It started about as painfully as one can imagine with the same old stagnant Broncos offense on one side, and Patrick Mahomes playing at a magician-like level on the other. Kansas City stormed out to a devastating 27-0 lead on the back of no-look underhand tosses from Mahomes, absurd play-extending, and a backbreaking pick-6 by Russell Wilson with four minutes still remaining in the first half.
If it were a Madden game, you’d likely simulate the rest to save time.
But to credit Nathaniel Hackett, Russell Wilson, and the entire Broncos roster… they did not quit.
In the span of six minutes of game time, the Broncos marched down the field on three separate possessions and scored three touchdowns. Jerry Jeudy had his best career game, and we started to see Russell Wilson use his legs effectively on scrambles and look like the QB we all expected.
While the Denver defense couldn’t keep the Chiefs off the scoreboard, they did a great job making big plays when it counted generating well-timed sacks and forcing Mahomes to throw three interceptions on the day.
If it wasn’t for a massive collision with Russell Wilson with 12-minutes remaining that forced him to miss the ending with a concussion bringing in backup Brett Rypien, I might be writing a celebratory article about how Denver finally overcame the big brother that’s dominated them on the gridiron for half a decade.
Instead, it’s another week of digging through the wreckage that is the 2022 Denver Broncos and trying to find the salvageable pieces that had impressive performances despite the loss.
This week, those players are Jerry Jeudy, Dre’mont Jones, and Netane Muti.
Jerry Jeudy clips vs. the Kansas City Chiefs pic.twitter.com/rlbUYyoPZ0— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) December 13, 2022
Jerry Jeudy deserves the respect of Broncos Country for the impressive step forward we’ve seen this season. Currently leading the league in yards per route run against man coverage, Jerry has been Denver’s most consistent wide receiver all season and with an expanded role on Sunday due to Courtland Sutton missing, he saw his best game of the season and possibly his career.
Nine targets, eight receptions, 73 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Any complaints of drops or inability to make catches through contact were an afterthought watching this performance as whether it was with yards of separation due to his incredible route-running, or tight window catches to advance the chains, Jeudy was there to answer the call and hopefully, this is a sign of things to come going forward.
He is currently on a 17-game pace of 65 catches, 908 yards, and 9 TDs in a year with below-average QB play, on the worst offense in the NFL. Jerry Jeudy is a great talent and I’m glad he got the opportunity to showcase his ability as an outside threat especially after early in the game he lost his temper coming off the field with a missed defensive holding call.
Whether it’s being a key piece in righting the ship with Russell Wilson or being a primary target for the next Broncos QB, Jerry Jeudy is the type of offensive piece you want to build around.
Dre'mont Jones clips vs. the Kansas City Chiefs pic.twitter.com/EFUzZbcYqi— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) December 14, 2022
Arguably the most impactful defender on Denver’s defense in 2022, Dre’Mont played with a massive chip on his shoulder Sunday afternoon against Kansas City. The Chiefs’ interior offensive line is no joke and Dre’Mont spent most of the day lining up across from Trey Smith and Creed Humpfrey and still, he managed to conjure up 4 pressures, a sack on Mahomes, and was his usual active presence in the run game.
Explosive off the snap with elite countermoves and lightning-quick hands, Dre’Mont was in Mahomes face all afternoon and if Jones was facing a mortal QB he probably ends the day with multiple sacks and the win.
Instead, Mahomes evaded the constant pressure from Jones only giving up one sack on the afternoon and on multiple occasions turned Dre’Mont highlights into Patrick Mahomes highlights with his ability to escape and extend outside of the pocket.
Dre’Mont had a great inside spin on center Creed Humpfrey but ended up hyperextending his knee and injuring his hip which he’s getting checked on this week, and hopefully, it won’t keep him out until the end of the season.
Sadly, we haven’t heard any update on Dre’Mont’s contract extension talks, and his latest response when questioned didn’t lead one to think he plans on staying around long term saying, “I’m here now.”
Denver may have to tag the interior defensive linemen if they intend to keep him around in 2023.
Netane Muti clips vs. the Kansas City Chiefs— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) December 15, 2022
It is baffling that Wattenberg saw snaps before this man. More baffling is Quinn Bailey getting snaps before him. Even more baffling than that is once he saw him doing this, they sat him down 2 more times to try out Bailey some more. pic.twitter.com/7xnvOxLfek
I can not lie. I am frustrated with how Denver managed Netane Muti.
With Dalton Risner projected to miss last week’s game, it only made sense to take a look at Muti, a 23-year-old guard who has only managed to get on the field for limited appearances through two years due to injury.
Muti was reportedly challenging Dalton for the starting LG spot in training camp before enduring another significant injury that kept him sidelined until he was activated a couple of weeks ago. After a couple of weeks of practice and with the injury to Risner, it seemed to make sense that either Muti or Tom Compton would get the start against Kansas City since they are the only two players on the roster with NFL experience at guard.
But instead; Butch Barry and Nathaniel Hackett decided to prepare 5th-round rookie center, Luke Wattenberg.
Wattenberg spent the first half being dominated by superstar defensive lineman Chris Jones giving up multiple sacks and looking all-around unprepared to start at that spot, so by the end of the first half… he was benched.
Who replaced him you may ask?
Backup offensive tackle with 0 career snaps at LG, Quinn Bailey. Quinn Bailey was a step in the right direction and the offense scored a touchdown with him in the game.
The next drive saw Netane Muti finally receive the opportunity to play. He looked stout; stonewalling Chris Jones in pass protection, generating push in the run game, and assisting the offense to a second consecutive TD drive.
Then, instead of deciding on a starting guard for the remainder of the afternoon, Denver rotated between both Netane Muti and Quinn Bailey for the rest of the afternoon. Netane was visibly the better player and for some reason was limited to only 4 offensive drives due to the coaching staff’s inability to properly prepare for gamedays.
The following day, instead of returning to Denver’s roster, Muti signed with the Oakland Raiders and could possibly start for them in the coming weeks because he felt so disrespected by the Broncos’ decision to not give him playtime and I don’t blame him for feeling this way.
This isn’t Netane Muti, Luke Wattenberg, or Quinn Bailey’s fault. They all got screwed by Butch Barry and Nathaniel Hackett. Denver needed a starting GUARD this week, and instead of playing the guy who fit they chose to play two guys out of position and unsurprisingly they performed poorly. Now that young backup guard who showed a lot of promising things on tape is suiting up for a division rival.
It is beyond frustrating but that’s just the story of the 2022 Broncos and the Nathaniel Hackett era.