Broncos’ Russell Wilson era remains a dud. What’s new ownership’s plan to fix it?

DENVER — As Patrick Surtain II prepared to turn around at his locker and face the waves of cameras and microphones waiting next to him, teammate Justin SimmonsThe young cornerback was seated nearby and offered his help to anyone who was waiting to make inquiries.

“It’s never on one guy!”Simmons shouted. “Let’s remember that when we start asking our questions.”

The veteran safety principle is correct. One player, coach, or executive can lead a team to these dark places alone.

Yes. Broncos lose to Raiders in overtime on Sunday22-16, after all receiver Davante Adams worked his way past the Broncos’ young star defensive back to catch the winning, 35-yard touchdown pass. Surtain is the wrong person to blame for the loss.

Losses like Sunday’s — Denver’s sixth in a row to the Raiders and its 16th defeat in its past 21 AFC West games — are owed to a faulty foundation. The Broncos lost six of their seven previous games and fell to a poor football team at home. ReallyBad football teams do. They wasted precious momentum by throwing a goal-line fumble at Melvin Gordon II at halftime. This was a well-known mistake by veteran Melvin Gordon II. They did it by making an incomplete pass on third and 10, the first play after the two minute warning. However, they were able to score three points against an opponent who was out of timeouts. They did it by failing to have an answer in a game’s pivotal moment.

“It hurts. I don’t know what else to say,”Simmons stated. “It sucks.”

The 2022 season is a mess and cannot be fixed in time for the playoff party. Although the Broncos are mathematically not eliminated, a seventh consecutive season of no postseason appearances is almost certain. It seems that a sixth consecutive losing campaign is a certain bet.

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The focus now turns squarely to the team’s Walton-Penner family ownership group, which paid $4.65 billion to purchase the franchise last summer and couldn’t have imagined a start like this. Greg Penner, the CEO and co-owner of the team, talked about being excited to hear that the team had acquired quarterback. Russell Wilson. He spoke glowingly about George Paton, general manager.“one of the sharpest GMs in the business”), head coach Nathaniel Hackett (“dynamic”With “incredible energy”) and the partnership they could form with the quarterback.

“We just can’t wait to get going,”He said it then. “and kick off a winning season.”

What a difference three-months can make.

We still don’t know how Penner and his team will navigate the mess that they have inherited. How frail is their patience after seeing their team fail to score 20 for the seventh consecutive season? How strong is their hatred for the culture of loss they now oversee? And what will that mean for how they approach this offseason — or perhaps the moves that come before that point?

The loss Sunday did little to quiet the storm of criticism around Hackett, and that’s where the ownership decisions will begin. The coach’s decision to relinquish play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak before Sunday’s game was a sign of his willingness to pull any string he can to help the Broncos find any traction on offense, but the end result was Denver’s eighth game this season with one or fewer touchdowns scored.

“I have to look at myself first to see if there’s something that I can do to give some kind of spark to the offense,”Hackett stated this in explaining the play-calling decisions. “So I thought it would be good if I stepped away from that, let Klint get upstairs to be able to see it from a bird’s-eye view up in the box and see if that would help us. I thought that would help us, and I wanted to be sure I had that opportunity to give that to him.”


Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, right, gave up play-calling duties before Sunday’s loss. (Justin Edmonds / Getty Images)

The change seemed to produce quick results. The Broncos scored their opening-drive touchdown Sunday with a seven-play, nine-yard drive that was built on a quick passing game. Wilson completed 24 of 31 passes, his most accurate game this season. After his first targets had been covered, Wilson quickly passed the ball to outlet receivers to give them space to make plays. On their first three drives, the Broncos scored 11 first downs.

“We were moving the ball,” tight end Greg Dulcich said.

The squeeze in a league with close games is always there, and the Broncos continue to wilt when it does. The Gordon fumble was his fifth of the season, and it came on the heels of a turnover that led directly to a Raiders touchdown during Denver’s Week 4 loss in Las Vegas. Though Denver recovered Gordon’s fumble Sunday, the miscue erased a prime touchdown chance at the end of the first half, one that would have given the Broncos a 17-7 lead. To make matters worse, Brandon McManus’ ensuing short field-goal attempt was blocked — a 14-play drive gone up in smoke.

The Broncos led 16-13 at the end of the fourth quarter. Latavious Murch ran 12 yards for Denver to give them a first down. It took less than three minutes. With 2:16 remaining, the Broncos took their next play. Murray ran for 1-yard loss, prompting the Raiders’ final timeout. Murray gained one yard on the second-and-11 to bring Denver to the two minute warning.

“We wanted to give ourselves a chance to be able to close the game out and win it,”Hackett explained the next step.

The Broncos, a team associated with the NFL’s second-worst third-down offense entering Week 11, attempted to win the game by converting a third-and-10 pass. Hackett stated that the discussion before the play included a reminder. “to keep the clock running one way or the other.”Wilson instead ran to his right when pressure came and fired a low percentage throw towards the sideline, which was intended for an undrafted rookie wide receiver. Jalen VirgilBut it was incomplete.

The Raiders, benefitting from the stopped clock, got the ball back with 1:43 left — “a lot of time,” as quarterback Derek Carr put it — and easily drove for the tying field goal. Carr hit Adams with the winning touchdown three plays into overtime.

“We get a first down, and the game is over,”Wilson said. “They kind of covered it up pretty good. I got out of the pocket, and Virgil was scrambling down. Thought I had him, but the ball went away a little bit.”

The scene was remarkably similar to one that occurred in Week 5’s loss to the team. ColtsWhen the Broncos took a first down in closing moments, leading by 3 points, Wilson threw an interception which gave the Colts the chance to drive for the tying field goal. The Broncos have a record of 0-3 in overtime. They are 3-6 in one score games. They can’t find a way.

It’s all been a bad loop over the past six seasons. Changes in the front office or to coaching staffs or at the quarterback position haven’t been able to interrupt it.

That’s why attention now turns firmly to an ownership group that never got to enjoy much of a honeymoon period.

(Top photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today)


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