Russell Wilson had KJ Hamler wide open on a slant on the last play of the Broncos’ overtime loss to the Colts, and never saw him.
Instead, Wilson threw incomplete to Courtland Sutton in coverage in the back of the end zone to end the game. And Hamler went berserk, taking off his helmet and smashing it repeatedly against the ground in frustration as the Colts celebrated their 12-9 win.
And the @Colts walk away with the W in OT. #INDvsDEN on Prime Video
Also available on NFL+ https://t.co/qcjXnKGOp7 pic.twitter.com/rApHGVBy70
— NFL (@NFL) October 7, 2022
After the defeat, Hamler sat at his locker with a 1,000-yard stare, clearly wondering about the game-winner that could have been.
“It was a good play call, we’ve just got to execute,” Hamler said. “I was (open) there. I’m frustrated we lost.”
After coming back from season-ending knee/hip injuries suffered in Week 3 of last year, Hamler has struggled to get any momentum in his third season with the Broncos. He didn’t have a catch until last week in Las Vegas — a 55-yard reception that set up a touchdown — and has been targeted only four times this year. That included two targets against the Colts, with one catch for 10 yards.
Over the past couple of weeks, Hamler dealt with a groin injury, and he was limited to four snaps against the Raiders. But he maintains that his groin, knee and hip are fine and that “this is the best I’ve ever felt.”
“But me feeling good doesn’t mean anything unless we get the win,” Hamler said. “We’ve got (to rebound)… Most of the time in the NFL, that’s how a game is going to be (coming down to the end). We just couldn’t finish.”
Hamler didn’t point the finger at Wilson for the last play’s failure, though Wilson himself said “I feel like I let us down” with how the game ended.
“I went to Courtland there, and (Colts veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore) made a good play,” Wilson said. “I was ready to move around (and scramble) if I needed to… I’ve got to find a way to make a play there.”
Hamler believes the last drive is evidence of how the Broncos can move the ball when they get into a rhythm. But he also emphasized there’s no excuse for the inability of the offense to find the end zone in Thursday’s field goal fest.
“We went down the field quickly (in overtime),” Hamler said. “We get into the red zone, into that ‘gold zone,’ we’ve just got to learn how to keep pushing and how to finish. We can’t keep coming up empty down there… We’re capable of scoring 40 points (a game), especially with the quarterback we have.”
Through five games, the Broncos are averaging 15 points per game. Had Wilson found Hamler on Thursday’s final play to beat the Colts, it would’ve been Hamler’s second walk-off, game-winning TD catch in his career. As a rookie, he also had one off the hand of Drew Lock in Week 8 in 2020, which capped a comeback victory against the Chargers.
Instead, he could only shake his head in frustration at an opportunity lost.
“I mean, I did everything I can,” Hamler told reporters. “I fought my (butt) off. Us as an offense, we fought our (butt) off.”
Broncos beat reporter Parker Gabriel contributed to this story.