“The frustration is through the roof”


Anything but an incompletion.

That, to put it simply, is the position the Denver offense found itself in facing a third-and-10 with two minutes remaining in regulation Sunday against division rival Las Vegas.

The 58 minutes leading up to that point had been anything but pretty, but here the Broncos were, with the two-minute warning providing a moment to figure out the best way to salt away a three-point lead and end a five-game losing streak to the Raiders.

Third-and-10, ball at their own 34, Las Vegas drained of its timeouts.

What do you do? Run the ball and concede to likely punting, but milk 40-plus seconds off the clock before booting the ball away? Or put it in the air in an attempt to end the game with a first down, but also accept the risk of stopping the clock?

It’s the kind of situation NFL coaches face every week. It’s the kind of situation Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett likely had in mind when he addressed his team on Saturday night and told them he was handing play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak. It’s the kind of situation that determines games.

Since the opening two weeks of the season, Hackett and the Broncos have had plenty of issues to be sure, but he had smoothed out his game management operation at least. When this first stress test arrived for his newly organized offensive staff on Sunday afternoon, however, it cracked, and the Raiders gladly played the beneficiary in a 22-16 overtime win.

The trouble started when the Broncos decided to put the ball in the air on that third-and-10.

“You’ve got to keep the clock running one way or another,” Hackett said, though the play called made that more difficult. …  “We communicated that we wanted to be able to take a shot down the field and we knew what kind of coverage they were going to be in, but if something happened in the pocket or anything like that, that’s one of those situations where you can take a sack or you can just run the ball. But we obviously didn’t want the clock to stop in that situation.”

Anything but an incompletion was fine.

Quarterback Russell Wilson rolled to his right and eventually fired toward undrafted wide receiver Jalen Virgil, who was covered and working back toward Wilson along the right sideline. The ball sailed out of bounds with 1:53 remaining.


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