The Broncos lost to the Seahawks on Monday night after a horrendous bit of clock management by Denver’s rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
Peyton Manning, who was watching the game as part of ESPN’s “ManningCast,” was begging Hackett to call a timeout.
Hackett didn’t, settled for a long field goal attempt, lost, and then embarrassed himself one more time before the final whistle.
The new era of the Denver Broncos got off to a rough start on Monday night.
After an off-season headlined by the acquisition of superstar quarterback Russell Wilson and first-time NFL head coach Nathaniel Hackett, the Mile High faithfully had big expectations heading into Denver’s season opener.
Their primetime Week 1 matchup saw Russell return to his former home in Seattle, and pitted Hackett against veteran head coach Pete Carroll. It didn’t work out well for the Broncos, who lost 17-16.
While it was a topsy-turvy game all around, with the Broncos fumbling twice at the goal line to prevent what could have been game-changing scores, the final outcome ultimately came down to a dismal bit of clock management on the part of Hackett.
The Broncos were trailing by a point inside the two-minute warning, hoping to snatch victory with one final drive. On third-and-14, Wilson connected with running back Javonte Williams for a nine-yard gain, leaving Denver with fourth-and-5 from just across midfield.
As soon as the play happened, Peyton Manning, who was broadcasting via ESPN2’s “ManningCast,” immediately began calling for a timeout. It never came.
With just under a minute left and all three of his timeouts available, Hackett had two options. First, he could keep his offense out on the field to attempt to convert the fourth down. Second, he could send out his field goal unit to attempt a 64-yard kick, which would be the second-longest in NFL history if it was successful.
Regardless, Hackett could have called a timeout. If either the fourth down or field goal attempt didn’t go their way, the Broncos would still have the chance to get the ball back thanks to the two timeouts they would have left in the chamber.
Additionally, had Hackett rushed his offense to the line to attempt a fourth down play, the Broncos would have still had all three timeouts and a chance to get the ball back in Wilson’s hands.
Instead, Hackett allowed the clock to run all the way down to 20 seconds, at which point Wilson called timeout and the kicking unit was sent on the field.
Brandon McManus missed the 64-yard kick, and the Broncos left Seattle with an 0-1 start to the season.
Hackett left his team with no outs after the missed field goal. The game was over, and he still had two timeouts left.
As the Seahawks went to kneel the game away, Hackett spent those timeouts to allow himself an extra few moments to jaw at the referee on his sideline.
After the game, the Broncos defended the decision across the board.
“We were right on the line [of McManus’ range],” Hackett said. “Brandon gave it his best shot.”
“We got the best field goal kicker maybe in the game,” Wilson said. “We got there and unfortunately it didn’t go in. … I believe in coach Hackett, I believe in what we’re doing, I believe in everything.”
McManus himself also took responsibility for the miss.
But while the Broncos might be backing up their decision, the numbers do not.
Joe Buck, who was also calling on ESPN’s primary broadcast, put it plainly.
Kickers are better than they ever have been in the history of football, but a 64-yarder is still far from a sure bet. And after the Broncos just handed Wilson a king’s ransom to be their quarterback for the forseeable future, it’s surprising Denver decided to leave the game on McManus’ foot over Wilson’s hands.
We’ll see if Hackett makes the same decision the next time the Broncos face a do-or-die play. At the very least, he might want to take a timeout and think it over.
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