MERILATT MONDAY

Hackett and Wilson provide glimmer of hope because of one vital trait

Oct 31, 2022, 2:47 AM | Updated: 11:09 am
Russell Wilson...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

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With 3:54 to play in the game, the Broncos were trailing 17-14. Their lead had evaporated in London. Another heartbreaking loss seemed on the horizon.

Nathaniel Hackett was toast. The calls for the head coach’s head would be deafening after a 2-6 start and with the bye week on the horizon.

Russell Wilson was a laughingstock. The high-priced QB was about to lay another egg on national TV.

It was a make-or-break moment. For a head coach. For a quarterback. For a season.

And the Broncos answered the bell.

Wilson led Denver on a seven-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with the go-ahead, game-winning touchdown. With the season on the brink, the QB delivered.

So did the head coach. With his job potentially on the line, Hackett dialed up the play calls that mattered most, following up three-straight three-and-outs with the most-important TD drive on the season.

The Broncos still have a lot of problems, many of which were evident on Sunday against the Jaguars. But their head coach and quarterback demonstrating the clutch gene trumps all.

Yes, the Broncos need to clean up their penalties. They had 12 against the Jaguars, which will get a team beat on most weeks.

They need to start faster. Denver totaled 10 yards on their first four drives combined. That’s a good way to get into a huge hole early in a game.

And they need to get better at game management. The Broncos had a delay-of-game penalty on a kickoff, a testament to how poorly they pay attention to details as a team.

All of those things are troubling, but they’re also fixable. Denver can address them during their bye week and beyond.

A team can’t coach clutch, however. Not in their staff. Not in their most-important player.

That’s why Sunday’s win was so important. At 3-5, the Broncos season was far from saved. They still have a lot of ground to make up. But it did offer hope.

Russell Wilson can make plays when it matters most. Unlike a week ago, when Brett Rypien has no shot in two late possessions to save the day, the future Hall of Fame quarterback made it happen. He got the TD drive when it was needed.

That’s a continuation of a pattern. Wilson delivered late against the 49ers. He got his team back into the game against the Raiders. And he had them on the brink in overtime against the Colts. In five out of his seven games as a Bronco, Wilson made plays late.

That’s also a sign that Nathaniel Hackett can dial up the offense when it’s need most. Despite early season struggles, many of which carried over on Sunday, the head coach showed that he can call plays when they matter most.

Does that erase all that’s gone wrong during the first half is the season? Nope. But it does provide hope.

Maybe Wilson isn’t cooked. Perhaps he can still play like a franchise quarterback.

And maybe Hackett isn’t in over his head. Maybe he can push the right buttons at the right times.

Those two discoveries make the rest of the regular season matter. They set the stage for a final nine games that can be productive, entertaining and meaningful.

The Broncos have a good defense. They just needed their offense to be competent.

On Sunday, they were that and then some. When it mattered most, they were great.

Maybe the Broncos can fix their other problems during the bye week. Perhaps they can correct the things that have cost them in close game this season.

If they do, things can turn around. Why? Because the Broncos have something that is hard to find.

They’re clutch. And that’s something to build upon.

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Hackett and Wilson provide glimmer of hope because of one vital trait