11-10 final score.
Just one touchdown.
Less than 200 yards passing.
Six for 19 on third-down conversions.
“Yeah, this QB sucks and the offense is terrible; we should fire the coach and end the season now.”
WHAT?!?! Who are you people...Broncos fans? Really? C’mon.
There was nothing about yesterday’s offensive performance that said “arrived” or “elite.” But it did say “improving” while the 4th quarter touchdown drive even said “electrifying.”
And two things have me very encouraged about the trajectory of this offense for Weeks 4-18 after the Week 3 struggle.
First, the Broncos were playing an extremely talented defense (No. 1 overall going into the game). So it was always going to be a “slugfest” as head coach Nathaniel Hackett said. It’s nice to see Denver’s offense actually hang in there and throw a few punches for once.
Second, the real Russ Wilson emerged in the 4th quarter, and that was a sight to behold. And if anything says “let Russ actually cook” to the coaching staff, it was that drive. Wilson took over the game and just willed that offense down the field - with his arm, with his legs, with his never-ending, slightly annoying but genuine positivity.
“I told the guys, ‘Listen, despite us battling back and forth, back and forth, the game is still close—within striking distance’,” Wilson said after the game. “We just kept staying on it.”
I know much of the #SFvsDEN game wasn't great offense, but that 4th quarter drive brought back so many good vibes of vintage #Broncos football - coming from behind for an improbable win...— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) September 26, 2022
AND THAT DEFENSE????
I loved it. https://t.co/SF6kXp9B3M
And then Wilson said the quiet part out loud.
“Really in the fourth quarter, I had to kind of use my legs and kind of take over,” Wilson admitted. “Just try to move around and find some first downs.”
Hackett hinted that that sort of freedom for Wilson has been in the works all along as he defined for reporters what he considers “off-script” when asked if he’d let his QB do more of that.
“I think what off-script is, is when you have a progression, and you don’t do that progression,” Hackett said. “I think that when a play is called and you go through your progression and it’s all covered, then you start making it happen, that’s part of the script. So I would say I think that last night we saw him be part of the script, it just happened that he used his legs. So I thought he was spectacular.”
The coach also said he isn’t trying to prevent Wilson from doing anything.
“I would never hold him back from doing anything that he might see. He’s out there, he’s playing. He had a couple of brilliant checks for big plays down the field that we talked about we have done,” Hackett said. “Again, that’s part of it.”
Whoever deserves the most credit is irrelevant; but hopefully the coach recognizes the ability of his QB to take the reins. And it seemed quite clear Sunday night that Wilson was going to do it anyway.
And he did.
“You know, Kendall Hinton making that big play. I went left—I guess I can still go left...and hit Kendall on that out [route]...big play by him,” Wilson said of the 27-yard deep pass to Hinton on 3rd-and-10. “And then, we had a run called and I ended up changing the play to Courtland [Sutton] and he made a great play on that one-on-one.”
Wilson credited his offensive line too because they were tested all day by the stout Niners D-line and edge rushers.
“The [offensive] line did a tremendous job of battling that whole drive and us just believing. And then obviously, Melvin Gordon getting in the end zone. That was pretty huge how he walked into the end zone there,” Wilson added, ending the description by crediting the Mile High crowd. “This atmosphere felt like a playoff atmosphere. That’s what we need.”
It was a playoff atmosphere because Wilson was finally cooking.
I hope this is Wilson just taking over.— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) September 26, 2022
He was making plays happen rather than waiting to see how the play call would unfold (if in fact it would make it to the huddle in time).
That fourth quarter drive was like watching the definition of freedom. It was also the definition of resolve.
“I thought we had that one first down where I dove and kind of put the ball out,” Wilson said, recalling his attempt to extend his arm out over the first down marker. “The ball was across but they didn’t give it to us. So in the fourth quarter, I just said, ‘you know what, we have to find the guy—one, two, three, and if it’s not there, get ready to get North and take off and move around a little bit. We got some key first downs off of it.”
And it wasn’t just Mile High fans who loved it.
Wilson’s own offense is enjoying it too.
“It was great. It was kind of a surreal feeling. You see him make those plays in Seattle for so many years and now you’re on the field with him and watching him make these plays, scrambling and getting out of the pocket,” said Wilson’s center, Lloyd Cushenberry III, noting the third down conversion to Hinton. “It was one of those moments that you’ve seen for 10-plus years and him making those plays. It was vintage Russell Wilson back in his form. It was a great drive.”
Even 49ers’ standout edge rusher Nick Bosa, who had a heck of a night Sunday, acknowledged the potential danger of letting Wilson “do his thing” like he did.
“We were preaching all week,” Bosa noted, “trying to make sure we finished the game and didn’t let [Russell Wilson] get out of the pocket and do those things that he does best.”
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