Five weeks into the 2022 NFL regular season, the new Denver Broncos are the same as the old Denver Broncos.
After an offseason of hype and hope, the performance of the team thus far has Broncos Country wondering if the team is any better off with Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett than with Drew Lock and Vic Fangio.
After four straight mundane offensive performances, the lackluster Indianapolis Colts offered the perfect opportunity for Russ and the offense to finally start to cook.
The defense would have no issue containing Matt Ryan, especially without his bell cow running back Jonathan Taylor, and the banged up Indianapolis defense would be ripe for the picking.
Instead, the Broncos delivered more of the same, and this time, much of the offensive ineptitude can be placed upon the head of the team’s supposed franchise quarterback.
And he knows it.
“At the end of the day, throwing two interceptions can’t happen,” Wilson said following the game. “(It) can’t happen. I let the team down tonight.”
Finishing with 274 yards on 21-39 passing with 0 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, Wilson finished with a passer rating of just 54.9, which statistically is just outside his top 10 worst career performances by that metric.
The offense finished just 2 of 15 on third downs in another game where the Broncos could not figure out how to move the football. Penalties, drops, and runs that went nowhere were once again a prominent feature on the offensive side of the ball, and again, Wilson said, it’s on him to get the unit moving in the right direction.
After that Russell Wilson interception, the Broncos are now 0-3 in the red zone tonight and have scored a TD on just 23% of their red zone drives this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 7, 2022
That is the worst mark by any team through 5 games since 2010 (Carolina - 22%, Washington - 23%).
“It starts with me,” Wilson said. “It’s not on [Head] Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett. It’s not on anybody else. He’s called some really good plays—we have to make the plays. I have to be able to hit it [throws]. We have to be able to get that first down—whatever it is. It’s disappointing tonight, obviously. We felt like we should have won that game. I felt like I let us down tonight.”
While admirable to see a QB own up to his mistakes, the patience in Broncos Country will undoubtedly grow thinner with each passing week featuring anemic offensive performances, especially the variety that lost them games.
In his defense, Wilson actually has not been terrible in three of the four previous games. Against the Colts, though, one would’ve thought it was Drew Lock out there donning the No. 3 jersey again.
His interception on third down late in the fourth quarter was inexplicably bad. Pushed out of the pocket, he instead chose to heave the ball to the end zone where wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland was covered up by defensive back Stephon Gilmore. It doesn’t take a football genius to know that matchup does not favor the offense.
Yet, despite everything, the Broncos still had a chance to win or tie toward the end of overtime. With the game on the line at the opposing 5-yard line on 4th-and-1, coach Nathaniel Hackett opted to go for the win rather than the tie.
After being raked across the coal for electing to kick a 64-yard field goal in Week 1 rather than to put it in the hands of Wilson, he decided he wasn’t going to make that mistake twice. It can be debated all season whether or not it was the right call, but in the end, Wilson had his shot and failed to capitalize.
“We wanted to have a good pass call,” Hackett said after the game. “We wanted to put it in [QB Russell Wilson’s] hands to be able to try and win that football game. Whether or not he was going to use his legs or run around, I thought the protection was really good. They played man coverage from what it looked like, and we had a couple people that might have been there.”
One guy who absolutely was “there” was wide receiver KJ Hamler, who found himself open on a slant route only to see Wilson force the ball toward his No. 1 target, Courtland Sutton, who was covered up once again by Gilmore. The ball was batted away, and the game ended.
#broncos WR K.J. Hamler to me on the final play of the game. “I could have walked in.”— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) October 7, 2022
Wilson and the Broncos will now have to find a way to steady the ship after the five-game hole they have dug themselves into, but the seasoned QB has faith they will find a way.
“I always believe in myself, and I always believe in this team,” Wilson said. “I believe in what we can do. I believe in what I can do. When you play this game, the one thing you’re going to know is that you’re going to go through adversity. Adversity is a choice, and I’m always going to choose to understand that adversity is just temporary and you’re going to overcome obstacles and battles. We’re all working together. We’re all still together focused on trying to do whatever it takes. It starts with me, and I’ll make sure that I do that.”
Five games into the season, it may still be too early to call the season lost or to make any extreme changes to the staff or personnel. But the clock is ticking.
The defense once again did its part last night, picking the ball off twice, and exploding off the edge to terrorize Matt Ryan.
And once again, the offense did nowhere near close to their part.
The QB and the WR have to get on the same page and fast. The penalties and drops have to stop. And as Wilson said, he has to be better, as this is not what the Broncos are paying $245 million and three first-round draft picks for.
Like Wilson said, adversity is a choice.
The schedule only gets tougher from here, and how Wilson and his offensive unit choose to approach it will dictate the rest of the season.