overtime.

Then on third and three, the internet’s intolerable “is Joe Flacco elite?” debate began.

All because poor Rahim Moore mistimed his jump by a split-second and forever banished himself from the Mountain Time Zone. I’ve embedded a video from the stands of it below because the NFL forces you to go to YouTube to see the broadcast angle of the play. Also because this lady speaks on behalf of all of us Broncos fans in this moment.

The Broncos would go on to lose in one of just six double overtime playoff games ever.


John Fox if you’re reading this, I hope you still have the same nightmares about making Peyton Fucking Manning kneel after this play that I do.

Back to the Bar

I can’t write any more about this game that is still slowly killing me to this day. Let’s close this out remembering how I reacted to it as your typical early 20s sports fan living in a big city going to a popular bar to watch the game (Spoiler: not well!).

As the game progressed, our waitress would keep refilling the two pitchers of beer on the two tables in front of us every time we emptied them. In the second half, some of our friends got up and walked around the bar to talk to other folks, and by the middle of the third quarter, I found myself alone in front of one of the pitchers while a few of my friends sat on the other side of the booth in front of the other.

The waitress kept refilling both of them.

At the same rate.

Needless to say, I was nervous and not making good decisions that night. My rough estimate is I drank four to five pitchers just in the second half and overtimes alone.

I didn’t sit down in the fourth quarter, standing next to my emotional-support pitcher and watching on the big TV over the bar. As the ball sailed over Rahim Moore’s head, my spirit left my body and I collapsed in a heap, lying face-down on a sticky Boston bar floor on a Saturday night.

Regaining my senses after an unknown amount of time I shudder to think about, then realizing to some degree what I had just done, I sulked back to the booth and finished what was left of the pitcher as my phone filled up with texts I never answered.

To this day, I still have never seen Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal go through the uprights and I never will. By that point in double overtime, I had slunk over near the door in preparation for the angriest Irish goodbye of my life. As soon as the kick from the greatest kicker ever straightened out, I turned and high-tailed it towards the T in a drunken and enraged stupor.

The trip back to my apartment from north Boston took roughly an hour, and on the bus, I remember someone throwing up on themselves. I broke down cackling because a voice in my head said, “I just watched the Broncos do that.” The entire bus glared at me in horror, and I jumped off at the next stop in complete and utter shame, then stumbled the rest of the way home.

I got back to my apartment and collapsed face-first into bed after what is still to this day the worst sports night of my entire life (and I went to the 2014 Super Bowl only to watch the Broncos lose 43-8, not getting back to my bed until four a.m.).

Waking up the next morning and seeing remnants of that Boston bar stuck to my pillow still is only the second-worst thing to happen to me over the course of that night and the following morning.

Like I stressed in the opening to this blog, us Broncos fans are unwell, and it began long before we made Joe Flacco elite. This concludes your weekly edition of Splinter sports (mostly) Remembers a Play.

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