QB Russell Wilson’s late heroics, typically staunch defense lead Broncos over Jacksonville – The Denver Post


LONDON – Six days across the pond can produce clarity for an American football franchise in trouble.

The Denver Broncos, like many NFL teams, are built on a lot of temporary pieces and precious few foundational ones.

Nathaniel Hackett’s standing in the eyes of his boss’ boss? Supported, but, “this is a week-to-week sport and so we’re always evaluating things,” franchise CEO Greg Penner said Friday of the head coach.

Might a Bradley Chubb trade materialize in the coming days? Maybe, maybe not. But being a “core player,” as general manager George Paton described him Thursday, guarantees nothing.

Paton himself? He’s done a lot of good — and boy, several of his draft picks and free-agent signings came up clutch in Denver’s 21-17, four-game-losing-streak-snapping victory over Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium here Sunday — but ultimately will be judged the same way all others are: The head coach and quarterback.

Ah, yes, the quarterback.

Russell Wilson in his first six months in Denver has found himself — and often put himself — on the receiving end of a barrage of heat, both for his play and personality. For sandwich commercials. For PR-speak. For “Let’s Ride.” For cringes that go so viral they’re common conversation points 5,000 miles away from the Rocky Mountains. For high knees.

The reality, though, is that more than anybody else in the building, he’s the one the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group has its newly acquired franchise staked to. He’s the one with the $245 million extension in ink. He’s the one who is ultimately going to drive whether the Broncos return to relevance or remain relegated to a relentless flaming in the court of public opinion.

All the way over here in England, the brass finally saw what it hoped it paid for: Improvisation and moon balls. Fourth-quarter heroics. Teammates leaping into him after a seven-play, 80-yard, game-winning touchdown drive that handed Hackett and the Broncos a victory they all desperately needed.

“We’ve hurt ourselves,” Hackett said of the first seven weeks, “so it’s about us continually learning to not hurt ourselves to give us a chance to win the game. And I think this game is more important for us because of how we won it, being up and then down and then up and being able to weather that storm.”

But Denver needed one more score when it took the field with 3 minutes, 49 seconds, to go and trailing 17-14.


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