Grabbing the wheel from a clown car driven by Nathaniel Hackett, quarterback Russell Wilson rode to the rescue of Broncos Country.
Wilson saved himself an unknown rookie head coach, returned in the fourth quarter and beat Houston 16-9 on Sunday, when Boo Birds came out and told the home team that all this unforgivable junk had been shut down.
“I don’t blame them,” Hackett said. “I mean, heck, I’m booing myself. I was getting so frustrated.”
Let’s stop by to thank the Broncos for finding a way to beat one of the NFL’s worst teams in spite of themselves.
“I really care about the cheers at the end, because we won,” said Wilson, whose 22-yard strike ended Eric Saubert with 12 minutes, 36 seconds, remaining in the fourth quarter. Prove it all to beat Houston. There was a minor touchdown.
Despite repeated red-zone atrocities, Denver won and improved their record to 1-1; Despite 13 bonehead penalties, including a game-delayed violation on a field goal attempt; Despite sending the punt return team to the ground without anyone to field the punt; Despite timing out in the middle of the fourth quarter, and Hackett having so much brain freeze that I’m starting to wonder if his gray matter is made up of dippin’ dots.
“It has to stop,” said Hackett, noting that he might need a hug.
But what this team needs more than a bro-hug is an intervention. Hackett needs someone to explain the big picture to him in real time. He needs a credible voice to unravel the traps in his brain.
We talk about it all the time with cheaters who turn everything around. For all his boasting of being the son of a coach, the pace of NFL games has been too much for Hackett. We knew Mike Shanahan, whose son comes to town next weekend to coach the Niners, and Hackett is no mastermind.
Over the course of two weeks, Hackett is now 0-6 and converting red-zone trips into touchdowns as a play-collar. Instead of pounding the ball into the end zone behind the steamroller driving Javonte Williams back, it seems Hackett is more inclined to make goo-goo eyes on his offensive play sheet and fall in love with the cute.
Let’s hope it’s not a fatal attraction.
But after averaging 16 points per game with the quarterback paying nearly $45 million a year, I’m starting to wonder if Hackett is a bit more of a demure personality than former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, but any better ideas. Not there.
On the sidelines, Hackett is called “Danger!” The contestant who buzzes with curiosity without knowing what the correct response is, let alone putting his answer in the form of a question. Is anyone other than me getting flashbacks to Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio?
Hackett seems to be having a hard time organizing his thoughts, let alone the team on the field. In the franchise’s long and historic history, the Broncos have never scored a total of 25 penalties in back-to-back games. So far.
I asked Hackett if the process of running the offense and serving as CEO of game-day operations was more difficult than he anticipated.
“No,” replied Hackett, vowing the slow communication between himself and Wilson was something he would clear up.
Well, the Broncos have issues other than the fire alarm going off in Hackett’s head. An already dinged-up Denver lineup lost receiver Jerry Judy and cornerback Pat Suren II due to injuries sustained during the game. In consecutive weeks, Wilson has been outplayed for the bulk of the game by quarterbacks named Geno Smith and Davis Mills.
At the end of three quarters, with the Broncos trailing Houston 9-6, Wilson was playing at a level that could put Drew Locke to shame. 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 from the sidelines.
“Russ knelt down and said to us: ‘Hey, look. If we want to be a championship team, a team that goes deep into the playoffs and wins the championship, these are conditions we have to master,'” Denver receiver Cortland Sutton said.
During the final period, when the Broncos needed a hero to save him from Hackett, Wilson completed 5 of 8 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown for a 145.8 rating that would do justice to Tom Brady.
Wilson took the Broncos back from the brink of devastation with his words and deeds.
“The one thing I’ll never do,” said Wilson, “I’ll never blink.”
When the Broncos desperately needed it, Wilson gave them a reason to believe.
But, at this point in time, can anyone at Broncos Country count on this coach not to take this team into the ditch?