Briscoe Rallies Broncos, 27-20.


The following is not a summary of historical events, but rather the results of my computer football replay of the 1968 AFL season using Second and Ten football. In reality on October 6, 1968, Marlin Briscoe of the Denver Broncos became the first black player to start at quarterback in professional football.

Denver Bronco head coach Lou Saban replaced starting quarterback Steve Tensi with backup Marlin Briscoe halfway through the third quarter. The controversial substitution ultimately paid dividends as Briscoe guided the Denver Broncos to a 27-20 victory over the expansion Cincinnati Bengals. Tensi started the game for the home team, and led the Broncos to a 13-10 halftime lead. After the break, the Bengals made defensive adjustments and began to pressure Tensi. The Bengals sacked Tensi twice in the opening possession of the second half. Following a Denver punt, Cincinnati nearly took the lead on their first possession, but a fumble deep in Bronco territory ended the drive. Saban summoned for Briscoe to the surprise of the crowd at Bears Field. The 14th round draft pick fared no better, and the Bengal pursuit got to him initially as well.

John Stofa put the Bengals ahead 17-13 in the final stages of the fourth quarter with a 11 yard pass to Rod Sherman. On the next possession, Briscoe breathed life into the Bronco offense. A pair of scrambles, the latter converting a third down, moved the ball down field and brought the listless crowd to life. A 36 yard pass to tight end Tom Beer ignited the faithful, and one play later, Briscoe found Eric Crabtree in the end zone as the girders of Bears Stadium seemingly swayed with the roar of the crowd. The Denver defense held Stofa and the Bengals on their next possession, but punter Dale Livingston blasted a 67 yard punt to pin Briscoe at his own 15.

Briscoe marched the Broncos down field on a 15 play drive that swallowed nearly nine minutes of the game clock. Fittingly, it was Briscoe who scored the touchdown on a two yard outside run. Down by ten points, Stofa countered with a furious drive that resulted in a field goal. The crowd was hushed however when Cincinnati recovered their on-side kick. But the defense stopped the Bengal advance twenty five yards from the end zone, and preserved Marlin Briscoe’s historic moment of glory. Briscoe finished with 32 yards rushing on 5 attempts, completed 9 of 10 passing attempts for 105 yards. He accounted for the two final Bronco touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground. After the game, coach Lou Saban acknowledged that Briscoe would be the starter when the 3-1 Broncos face Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Shea Stadium next week.

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