Denver Broncos to play final three home games without spectators

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Denver and the surrounding communities, the Broncos announced Friday that Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins will be the final home game of the season with fans in attendance at Empower Field at Mile High.

Since receiving a local variance from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in early September, the Broncos had allowed 5,700 fans at each home game, spaced throughout the lower two levels of the stadium in "pods." That variance had initially been extended Oct. 5 for the remainder of the season.

However, coronavirus cases and hospital admissions have been on the rise, and with the holiday season set to arrive, the Broncos made the decision after discussion with state and local officials.

"Although we are confident in our strong safety protocols and have no evidence of any COVID-19 transmission traced to our home games, the increase in cases and hospitalizations locally requires us to adjust our future plans," the Broncos said in a statement. "Taking this precaution is consistent with the recent guidelines issued by local officials to limit gatherings with the holiday season approaching."

The Broncos have sold out every home game since the 1970 season, and the team has about 84,000 people on its season-ticket waiting list. During Hall of Fame owner Pat Bowlen's tenure with the team -- from 1984 to 2018 -- the Broncos won 71% of their home games.

"It's very understandable, it's the team working with local officials, it's happened with many teams across the league," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "... Our fans are probably the most passionate fans in the league. We miss their support. ... Hopefully, moving forward they'll be back in there, but it's definitely been a blow to the team and we miss our fans."

Following Sunday's game against the Dolphins, the Broncos have three home games remaining: Nov. 29 against the New Orleans Saints, Dec. 21 against the Buffalo Bills and Jan. 3 against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Broncos are 1-3 at home this year with losses to the Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs -- teams with a combined 21-5 record -- and a win over the Los Angeles Chargers.