Grabbing the wheel of the clown car driven by Nathaniel Hackett, quarterback Russell Wilson rode to the rescue for Broncos Country.
Wilson saved a self-aware rookie head coach, leading a fourth-quarter comeback to beat lowly Houston 16-9 on a Sunday when the Booed Birds came out and let the home team know that all this mess inexcusable had to stop.
“I don’t blame them,” Hackett said. “I mean, heck, I would boo myself. I was getting very frustrated.
Let’s stop to thank the Broncos for finding a way to beat one of the NFL’s worst teams in spite of themselves.
“All I really care about is the cheers at the end, because we won,” said Wilson, whose 22-yard strike off tight end Eric Saubert with 12 minutes and 36 seconds remaining in the fourth quarterback proved everything it takes to beat Houston. was a meager hit.
Denver won and improved its record to 1-1 despite repeated red-zone atrocities; despite 13 bonehead penalties, including a delay of game infraction on a field goal attempt; despite sending the punt return team to the field with no one to line up the punt; despite the lack of downtime in the middle of the fourth quarter, and despite so much brain freeze by Hackett that I’m starting to wonder if his gray matter is made of Dippin’ Dots.
“This needs to stop,” Hackett said, looking like he needed a hug.
But what this team needs more than a hug is an intervention. Hackett needs someone to explain the big picture to him in real time. He needs a reliable voice to unravel the cobwebs in his brain.
We talk about it all the time with rookies who think about everything. For all his bragging about being a coach’s son, the speed of the NFL game was just too much for Hackett. We knew Mike Shanahan, whose son is coming to town next weekend as Niners coach, and Hackett is no brainer.
For two weeks, Hackett is now 0-6 in converting red zone moves into touchdowns as a caller. Instead of hammering the ball into the end zone behind the steamroller who is running back Javonte Williams, it looks like Hackett is prone to making gooey eyes at his offensive roster and falling in love with cute.
Let’s hope it’s not a fatal attraction.
But after averaging 16 points per game with a quarterback paid around $45 million a year, I’m starting to wonder if Hackett is little more than former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur with a friendlier personality but not better ideas.
On the sidelines, Hackett looks like a “Jeopardy!” contestant who buzzes impatiently without having a clue what the correct answer is, let alone the composure to put his answer in the form of a question. Does anyone other than me have any flashbacks to Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio?
Hackett seems to be struggling to organize his thoughts, let alone the team on the pitch. In the long and rich history of this franchise, the Broncos have never committed a total of 25 penalties in consecutive games. So far.
I asked Hackett if the process of managing the offense and being CEO of game day operations was more difficult than he had anticipated.
“No,” Hackett replied, swearing that the slow communication between him and Wilson is something he will clean up.
OK, the Broncos have issues other than the fire alarms going off in Hackett’s head. An already struggling Denver roster lost receiver Jerry Jeudy and cornerback Pat Surtain II to injury during the game. In consecutive weeks, Wilson was outplayed by named quarterbacks Geno Smith and Davis Mills for huge chunks of the game.
At the end of the three quarters, with the Broncos leading Houston 9-6, Wilson was playing at a level that could embarrass Drew Lock. He had completed 9 of 23 passes for 116 yards, with one interception. His QB rating was 37.6. In a word: pathetic.
But then Wilson showed his championship pedigree. The veteran quarterback gathered his teammates to talk to them from the rim.
“Russ knelt down in the group and said to us, ‘Hey, look. If we’re going to be a champion team, a team that goes far in the playoffs and wins championships, those are situations that we have to master’ , Denver receiver Courtland Sutton said.
In the final period, when the Broncos needed a hero to save them from Hackett, Wilson completed 5 of 8 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown for a 145.8 rating that would do Tom Brady justice.
Wilson brought the Broncos back from the brink of disaster with his words and deeds.
“One thing I will never do,” Wilson said, “I’m never going to blink.”
When the Broncos desperately needed it, Wilson gave them reason to believe.
But, at this point, can anyone in Broncos Country trust this coach not to lead this team into the ditch?