After Jerry Rosburg was given a game ball from CEO Greg Penner for winning his first NFL game as a head coach - despite being in football for 44 years, and 22 of it in the NFL - he made a statement to the players that says everything about why the last two weeks were so important for the entire franchise.
“It’s been a tough two weeks. But you’ve had the most investment, and I thank you for this moment,” he said. “This is one of those NFL games that many people write off, but they don’t understand how meaningful it is for us. And so I hope you draw something from this and understand how well you can work when you work together. I don’t say this lightly, but I love you guys.”
“I’m so happy for you men. … You’ve earned this celebration.”— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 9, 2023
Inside the locker room after we won our season finale! pic.twitter.com/RzrStgTz8T
In his post-game presser, Rosburg reiterated his praise and said the victory proved this team “had the guts to win” - which is certainly an important distinction from the team that played Weeks 1-16 and could barely score.
Sunday’s game was full of highlight stats:
Jerry Jeudy had 154 receiving yards on just five catches - an average of 30 yards per catch.
Latavius Murray rushed for 103 yards and one touchdown.
Justin Simmons had two forced fumbles, setting up recoveries from Josey Jewell and Essang Bassey.
Russell Wilson threw three touchdowns and three 50+-yard passes.
Justin Outten called an offense that threw the ball 24 times for 283 yards and rushed 36 times for 205 yards.
“That was a lot of fun in a small way,” the interim coach said. “It kind of unraveled on us a little bit...but I thought the incredible fortitude of our team to come together when they had the ball inside our five-yard line and march it down the field at the fashion they did to kill the game was really indicative of a team that’s got the guts to win. That’s how you play winning football. I’m so impressed by those guys.”
So am I.
Although this fifth win of the season on the final week did nothing to change the fact that it was still one of Denver’s worst seasons ever, despite having a top five defense but an historically low scoring offense.
But it did change the offseason narrative. And that’s worth everything.
The players go home knowing they are better than that record. Knowing the offense really can work when schemed properly. Knowing the quarterback really still has some juice to run and throw long and push the ball down the field.
That’s the difference between feeling like losers versus being motivated to win.
If we learned anything from the two-game Jerry Rosburg era, it is this: I think we figured out where the biggest glitch in the Broncos’ system was — and it wasn’t the QB.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) January 9, 2023
My postgame thoughts from the field, brought to you by Twin Peaks. pic.twitter.com/dDjToJLbrv
A reporter asked Russell Wilson if the thought he was “fixable” - a rather direct question about a narrative the final month of the season that the $245 million quarterback was just an expensive mistake.
In a rare moment, Wilson let his PR guard down just a bit and revealed that he had questioned himself a little too.
“I’ve asked myself that same question, where is he at?” Wilson joked, adding that there were a lot of typical obstacles - change to a new team, coach, system. “You need to try and find that magic within every game, every play, every moment. Sometimes you’ve got to keep searching for it and keep working at it and keep building it and understanding that everything works together. I know that I feel like I fell short of my own standards and my own level of expectations, what I know how to do and how I love to do it. I just want to recapture that.”
On Sunday, he and the offense caught some of it. And they can hold onto that for motivation throughout the offseason rather than self-degradation.
“Today it was good and it’s fun, and that’s what we all want,” Wilson added. “I think that it’s because of those guys. It’s because of their work ethic, their diligence, their focus, a tough time and it’s easy to check out for a lot of guys, and we didn’t.”
And Wilson credited the interim coach for that.
“I think he did a tremendous job of bringing us together in a tough time,” Wilson said, highlighting Rosburg’s experience of being part of a team winning the Super Bowl. “To be able to take that experience, take that knowledge, take that wisdom, and to be able to spread it out across our team in a really tough time, I thought he did a tremendous job of bringing us together and making sure we understood the identity that we needed to play with. That was together, that was physical, that was explosive - and at the same time have fun while doing it. He did a tremendous job with that.”
The Broncos aren’t “fixed” yet, but they proved to the owners, the fans, the incoming head coach whoever he may be - and ultimately to themselves - that they are not losers and they do have the guts to win.
Even at 5-12, that is significant.
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