Stukes says pivotal punt muff ‘can’t happen’ backs Washington, Locke

Oct 20, 2022, 12:42 PM
Montrell Washington, P.J. Locke...
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos should’ve had one more chance to win their Week 6 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, but a costly turnover gave their AFC West foes a chip shot field goal for the win.

With under five minutes to go in overtime, the Chargers were punting back to the Broncos after Denver’s defense had come through with a second straight three-and-out. Russell Wilson should’ve had a third shot to give the Broncos an overtime win. Instead of a Wilson game-winning drive, he never got onto the field. Montrell Washington and P.J. Locke muffed the punt.

Locke was blocked into Washington, who couldn’t handle the ball, and the Chargers were able to jump on it. A few players later, they kicked the field goal for the win.

“I’ve been going through a lot of stuff as far as the last three days reliving that play and watching play, so I’ll put it like this; there has to be better communication, there has to be better awareness,” Broncos special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes said. “The punt was punted straight up in the air. It was probably four or five seconds of hangtime. We just got to do a better job making decisions, and we got to do a better job as far as knowing where the returner is.”

Stukes explained further that it was such a good punt, both high and long, that it confused what exactly should’ve been said.

“You can yell, ‘Peter, Peter, Peter,’ and all that type of stuff, but usually Peter is signaling that it’s a short punt; that punt was 50 yards,” he said. “Our guys had to have a mental clock in their head to say, ‘Oh, the ball has been in the air for a long period of time. I definitely can’t be in front of the punt returner when he’s catching his ball.'”

More interesting is Stukes going to bat for the two players who made the error.

“Now you’re talking about two of our best special teams players that made a mistake,” the coach said. “It wasn’t like it was somebody who just inserted in there. So again, I’m not going to beat that player up. It’s something that we can learn from absolutely. It’s something that I hope doesn’t happen in the future. I’m going to do my best to coach those guys like I’ve been doing. And we got to get that correct. It can’t happen again.”

The rookie returner muffed and recovered a punt earlier in the ballgame and has made several other errors this year. On Opening Night, he didn’t take the field in Seattle in time for the snap, which cost the Broncos a timeout, but he also may have made a great play since there would’ve been too many men on the field. Washington also bobbled a ball last week against the Colts.

“I’m not stressing that the first one was at the end of the half, and he was shaking, and all this type of stuff, and somebody came from behind and pushed the ball out,” Stukes said.”He got a mulligan on that one. Right. The first one in this game; he wanted to return the ball before he caught it. He knows better than that. We talked about it all the time. The most important thing that we need to do is catch the ball and safely give it back to the offense. So he needs to catch the ball and not look up the field. Because if you go back and look at that return, there were yards to be had on that particular return. Right? He just tried to run before he caught the ball. We can’t do that, and it’s been addressed.”

Washington blamed himself after the game for the second muff.

“He’s done a great job protecting the ball besides those two instances, so I’m not going to beat Montrell up; you got to encourage him to get back to what he was doing versus Las Vegas.”



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