Second-guesses, but no regrets for Denver’s Nathaniel Hackett.
The rookie head coach said Friday he stood by the decision to throw the ball on third-and-4 just before the two-minute warning with a 9-6 lead Thursday night against Indianapolis.
Quarterback Russell Wilson threw an interception in the end zone with 2 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in regulation, breathing life into the Colts’ chances just when it looked like the Broncos would finally put them away.
“I second-guess everything that I call because I always want it to be as good as it possibly can be for the players and for the team,” Hackett said. “In that situation, wanted to have a very good protection, wanted to get a first down to finish the game and not just a field goal. The defense had been playing great and wanted to finish it off for them. So, wanted to be somewhat aggressive but not too aggressive.
“In the end, we have to execute the play better. Of course, right now would have much rather have run the ball and kicked the field goal and taken more time off.”
Wilson took the blame for the interception Thursday night after the game saying simply, “Just can’t throw that.”
Denver could have run the ball on third down and taken the clock to the two-minute warning. A first down essentially would have ended the game. If the Broncos faced fourth down at the two-minute warning, they could have used the break to decide whether to go for it and put the game away or tack on a field goal and force the Colts to do something they had not done the entire night: Drive the length of the field and score a touchdown.
Instead, the worst-case scenario.
“In that situation, I thought it was a good play call, it was my decision to do that and we just need to execute better,” Hackett said.
Jewell, Browning avoid serious injury. Denver lost two key players for the season to injury, but was spared serious blows to inside linebacker Josey Jewell and outside linebacker Baron Browning.
Jewell, Hackett said, has a knee sprain and is considered “week-to-week.” Browning suffered a wrist injury and is “day-to-day.”
Jewell sported a brace over his leg in the locker room after the game. He missed the first two games of the season with a calf strain, but had played well in two-plus games of action.
Browning didn’t technically start Thursday, but played 54% of Denver’s defensive snaps and made several big plays. He finished with five tackles (two for loss), 1.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries.
Defense rolling. The Denver defense bounced back from a poor outing against Las Vegas and held the Colts without a touchdown.
Not surprisingly, Hackett absolved first-year defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero’s group of any responsibility for the 12-9 loss.
“The defense is playing at an unbelievably high level,” Hackett said. “From a guy that played defense, I absolutely love watching those guys go out there and play. Being on the offensive side of the ball, it kills me to not be more efficient and better for those guys.”
Denver ranks fourth in scoring defense at just 16 points allowed per game, but the offense is scoring just 15 per game, second-to-last in the NFL and ahead of only the Colts.