ENGLEWOOD - Defensive end Trevor Pryce sat in his locker and pondered the question. About 30 seconds passed, and he still couldn’t come up with the Denver Broncos’ highlight in the five-year history of Invesco Field at Mile High. “I don’t know,” Pryce finally said. “There’s grass. It’s pretty good grass. That’s about the end of it.” He wasn’t overwhelmed with choices. In Mile High Stadium’s 32-year history, there were comebacks by quarterback John Elway, exciting wins over John Madden and the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s, a 1984 Monday night win in a blizzard against Green Bay and four victories in AFC championship games that filled every Broncos fan’s mental scrapbook. The thing Invesco Field is best known for is not being Mile High Stadium. There hasn’t been a championship celebration, an un- forgettable moment or a playoff game at the new stadium. The most memorable games might be losses: dramatic lastsecond Sunday night losses to Indianapolis and Miami in 2002 and last year’s 25-24 loss to the Raiders in a classic game in a snowstorm. That could begin to change today. The Broncos could clinch an AFC West championship, their first in seven years, with a win today against the Raiders, their longtime rival. That would secure the first playoff game at the new stadium. A win also would give the Broncos an undefeated record at home this season for the fifth time in franchise history. Kicker Jason Elam, who has played every game at Invesco Field, said he hadn’t realized the team hadn’t played a playoff game there yet. “I didn’t think about that,” Elam said. “It’s hard to make the playoffs. A lot of teams are sitting at home. We’ve been fortunate to get in, but we’ve had to go a pretty tough route the few times we’ve been in so getting a home playoff game would be huge.” Whatever happens over the rest of the season, the Broncos have seemingly started to build a tradition at Invesco Field. “I think it has gotten better,” owner Pat Bowlen said. “The fans are more comfortable in the new facility now, after five years. It’s taken that long to get used to. But there’s definitely a buzz and a lot more excitement.” The common argument about the new stadium is that it was a little too posh to replicate the wild crowds that came to Mile High Stadium. There are more amenities and distractions at Invesco Field, but Bowlen said he thought fans were adjusting. “Mile High had its own magic,” Bowlen said. “That was the 20th century. This is the 21st century, and it’s different now. Fans are more sophisticated. This stadium is obviously a better facility. There’s more things to do. I love Mile High, don’t get me wrong. But I think the culture is different.” Amenities aside, the best way to get the fans in a frenzy is by competing for a championship. Denver was 23-9 at Invesco Field before this season, but everyone in the organization is fixated on winning a Super Bowl. Cornerback Champ Bailey, safety John Lynch and linebacker Al Wilson all accepted their Pro Bowl invitations Wednesday and made sure to point out that they’d rather win a Super Bowl. Coach Mike Shanahan said this week that a division title means nothing if the team doesn’t have success in the playoffs. Denver’s fans got a taste of celebrating Super Bowl victories at the end of the 1997 and 1998 seasons, and now that the Broncos have a realistic shot at winning the AFC there has been more enthusiasm. “Our fans are very knowledgeable people and they realize we have a competitive team,” Bowlen said. Shanahan said the noise in the stadium has given Denver an advantage, which will help if it hosts a playoff game. “I think a big part of that is our fans,” Shanahan said of the possibility of going 8-0 at home. “People don’t realize what a big advantage it is to have that crowd noise. When the quarterback can use his snap count (as opposed to the road team), that really puts the opposition in a tough situation and hopefully we’ll have that this weekend against the Raiders.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or email@example.com TODAY Oakland (4-10) at Denver (11-3), 2:15 p.m., CBS, 740/850 AM
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