Red zone is woe zone for Broncos in 17-16 opening-night defeat at Seattle



SEATTLE – When the Broncos started what they hoped was a game-winning drive to put an exclamation point on quarterback Russell Wilson’s debut with his new team and matchup against his old team, coach Nathaniel Hackett asked kicker Brandon McManus for his field-goal range.

Seattle 46-yard line, left hash.

And with that, the Broncos went to work with four minutes remaining, but due to equal parts poor execution and bad time management, they stalled at the — you guessed it — Seahawks 46-yard line and 20 seconds remaining.

Instead of putting the football in Wilson’s hands for a fourth-and-5 play, coach Nathaniel Hackett burned 40 seconds of the clock before sending out McManus, whose 64-yard attempt was wide right with 15 seconds remaining, allowing the Seahawks to escape with a 17-16 victory.

“They got me exactly that spot so I was ready and knew there was a good chance we would kick it,” said McManus, who is 1-of-8 in his career from beyond 60 yards. “It obviously feels good to have confidence in me to put me out there at 64, but I have to start making some of those long ones.”

The Broncos outgained Seattle 433-253, but never led in a game that will be remembered for their pathetic red zone performance (zero touchdowns in four trips, including two goal-line fumbles), the penalties (12 for 106 yards) and the chaos that was the offense’s pre-snap operation.

The Broncos went field goal, fumble on fourth down, fumble and field goal in the red zone.

“That’s the game,” center Lloyd Cushenberry said. “We have to finish from the 1-yard line. Throwing it in, running it in, we have to get six points. That’s why we lost.”

In his head-coaching debut, Hackett will be in the cross-hairs for his final-minute decision-making … and rightly so. Who was advising him on the sideline and in the headset? And was Hackett listening?

The Broncos moved to their 49-yard line with 1:24 remaining.

First down: Williams lost four yards when an under-pressure Wilson flipped him a pass. The clock stops at 1:13 because two Seattle players were injured.

Second down: Wilson throws incomplete into the ground after he was unable to pump fake the football. The clock read 1:11. Third down: Wilson threw to Williams in the left flat and Williams gained nine yards to the Seahawks’ 46.

But then things got wonky.

The Williams played ended at 1:03 and the 40-second play clock started at 1:00.

The Broncos took their time getting to the line of scrimmage and Wilson called timeout with 20 seconds remaining to avoid another delay-of-game penalty.

Hackett said afterward the plan was to always call timeout and send out McManus.

“I was expecting to go for it but Javonte made an incredible play to put us into field goal and the range we were looking for,” Hackett said.

McManus missed the kick and the Broncos missed a prime opportunity to start 1-0 for the seventh time in 10 years.

Instead, the Broncos were left to lament what went wrong.

“Turnovers, red zone, penalties,” Hackett said. “Bad deal.”



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