SEATTLE — On the long plane ride home to Broncos Country, here’s hoping Nathaniel Hackett could sleep after an inexcusable 17-16 loss to the Seahawks because if you ask me, Denver’s rookie coach looked clueless in Seattle.
Rather than putting the football in the hands of quarterback Russell Wilson, recently rewarded with a $245 million contract extension by the Broncos, during the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Hackett hoped and prayed that kicker Brandon McManus could make a 64-yard field to win the game.
How did that work out for you, coach?
“We just made our decision and wanted to take that shot,” Hackett said.
On fourth down-and-five from the Seattle 46-yard line, Wilson stood in the shotgun until Hackett called timeout and sent McManus on the field to attempt a field goal longer than has ever been made by anyone in the history of Lumen Field.
McManus is an outstanding kicker. But in his distinguished NFL career, he has now made one of eight attempts from beyond 60 yards.
A year ago, NFL offenses converted 49% of the time in fourth-and-5 situations. I’m a knucklehead. So you do the math and tell me if Hackett played the odds correctly.
Why take Wilson out of the game when there was plenty of time on the clock to complete a pass, call timeout and put McManus in a much more reasonable position to make a field goal?
“Russ is a dangerous person, especially in short yardage,” Seahawks linebacker Uchenna Niwosu said. “So when they took him out, I thought maybe they don’t trust him in that situation.”
From beginning to end, the Broncos played like a poorly coached team by an inexperienced defensive coordinator, first-time offensive coordinator and a head coach who has never had to face the music for all the game-management mistakes that we used to bash Vic Fangio for making.
Bad tackling. Blown defensive assignments, including the miscommunication that allowed tight end Will Dissly to romp wild and free for a 38-yard touchdown on Seattle’s opening drive of the game. So many silly penalties I lost count of all the yellow hankies littered at the feet of the Broncos.
It was almost as if the Denver defense went on summer vacation instead of getting down to the business of football fundamentals during the preseason. Wait, what? Oh, never mind. Hackett believes August was made for hugs, not tackling.
I know Broncos Country took the name of Uncle Vic in vain, but after watching this team make Geno Smith look like Patrick Mahomes, it was enough to make a fella wonder if maybe Denver should’ve retained Fangio as defensive coordinator. Read this and try not to weep: A lightly regarded, journeyman pro that became the Seahawks’ starting quarterback by default completed 23 of 28 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos.
Validation for Smith, turned out by the Jets, Giants and Chargers before finding a home in Seattle?
“I’ve always felt validated,” he said. “So this win doesn’t do it for me.”
The design of the quick-strike, short-pass plays by Hackett was nothing short of brilliant. Not only was Wilson surgically precise at hitting receivers in space for yards after the catch, he was sacked only twice while dropping back to pass 44 times.
But did Hackett crib his game plan for the red zone from folders that former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur forgot to clean out from his desk?
With a chance to take the lead on consecutive drives in the third quarter, the Broncos fumbled twice with the football snapped less than a yard away from the Seattle end zone. The first turnover was committed by Melvin Gordon, and the second miscue occurred when Javonte Williams dropped the ball. The real big boo-boo, however, was Hackett out-smarting himself by running a shotgun formation that eliminated a simple quarterback sneak from his options at the goal line.
With a bad moon rising in Seattle, Wilson got served a big slice of humble pie by the famously rowdy fans known in Seattle as the “12s,” who booed him relentlessly all night long.
And the honeymoon for Hackett in Denver? It’s over.