Well... so much for the start Broncos Country was hoping for.
For those unable to watch the game, perhaps the initial thought is to place the blame on new QB Russell Wilson, who, in his first action wearing a new uniform for the first time in nine years, had to immediately face his old team, which can draw emotions.
While Wilson did miss some reads and over/underthrew some receivers, for the most part, he looked fine. In fact, he looked as good as any Broncos QB since Peyton Manning retired.
The new man taking the snaps finished with an admirable stat line of 29-42 for 340 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Again, he missed some reads, but that stat line alone shows it wasn’t on him.
So who exactly does it fall on? Denver was favored, after all. So how did the Broncos’ offense put up 433 yards to Seattle’s 253 and just settle for one touchdown and a few field goals?
First-year head Nathaniel Hackett coach puts it on himself.
“In the end we’ve got to score in the red zone and that’s on me.” — Nathaniel Hackett— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 13, 2022
He is an offensive guy, though, and let’s not let the defense off the hook, as in the first half, they missed just about every first tackle attempt they made. Alex Singleton, filling in for injured middle linebacker Josey Jewell, especially struggled, seemingly seeing double and picking the wrong visual on each tackle attempt.
Yet, despite the defense making Geno Smith look like Peyton Manning on his best day in the first half, they (including Singleton) played better in the second half. The offense, who had been moving the ball with relative fluidity, continued to march, albeit to dead ends and field goals. And that therein lied the problem.
Hackett, again, to his credit, did put it on himself.
Yet, expect no sympathy from the fan base or the NFL media, because it was, in fact, on him, and no one gets a prize for stating the obvious.
A few questions...
Why move away from the run game so rapidly when Javonte Williams seemed to be pushing for a first down every carry?
Why, when you did run, take Williams out in favor of Melvin Gordon, who was not moving nearly as efficiently as Williams?
Why were the wide receivers not targeted at all for nearly the entire first half?
How can a team commit 12(!) penalties in an opening game?
And why...OH WHY...did you take the ball out of the QB at the end of the game who had actually kept you in the game?
Hackett’s reasoning: 64 yards was within Brandon McManus’ range.
#Broncos HC Nathaniel Hackett says 64 yards was the max range for Brandon McManus tonight and that’s why they went with the FG.— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 13, 2022
He didn’t consider going for it even after he missed the first time (Seattle called timeout).
“Brandon gave it his best shot.”
In reality, though, it was about as in range as much as my half court hook shot is in range at the YMCA.
Brandon McManus misses from 64 yards and #Broncos lose by 1. Brandon McManus is now 1-of-8 on FG of 60+ yards in his career. NFL teams converted 49 percent of the time last season on fourth-and-5.— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) September 13, 2022
He knew it, yet he still went for it. Seahawks coach and gum enthusiast Pete Carroll iced McManus on the first attempt, a clear wide left, which may have altered Hackett’s decision.
Rather than to go with a clutch QB who lost trust in his previous staff for not putting the ball in his hand when it counted, he again went to the kicker, who was out of his range.
Russell Wilson once demanded a trade because his old head coach didn’t trust him enough…— Tyler Polumbus (@Tyler_Polumbus) September 13, 2022
The Broncos just gave him 161M guaranteed and didn’t trust him to pick up 5 yards….
The result? From the kicker who was out of his range? More of the same. McManus didn’t get enough of it, Seattle took over, the ball was kneeled, Shelby Harris talked some smack, and the Broncos go home 0-1.
Hackett’s admission that it was on him goes further than he thinks. It wasn’t just in the red zone where the issues existed.
There was the aforementioned choice of running backs in crucial moments. The first half defensive effort was nothing to write home about. The awful time management late in the game even had Peyton Manning and Shannon Sharpe trying to mentally channel Hackett to make the obvious decision.
On 3rd-and-14, the Broncos had 1:11 on the clock.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) September 13, 2022
They called their first timeout with 20 seconds.
They let 51 seconds run off the clock.
Peyton was trying his HARDEST to call a TO for the Broncos pic.twitter.com/eZxNQdWpPH— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 13, 2022
At the end, though, it was what it was. Perhaps not playing any of the starters in preseason was a really, horrible, insane idea, but on the other hand, maybe it’s good they’re rusty and healthy rather than damaged and thin in depth.
Regardless, first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett built himself a lot of expectations for his first year. For a fan base who’s more than tired of excuses, he needs to aim to have one heck of a rebound in week 2. The AFC West will make Geno Smith look like Curtis Painter with a bad flu, so it’s imperative to get the team in check before then.
Houston offers a winnable, confidence-building opportunity. San Francisco lost their running back for a time due to injury. Then there’s the trip to Vegas, against the team who should be an inferior opponent, even with Davante Adams.
There was enough flash at Seattle to know that despite the unpreparedness, a talent and a potential giant lies beneath. But, as Hackett, says, that’s on him, and how he utilizes it. He can do what he did tonight, and squander it, or he can use this learning experience to his advantage.
Hopefully, his mistakes tonight mean the latter.