Hey, imagine where this Broncos offense would be right now without Courtland Sutton.
Done screaming yet?
“I want those opportunities to be able to make those plays,” Sutton said Sunday after a seven-catch, 122-yard performance against the Houston Texans saved both a 16-9 Broncos win and a franchise’s bacon. “I want to be the guy that (Russell Wilson) goes to on big third downs, fourth downs, so that we can convert (them) down the field.
“And I feel like, in order to be able to be in that (conversation) of an elite wide receiver, you’ve got to be (the) guy that can make those big third downs and fourth downs.”
He’s been that guy. And then some. On the Broncos’ second possession of the third quarter, facing a fourth-and-2 at the 50 and down 9-6, Sutton’s 6-yard catch kept the drive alive and helped flip the field.
On the Broncos’ next possession, on third-and-16 from the home 32, Sutton slipped behind a broken Texans secondary and into the clear, turning a Wilson lob into a 35-yard gain and bringing the crowd at Empower Field back to life again. Three plays later, the hosts finally reached paydirt, thanks to Wilson’s 22-yard rainbow to tight end Eric Saubert for the score.
“He’s a mismatch to any corner he goes up against,” Saubert said of Sutton, who’s caught 11 balls for 194 receiving yards — 97 per game — over the first two weeks of the season, and that’s not including the pass interference calls he’s drawn that kept the chains moving.
“I hope that’s part of the game plan going forward because he’s a special player.”
He’s an essential player, now, too, given Jerry Jeudy’s injury and an offense that couldn’t find the end zone if you pinned it on Google Maps.
The Broncos attempted nine throws on third or fourth down against the Texans. The ball went to Sutton three times in those circumstances, and he converted on all three tries.
The other six attempts? Oh-for-6.
It’s OK to scream again.
No, no. It’s cool. Let it out.
“We started targeting him quite a bit (and), he made some huge plays,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said after the season’s first victory. “That third-down (catch) … was absolutely a thing of beauty. Then he made some big plays across the board, and that’s what you need.”
Hackett, meanwhile, needs help. Or friends. Or both. The Broncos, who were a sloppy, undisciplined mess in booing, unfriendly Seattle, were still a sloppy, undisciplined mess — 13 penalties, most for a single game since Week 3 in 2018 — in front of the loving, hopeful fans at Mile High.
Before long, those fans were booing, too. And counting down the seconds in tandem with the play clock, a not-so-subtle dig at the head coach and his star quarterback.
“Yeah, (the fans) got after us today,” wideout Kendall Hinton observed. “Yeah, it makes it tougher. It makes it tougher.
“(But) they’re invested. They’re absolutely invested, emotionally and understandably. We’ve got a great team, great players. And they’re expecting a lot.”
How much of that is because of No. 3?
“(I’m) sure it has quite a bit to do with (Wilson), for sure. Expectations are higher this year.”
And when they’re counting down the play clock …
“Yes. We’ve got to go through — like a fan workshop or something. No, they’re invested. The energy’s there. We’re going to keep doing better for them.”
They’ll have to be. For their sakes.
Seattle and Houston might be the two most impotent offensive attacks this team sees all season. And as the boss fights get tougher, the margin for error gets tighter. Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers are next up, fresh off a 27-7 home stomping of the Seahawks.
“For us, this offense, we understand that we have to eliminate the penalties,” Sutton stressed. “Two weeks in a row, we’ve had penalties that have hurt ourselves. And we know that as an offense and you guys have seen it, without the penalties, we can move the ball down the field. It’s just — we can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot.”
At some point, Sutton or no Sutton, they’re going to run out of toes.