With less than three minutes left in overtime, trailing by three points, Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett had a decision to make. He could kick a field goal to tie the game or go for it on fourth-and-1 to try for the win. He has already been ripped up and down for his decisions early in his first season.
Hackett went for it on fourth down. It was the right call. The problem is his offense, particularly his quarterback, aren't good enough right now to pick up a yard.
Russell Wilson had time on fourth down but his throw to the end zone was batted down. That was the end of the game, thankfully. Wilson was bad all night and the final play summed it all up. The Colts won 12-9 in overtime, though they can't feel great about themselves either.
The Colts took the first possession of OT downfield, after a long night of not being able to move the ball much, and got a field goal to take the lead. The Broncos had a shot after that. Wilson, who threw an interception late in the fourth quarter when Denver was in field-goal range, almost redeemed himself. A long pass to Jerry Jeudy got the Broncos deep in Colts territory. But the Broncos couldn't pick up that final fourth down, after they trusted Wilson to convert it instead of calling a run play. Wilson couldn't deliver.
Colts quarterback Matt Ryan and Wilson are having miserable starts to the season. There was excitement for both joining new teams in the offseason, but that has evaporated in a steady stream of turnovers and three-and-outs. The Colts were probably happy to be on the road. The Broncos had to endure boos from the home fans all night. With overtime coming up, the broadcast showed several fans leaving. It was hard to blame them.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) October 7, 2022
In the fourth quarter Amazon Prime Video flashed a weird and telling stat: Never before in NFL history had each starting quarterback made at least four Pro Bowl selections but neither team scored a touchdown. So there was some history made Thursday night.
At least Ryan and the Colts got the win. It's going to be a long week in Denver for Wilson and the Broncos, who have to be very concerned about how their prized new acquisition has played through five games.
Both offenses had a rough night
In the first half it seemed Ryan was getting hit every time he dropped back. The line was bad and he held the ball too long. On one play in which he actually had time, he threw an interception right to safety Caden Sterns. Indianapolis didn't score until the final minute of the first half.
And Ryan was still the better quarterback in the game, somehow. Wilson had 69 yards and a 63.1 passer rating at the half. The Broncos didn't have a pass play longer than 14 yards before halftime. Their final ratings: Ryan at 60.1, Wilson 54.9. It was a rough game for both sides.
There were seven punts and no touchdowns on the teams' 11 first-half possessions, not counting the Broncos kneeling it to end the half. Then the Broncos started the second half with a quick three-and-out, confirming that the second half wasn't going to be much better.
Everyone was getting their jokes off on Twitter, including former NFL coach and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
I think both team should consider punting on 1st down.
— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) October 7, 2022
The sequence that summed up the game: The Broncos had a short field goal blocked, Ryan immediately threw another interception right to Sterns and with great field position Wilson threw three straight incompletions. At least that Broncos' field-goal attempt went through for a 9-6 lead.
Wilson's worst play came early in the fourth quarter. He had no clarity on a play so he blindly heaved up a deep pass. It's the kind of throw from a quarterback who hadn't gotten anything going almost five full games into the season and was frustrated and pressing. Safety Rodney Thomas, a seventh-round rookie, camped under it like a center fielder waiting on an easy pop fly and he picked it off. Wilson was blocked hard on the play by linebacker Zaire Franklin and he went to the medical tent. Amazon Prime Video showed the independent neurologist and spotters checking out video of the hit, but Wilson wasn't taken out of the game.
Of course, on Wilson's next possession the Broncos went three-and-out.
Broncos finally go on a drive
The Broncos had a chance to put the game away in regulation. They were in field-goal range after some nice runs. They led 9-6. Another field goal would have put them up 12-6 and forced the Colts to score a touchdown. But on third-and-four the Broncos decided to pass. Wilson threw to the end zone, late and behind his receiver, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore picked it off. The Broncos would have been better off taking a knee or just kicking a field goal on third down. They shouldn't trust the offense or Wilson to do anything right now. Hackett should have known better than to do anything but set up a field goal.
It was unspeakably bad for Wilson, the former Seattle Seahawks star. That's how it has looked most of the season.
The Colts suddenly showed signs of life on offense after Wilson's awful interception. The Colts got to the 8-yard line but took a delay-of-game penalty on third down. Ryan threw incomplete and the Colts made a game-tying field goal. Most fans watching at home probably wanted a merciful end to the game, but it continued.
The Colts won the coin toss to start overtime. They kept their bit of momentum going from the fourth quarter. They got a field goal. Then the Colts got the defensive stop they needed on the final play.
The game was a rough one in other ways for the Broncos, who have already had injury issues. Pass rusher Baron Browning hurt his wrist in the fourth quarter. Later in the quarter, left tackle Garett Bolles was carted off after his right leg was rolled up on. On Sunday, Denver lost running back Javonte Williams to the season due to a knee injury and pass rusher Randy Gregory for multiple weeks with a knee injury. The Broncos were already playing poorly and now injuries are piling up.
On Monday night in Week 6, the Broncos face the Los Angeles Chargers. Yes, another prime-time game for the unwatchable Broncos. It better improve for the Broncos' offense fast, or they might have some buyer's remorse on their new quarterback. If they don't already.