The Denver Broncos were at 7-4, having won three straight games – the last two in dramatic fashion – as they faced the Seattle Seahawks on November 26, 2000. Head Coach Mike Shanahan’s team was without injured starting QB Brian Griese, and backup QB Gus Frerotte was taking his place. RB Mike Anderson (pictured above), a 27-year-old rookie, was proving to be a welcome surprise, especially with former star RB Terrell Davis struggling after sustaining a major knee injury the previous year.
Seattle, coached by Mike Holmgren, had a 4-7 record after having lost five straight games at one point, although they had won their last two. While 31-year-old RB Ricky Watters was still very productive, the team had problems at quarterback, where Brock Huard couldn’t stay healthy and Jon Kitna was not showing the consistency to be a successful starter. The defense had some good individual performers but otherwise was poor against both the run and pass.
There were 68,661 fans in attendance at Husky Stadium and they saw a scoreless first quarter. Brock Huard started behind center for the Seahawks, but went down early in the second quarter after completing three of six passes for 48 yards and was replaced by Jon Kitna.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Seattle DE Michael Sinclair recovered a Frerotte fumble and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown and, with Rian Lindell adding the extra point, the home team was ahead by 7-0. The Broncos responded with a 10-play drive that covered 59 yards. Gus Frerotte converted a third-and-one with a nine-yard run and completed passes to TE Dwayne Carswell for 20 yards and WR Rod Smith for 22 yards to the Seattle 19. The series ended with Jason Elam kicking a 35-yard field goal.
The Seahawks came back with an 81-yard scoring possession in nine plays. In a third-and-10 situation deep in his own territory, Kitna connected with Ricky Watters for 13 yards. Two plays later, Watters broke away for a 55-yard run to the Denver 13. Watters remained the prime mover as, facing third-and-seven, he caught a pass from Kitna for nine yards to set up his carry for the last yard and a TD. Lindell added the PAT and Seattle was up by 14-3.
With time running down in the first half, the Broncos came back and struck quickly, going 66 yards in five plays. Frerotte passed to Smith for 25 yards and then followed up with a throw to TE Desmond Clark for a 43-yard touchdown. Elam added the extra point and the score was 14-10 at halftime.
In the third quarter, FS Eric Brown recovered a fumble by Seattle WR Darrell Jackson and the Broncos went 77 yards in nine plays. Along the way, Frerotte threw to Clark for a 25-yard gain and Mike Anderson ran the last 15 yards for a TD. Elam put the visitors up by three points at 17-14.
It seemed as though the Seahawks would move back in front as they drove into Denver territory, but a Kitna pass into the end zone was picked off by Eric Brown. However, Seattle’s defense came through with another big play, this time when Anderson fumbled and LB Chad Brown picked it up and ran 10 yards for a touchdown. Lindell converted and the Seahawks were back in front at 21-17.
Yet another fumble by the Broncos, this time by CB Deltha O’Neal on the ensuing kickoff, gave Seattle an opportunity late in the period. LB Isaiah Kacyvenski recovered at the Denver 31 and four plays later Lindell kicked a 42-yard field goal. The Seahawks took a 24-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
A Frerotte pass was intercepted by CB Shawn Springs to give Seattle the ball at the Denver 37, but the Seahawks came up empty when, attempting to convert a fourth-and-one situation at the 28, rookie RB Shaun Alexander was stopped for no gain.
The Broncos responded with a 72-yard drive in six plays. Anderson ran for 11 yards and, on a third-and-ten play, Frerotte connected with WR Ed McCaffrey for 11 yards to midfield. Smith then took off on an end-around play for a 50-yard touchdown and, adding Elam’s extra point, the score was knotted at 24-24.
A big play on defense put Denver ahead when CB Jimmy Spencer, starting in place of the injured Ray Crockett, intercepted a pass and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown with the clock showing less than six minutes remaining to play. But the Seahawks came back with an 86-yard series that took just six plays. Kitna completed a pass to Watters in a third-and-20 situation that covered 59 yards to the Denver eight, and from there WR Sean Dawkins pulled in a touchdown pass. With Lindell’s PAT, the score was again tied at 31-31.
It didn’t stay tied for long when, two plays into the next series, Anderson headed around left end and broke away for an 80-yard touchdown, slowing down to avoid two defenders at the ten before proceeding to the end zone. There was still 3:46 remaining, but the game ended with Kitna throwing four incomplete passes after reaching the Denver 40 and the Broncos held on to win by a final score of 38-31.
Denver had the edge in total yards (538 to 354), with 301 yards of that total coming on the ground. The Broncos also led in first downs (25 to 17), although they hurt themselves with five turnovers, to three suffered by the Seahawks.
Mike Anderson rushed for 195 yards on 30 carries that included two touchdowns. Gus Frerotte (pictured at left) completed 15 of 31 passes for 244 yards and a TD, but with two intercepted. Rod Smith had four catches for 82 yards and, with the big scoring run on the reverse, gained 78 yards on three rushing attempts.
For the Seahawks, Ricky Watters was highly productive with 77 yards on 16 carries that included a TD and 9 pass receptions for 126 yards. Jon Kitna was successful on 20 of 42 throws for 226 yards and a touchdown as well as two interceptions. Sean Dawkins contributed 7 catches for 54 yards and a score.
“I come out every weekend and when they give me a chance to play, I play my hardest,” said Anderson. “I know at times I’m going to make mistakes but at the same time, I need to keep playing as hard as I can.”
The Broncos won their next two games, including a rematch with the Seahawks in Denver, and finished up the regular season with an 11-5 record. That placed them second in the AFC West and qualified for a Wild Card playoff spot, where they lost to the eventual-champion Baltimore Ravens in the first round. Seattle ended up fourth in the division at 6-10.
Mike Anderson’s 195-yard rushing total was not his season high – the next week he gained 251 yards at New Orleans. He ended up with 1487 yards on 297 carries with 15 touchdowns. Anderson had spent four years in the military and didn’t play football until he entered college. Chosen by the Broncos in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft, he made the most of the opportunity presented to him when injuries depleted the backfield and was a key to Denver’s playoff run.
Ricky Watters (pictured at right) rushed for 1242 yards on 278 attempts (4.5 avg.) and caught 63 passes for 613 yards while scoring a team-leading total of nine touchdowns. It was his sixth straight thousand-yard rushing total and seventh overall in a career that started with the 49ers. It was his last year as a full-time starter as Shaun Alexander supplanted him in 2001, his final season.