The Drive refers to an offensive series in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game played on January 11, 1987 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium between the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns. Broncos quarterback John Elway, in a span of 5 minutes and 2 seconds, led his team 98 yards in 15 plays to tie the game with 37 seconds left in regulation. Denver won the game in overtime with a field goal, 23–20.
The 98-yard drive ranks as pro football's prototypical clutch performance. Elway and his team spanned almost all of the 100-yard football field. According to an article by Sports Illustrated columnist and Colorado resident Rick Reilly, when Elway started the drive, Broncos offensive guard Keith Bishop said of the Browns, "We got 'em right where we want 'em!" Of note is that Cleveland could not force a fourth down against Denver.
The Browns had jumped to a 20–13 lead and Denver 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.
- First down and 10, Denver 2-yard line. Sammy Winder 5-yard pass from Elway.
- Second down and 5, Denver 7-yard line. Winder 3-yard run.
- Third down and 2, Denver 10-yard line. Winder 2-yard run.
- First down and 10, Denver 12-yard line. Winder 3-yard run.
- Second down and 7, Denver 15-yard line. Elway 11-yard run.
- First down and 10, Denver 26-yard line. Steve Sewell 22-yard pass from Elway.
- First down and 10, Denver 48-yard line. Steve Watson 12-yard pass from Elway.
- First down and 10, Cleveland 40-yard line (1:59 left). Incomplete pass by Elway, intended for Vance Johnson.
- Second down and 10, Cleveland 40-yard line (1:52 left). Dave Puzzuoli sack of Elway, 8-yard loss.
- Third down and 18, Cleveland 48-yard line (1:47 left). Mark Jackson 20-yard pass from Elway.
- First down and 10, Cleveland 28-yard line (1:19 left). Incomplete pass by Elway, intended for Watson.
- Second down and 10, Cleveland 28-yard line (1:10 left). Steve Sewell 14-yard pass from Elway.
- First down and 10, Cleveland 14-yard line (:57 left). Incomplete pass by Elway, intended for Watson.
- Second down and 10, Cleveland 14-yard line (:42 left). John Elway 9-yard run (scramble).
- Third down and 1, Cleveland 5-yard line (:39 left). Mark Jackson 5-yard pass from Elway for the touchdown. Rich Karlis then adds the extra point to tie the game.
- Referee: Chuck Heberling (46)
- Umpire: Gordon Wells (89)
- Head Linesman: Ed Marion (26)
- Line Judge: Bill Reynolds (53)
- Side Judge: Gary Lane (120)
- Back Judge: Ben Tompkins (52)
- Field Judge: Johnny Grier (23)
In popular culture
The Drive was featured in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine, but due to the butterfly effect Jackson was distracted by a squirrel and failed to catch the pass and Cleveland went on to win. It was inaccurately portrayed as being in 1986 (the game was played on January 11, 1987, though it was at the end of the 1986 NFL season). The movie implied that it was played at night; however, when Karlis kicked the winning field goal in OT, it was still daytime in Cleveland.