It was obvious to anyone with eyes and ears that the honeymoon for Russell Wilson in Denver has ended.
Those boos cascading from the stands every time another Broncos offensive series ended in failure could be heard on Amazon’s national streaming broadcast.
And those fans leaving the stadium even when the Broncos were tied with the Indianapolis Colts and going into overtime? It was a perfect visual for the confidence in the hometown quarterback leaving the building.
Russell Wilson Offense Fails To Score A Touchdown
The troubling thing is Wilson couldn’t quiet the dissent or change anyone’s mind. In fact, he and his team found a way to turn an apparent win into a stunning and disappointing 12-9 loss.
“It’s very simple, at the end of the day I have to be better,” a defeated Wilson, still wearing his uniform a good 20 minutes after the game, told reporters. “I have to play better … Throwing two interceptions can’t happen. It can’t happen. You know, I let the team down tonight but the good thing is the one thing I know about myself is I’m going to respond. I don’t know any other way.”
This is a vintage Wilson statement. He is optimistic to a fault. He believes in himself. And he’s never met a tough moment that he didn’t think would soon pass.
So the Broncos have that. But they need the full version of the vintage Wilson experience.
And that must include the part where he makes big plays. Where he avoids major mistakes. And where he takes the game that is put in his hands and delivers a win.
Wilson failed on all three Thursday night.
Understand that Wilson could not engineer a touchdown drive all night. And when given a chance to deliver a potential knockout score with only two minutes to play, Wilson threw one of his two interceptions in the end zone.
“Just can’t throw that,” Wilson admitted. “You got to throw it out of bounds if it’s not there.”
Wilson’s Biggest Mistake Of The Night
But that wasn’t Wilson’s biggest mistake or the play that ultimately gave Indy the victory. That came with 2:39 left in overtime with the Broncos facing a fourth-and-1 situation at the Colts’ 5-yard line.
Rather than kick a game-tying field goal or run the football, Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett put the game in Wilson’s hands.
“I think coach made a good call,” Wilson said. “I got to find a way to make a play whatever it takes.”
For context you may recall in the season-opener the rookie coach decided not to give his starting quarterback the chance to throw for a potential victory. Instead, Denver attempted a long field goal that wasn’t good, resulting in a loss.
Hackett the next day admitted he’d go a different direction if given another chance. That came Thursday night.
“I wanted to put the ball in Russell’s hands,” Hackett said. “Called a play that we know he really likes and it didn’t work.”
It didn’t work because Wilson wanted to throw to Courtland Sutton and he never came open. K.J. Hamler, working off a rub on the other side of the field, came wide open on a slant to the goal line.
But Wilson never looked toward Hamler and instead forced the ball to Sutton.
“It starts with me. It’s not on Coach Hackett, it’s not on anybody else,” Wilson said. “He’s calling some really good plays. I have to be able to make the plays. I got to be able to hit it, get that first down, this and that, whatever it is.
“It’s disappointing tonight … I felt like I let us down, obviously.”
And this is the part where everyone remembers the Broncos paid dearly to have Russell Wilson deliver in this very situation. They traded two first-round and two second-round picks and three players to acquire Wilson and then they signed him to a $245 million contract.
That kind of investment demands greatness in situations such as the ones Wilson faced this game. So his failure and the team’s 2-3 record has folks outside the organization wondering if the return is worth it all.
Wilson’s Plan To Make It All Better
Russell Wilson knows this. And promises he’s going to attack it the only way he knows.
“We should have won that game. We should have won it and like I said, it’s on me,” he said. “But the one thing that I know is I’ve gone through tough times before and gone through obstacles, gone through challenges, gone through highs, gone through lows. A lot of highs. Lot of highs. Several lows. But no one’s ever going to get me discouraged — ever.
“That’s what I know. That’s what I believe. That’s all I’ve ever known. There’s so much opportunity and I always look at the opportunity not the negativity part of it all. And so I’m grateful to be out there tonight and battle … Like I said, I let us down, but I know I’m a winner. I’m a battler. And I’m going to keep going, keep believing.”
Yes, strong. And it came with a kicker that felt like both a promise and a prediction.
I’m looking forward to turning it around,” Wilson said, “because when we do it’s going to be a special story.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero