Plenty of reasons for Broncos Country to question Hackett’s methods
The Bills played their starters. The Broncos didn’t. But that’s not why Saturday’s preseason game was a lopsided, embarrassing affair for Denver.
Yes, Josh Allen looked good. The star quarterback finished 3-for-3 for 45 yards and a touchdown in his limited action. But he didn’t beat the Broncos. It was Buffalo’s backups who dominated Denver.
Case Keenum, a one-time Broncos QB and Allen’s backup, torched his former team. The veteran finished the first half 16-of-18 for 192 yards and a touchdown. He guided three scoring drives in all, as the Bills had their way with Denver in the first half.
At intermission, Buffalo led 28-6. It felt like it was 56-0.
Matt Barkley picked up where Allen and Keenum left off. The Bills third-string QB was 7-for-8 for 65 yards and led two more TD drives.
In all, Buffalo scored a touchdown on their first six possessions. They led 42-9 at one point, en route to a 42-15 victory that wasn’t as close as that score would indicate.
The Bills did everything they wanted to do. They threw the ball with ease. They ran the ball through gaping holes. The averaged more than 10 yards per play in the first half.
Part of that was because the Broncos were playing backups. But most of the damage was done by the Bills second-team players. So there was no excuse for Denver’s poor performance.
Instead, the team needs to look in the mirror. Nathaniel Hackett needs to re-evaluate his team. And perhaps the new head coach needs to rethink his approach.
The Broncos looked flat. They had no energy. They weren’t flying around. And they go dominated in the trenches.
They also couldn’t tackle. Running backs repeatedly got to the second level before contact, where they would break free and run for big yardage.
While it’s impossible to pin all of that mess on the way Denver has gone about training camp, where they don’t hit much at all in practice and spend a lot of days going through “jog throughs,” it’s also hard not to connect the dots. The Broncos looked like a team that weren’t ready to play football on Saturday. That’s difficult to dispute.
Hackett has spoken openly about the fact that he dislikes the preseason. His team looked equally as disinterested in the exhibition game against Buffalo.
As a result, they got dominated. In every way, shape and form.
In the end, the final score doesn’t matter. But the fact that the Broncos showed so little pride, allowing the Bills to push them all over the field, is a cause for concern.
Denver looked like a team with no heart. They looked like they were totally fine with getting throttled on national television.
Up until this point, all has been good in Hackett’s first season. He’s a likable guy, providing a breath of fresh air on the heels of Vic Fangio. And his team has answered the bell, looking good against the Cowboys in a joint practice and the opening preseason game.
But the honeymoon is over. Hackett is facing his first test as a head coach.
His team was awful in their second preseason game. They got pushed around and played poorly, in all three phases.
What does Hackett do in response? Does he stick with his plan, trusting that he and his staff are on the right track? Or does he push the panic button and change things up, an admission that his offseason plan hasn’t been a good one?
If he stands pat and the Broncos play in their season opener like they did in Buffalo, they’ll get beat by the Seahawks. That’s not the kind of start Hackett wants, as it’ll get him off on the wrong foot with the Denver faithful.
But if he changes now, he’ll be admitting that the Broncos have wasted valuable time with re-gen days. That’ll cause his team to doubt Hackett and his staff.
Thus, the head coach has to stay the course. He needs to stick with the plan.
But it’s a gamble. Based on what was on display against the Bills, there are reasons to wonder if the Broncos are going to be ready to go on Sept. 12.
The honeymoon is over. It’s time to get it right.
Nathaniel Hackett is suddenly in hot water. Here’s hoping his plan is the right one.