ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On Sunday, trailing 24-21 with 41 seconds left in the game against the New York Jets, the Denver Broncos had the ball on their own 41-yard line with one timeout and an opportunity to win or at least tie the game in their grasp.
The game, and all likelihood their shot at making the playoffs, literally slipped out of their grasp.
A second after the ball was snapped, Jets’ linebacker Quincy Williams exploded past the Broncos’ right side of the offensive line untouched as right tackle Mike McGlinchey had his hands full with Jets’ defensive lineman Will McDonald IV. Wilson noticed the pressure and took off, sprinting to the left sideline to escape the pressure.
However, Wilson wasn’t able to outrun Williams as he knocked the ball free and the Broncos watched the Jets pick it up, take it to the house and all but end the game.
As Wilson walked to the Broncos’ sideline and took off his helmet, Sean Payton was caught by the CBS broadcast seemingly yelling, pointing and questioning what happened. On Monday morning, “animated” was the word used by a reporter when asking Payton about the exchange with Wilson.
“I don’t think I was that animated,” Payton stated. “It wasn’t as big of an exchange or big deal I think maybe as some may have thought.”
With Wilson and Payton’s relationship and future questioned for months, this clip of Payton seemingly angry at his quarterback went viral. On NFL on ESPN’s YouTube page, the video was titled: “Sean Payton lays into Russell Wilson after sack-fumble.”
After downplaying the importance of the clip, Payton explained what was said in the heat of the moment.
“I just wanted to make sure he knew the linebacker was a free-rusher,” the head coach shared.
That was the final cherry on top of a frustrating and difficult second half for the Broncos, specifically in the passing game.
“The particular play you’re discussing at the end of the game was a five-man protection and so we’re hot off the weak side linebacker,” Payton added.
That was Wilson’s fourth sack on the game, the team’s third turnover—all of which happened to be fumbles—and it solidified the Broncos’ fourth loss of the season.
Protecting Wilson had also been a problem throughout the game. On Monday, the head coach pointed out a few reasons why.
“We were in some longer yardage situations,” Payton said. “I thought we could have been a little stronger at tackle. The pocket got collapsed a few times. He made some things happen, and yet with the zone coverage we were seeing, those immediate throws or progressions were slower because of the coverage. So cleaning that up and understanding where we are in the pocket, I think is going to be important. We’re going to periodically play a team that decides to be a little bit more coverage driven. We saw it at Chicago actually, and we’re going to have to offset that, A, with the running game, but also with our ability to attack that coverage.”
Wilson’s fumble capped off a dismal half for the Broncos as they saw their halftime lead evaporate and the offense go ice cold. In the second half, Denver only had 125 yards of offense, including 27 yards on the final drive of the game when the Jets were playing prevent defense.
“Certainly, we’ve had better or faster starts offensively in the first half and we haven’t in the second half. That has to improve,” Payton said about Denver’s second-half offense. “Yesterday, it was really the tale of two halves. Collectively, we did a lot of things well in the first half. We didn’t score like we had hoped, then the second half comes out, we struggle offensively, defensively we give up the big run, and all of a sudden, we’re in one of these close games. Putting four quarters together is obviously one of the things I made a note of this morning.”
Putting four quarters together on both sides of the ball will be absolutely crucial as the Broncos head to Kansas City to play the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.