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Payton calls performance ‘sloppy’ and last play ‘chaos’

Although the Broncos nearly pulled off a win, the head coach isn’t happy with some of the types of mistakes happening “at this point in the season.”

Houston Texans take on the Denver Broncos during week 13 of 2023 NFL season Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Although the Broncos made a game out of Sunday’s loss to the Texans, Sean Payton’s new name for the last play of the matchup is a perfect description of the day in general.

Chaos.

“If you were listening to what I said earlier, I don’t know what the last play is,” Payton said in response to a question about whether tight end Lucas Krull was the designed pass catcher. “I wish I could give it a name. Let’s call it ‘Chaos.’ There was no shift, so certainly from your vantage point, it looks like, man, they’re calling on Lucas to be the hero here.”

But while Krull was part of the progression, he wasn’t necessarily designed to be the hero.

“But the shift doesn’t happen, and then we’re playing street ball,” Payton added, saying he believes Krull adds nice speed to the pass-catching crew, but the last play that ended in an interception did not go at all to plan. “I don’t blame you for looking at that play and kind of wondering where people are and where the ball is going. I was doing the same thing.”

If chaos was the name of that play, then “atrocious” might be Payton’s name for the passing game overall. Russell Wilson had only 15 of 26 completions and 184 passing yards. Those stats are OK, but the eye test would indicate it was an ineffective component of the game at best and debilitating at worst.

“I think it starts with protection. I think communication has to be on point. We finished the game yesterday, [and on] the last play of the game, we leave a shift off, so at the snap of the ball, you have three receivers that are trying to run a route, but they haven’t shifted into their final formation,” he said, highlighting the INT once again. “My experience has always been it’s the details—it’s the little things. Those things have to be better.”

Undoubtedly one of the primary details is the 0-for-11 third down conversions. Although he didn’t say it, I’m willing to bet it drove him crazy based on his comments on third downs all year.

“One hundred percent. It’s not good enough,” he said Monday after watching the tape. “Obviously, it’s frustrating. It’s a combination of a handful of things—protection, guys open and us not making a play. I felt like the yardage and the distances were what we wanted. We have to be better in that area. Our third down plan has to be cleaner. It wasn’t a game where so many of them were third-and-long.”

Payton was asked if this loss felt any different than the previous ones, and his response was that all losses stink.

“They’re just disappointing,” he said. “What I said to the team a little bit earlier was, ‘You’re going to play 17 games, and are you going to be gun powder ready for each one of those?’ I’m not so sure that you are. Yesterday, despite how poorly we started, you’re going to be frustrated when you watch the tape, and you see the multiple opportunities we had.”

From the personal foul penalty in the red zone that led to a touchdown instead of forcing a field goal to the missed the receivers, Payton showed his frustration with play he called “sloppy” right after the game.

“We let a rookie bait us into a personal foul. That’s four points. Instead of finishing that game needing a touchdown, we’re kicking a field goal to win,” he said. “Offensively, we talked about it—communication. Communication has to improve, especially on the road. Too many snaps where guys aren’t ready, or we didn’t get the shift, or we didn’t get the call. That’s troubling, especially this time of year.”