In the Broncos’ 16-9 loss to the Jets on Sunday at Empower Field, Denver had a chance to tie the game with a promising drive in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. Here’s a breakdown of what happened to seal the defeat.
The situation: With two minutes left in the game, the Broncos trailed 16-9 and faced fourth-and-3 at the Jets’ 25-yard line. Denver still had all three timeouts, so if they converted, they wouldn’t have to rush to score.
The formation: Shotgun, with trips to the left side (tight Greg Dulcich, Jerry Jeudy in the slot and KJ Hamler out wide) and Courtland Sutton on the right side by himself. Melvin Gordon lined up to quarterback Brett Rypien’s right in the backfield.
The play call: Dulcich and Jeudy ran intersecting routes right off the line, with Jeudy slanting in and Dulcich headed up the seam. Melvin Gordon ran a flat route out of the backfield toward the left sideline. Hamler ran what appeared to be a go route or a skinny post, and Sutton also ran a go route.
The result: Off the snap, Rypien looked to his left, appearing to want to target either Jeudy or Dulcich on a quick pass that would net them the first down. But the timing by Jeudy and Dulcich on their mesh point was off, causing them to slightly bump into each other and disrupting both routes. Rypien quickly looked off those routes and turned his attention to the right side of the field, heaving it up to Sutton in the end zone.
“I like a one-on-one matchup with Courtland with inside leverage and press coverage,” Rypien said. “That’s kind of what we talked about on the sideline is that was the look we were going to get and that’s a great opportunity to throw a go-ball or possibly get a pass interference. Did I put it in a perfect spot? Probably not, but at the end of the day, myself and our offense have to find a way to make more plays.”
Rypien had to accelerate his decision-making because Jets defensive lineman Bryce Huff beat Broncos right tackle Billy Turner to break the pocket, and was right in Rypien’s face as he released the ball.
Sutton was being guarded in one-on-one man coverage by top New York cover cornerback Sauce Gardner, and Rypien’s pass was slightly underthrown. Gardner had his right hand on Sutton’s collar and used his left hand to swat the pass away as the two ran stride-for-stride into the end zone.
The fallout: The Broncos turned the ball over on downs, and even though the defense helped get them the ball back with 1:30 left, that failed fourth-and-3conversion ended up being the best chance they had left. On fourth-and-10 with 37 seconds left, Rypien’s downfield heave to KJ Hamler also fell incomplete. Gardner was running step-for-step with Hamler in man coverage on the pass, which was broken up by Jordan Whitehead.