After falling 17-42 to the Detroit Lions on Saturday night, the Denver Broncos’ playoff chances a bit bleaker, and it didn’t just come down to a single call; the Lions genuinely outplayed them for 60 minutes.
That said, there was a penalty that stirred some criticism, perhaps more than ever because of the aftermath from that offensive offsides called during last week’s Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs matchup.
Broncos offside call explained: pic.twitter.com/iZRLWgpEUZ— Justin M (@JustinM_NFL) December 17, 2023
The Broncos didn’t end up on the scoreboard until Q3 saw Wilson throwing in the end zone to Lil’ Jordan Humphrey. They would almost put another touchdown on the board with RB Michael Burton — after two attempts to cross the line with RBs Jaleel McLaughlin and Javonte Williams — but were met with a cryptic offsides call that no one could detect until a few replays revealed Quinn Meinerz’s helmet to be in the neutral zone.
Anyone watching, including play-by-play commentator Kevin Harlan and game analyst Trent Green, would be confused by this decision; but it held up, and head coach Sean Payton didn’t challenge it.
This didn’t fully close out the moment, though. As it happened, cameras caught Payton making his way to QB Russell Wilson and yelling for a good amount of time. Ultimately, they would have to settle on a field goal, which K Will Lutz delivered.
What Payton said is unknown, and reporters were curious enough to bring it up more than a few times in the post-game conference.
First, the question was whether he wanted Wilson to wait before making another play at a touchdown, so that Payton could challenge the spot at the goal line. Payton assured this wasn’t the case, stating, “No, I said the frustrating part of the sequence was the next play to Burton where we scored.”
Noting his colorful reaction to the offsides call, Payton admitted that he was “upset about the call. That’s all. Simple. That’s it.”
It became clear after this that talk around the offsides penalty wasn’t going to stop, when they asked what he was yelling to Wilson. The coach decided to shut down whatever narrative was being built when he said, “Listen, what I talk with Russell about is none of your business.”
Sean Payton said when he was yelling on the sideline on the direction of Russell Wilson, he was “upset about the call,” referring to the offsides penalty, and not yelling at Wilson.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) December 17, 2023
He added later, “What I talk with Russell about is none of your business.” pic.twitter.com/AxVgk9Qmiq
It wasn’t all penalty talk, at least. Mixed in with interviewers pressing about the sideline moment and Payton’s reaction to the call, there was some legitimate conversation, including whether the Broncos will be able to turn the page after this loss. Payton assured that they can.
“Yeah, absolutely. Look, this is a tough League and like I said to the – I said this to the players afterwards, ‘You’re going to play in these games once in a while. It’s difficult to swallow,’” the coach shared, “Certainly, as coaches, it starts with us. We’ve got to be better, but man, we’ve got to be able to shake it pretty soon here and then get ready to play New England.”
This sounded like a great way to shift the interview focus off that penalty; and yet, questions came back around to the fateful situation at the goal line. Someone asked if he’d wanted a quarterback sneak call, and it seemed like Payton was being baited. He didn’t take the bait.
“No, no, no, I know you’re trying to get back to the whole Russell thing,” he said, referencing the questions about whether he was yelling in frustration at Wilson, “We handed the ball to Burton, he scored a touchdown, and they called a foul. That was frustrating.”
The main takeaway from this situation, for me, was that the media is trying to get both Payton and Wilson to discuss what frustrated them about the call, whether they were frustrated with each other, etc., in order to continue drama that started last week with Kansas City vs Buffalo and should’ve ended when those fines were announced on Saturday.
Hopefully, we can all move on and find something better to talk about.