ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — By sitting Russell Wilson, Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett demonstrated he’s in charge of the team. He also proved he’s at fault for Denver’s odious offense.
The Broncos are 2-5 despite holding opponents to fewer than 16.4 points per game. They’re the first team in NFL history with a losing record while allowing fewer than 17 points a game through Week 7.
In what may prove the best decision of his rocky rookie season in Denver, Hackett held out his $245 million quarterback against his wishes because of a strained hamstring.
Wilson wore a smile and a headset on the sideline Sunday in support of Brett Rypien, who made his second career start.
Hackett? He was dialing up a whopping 46 passes for his backup QB in a one-score game.
The result was another close loss, a 16-9 gut-wrencher to the New York Jets that once again had fuming fans streaming to the exits in the closing minutes. This time it happened with the Broncos taking over at their 25-yard line and down seven with 4 1/2 minutes left.
The Broncos have now lost by 1, 9, 3, 3 and 7 points.
“I’m just sick of being right there,” defensive lineman Mike Purcell said. “We keep saying, ‘You know, we’re right there, it’s gonna turn around, it’s gonna turn around.’ But to be honest, (forget) that. We’ve gotta turn it around. I feel people are just waiting for it to turn around.”
Hackett said at halftime when the Broncos trailed by a point that they needed to keep running the ball. But he didn’t follow his own advice: Rypien threw 28 times and handed it off seven times in the second half.
Rypien’s first six snaps in the third quarter were passes and he threw on the Broncos’ final 15 snaps of the game, completing seven of them.
“We wanted to come out there and run the ball and then sometimes situation determines that you go to a couple of passes to try to get some chunks and so forth,” Hackett said Monday.
“But yeah, I mean, in the end, we’ve got to execute better. We ended up running the ball a little bit and I think that fourth quarter we started going up-tempo. That’s where a lot of the passes are starting to show up there at the end,” Hackett said.
Rypien’s eight misfires in those final 15 plays included a heave into the end zone on fourth-and-3 at the Jets 25 that Sauce Gardner kept away from Courtland Sutton and another to the goal line that didn’t come close to KJ Hamler on fourth-and-10 from the Jets 49 with 30 seconds remaining.
Both of those fourth-down go-for-it-all attempts continued a season-long trend of head-scratching calls by Hackett in the closing minutes or overtime.
The Broncos haven’t scored a touchdown after halftime since Oct. 3 and their offense has scored just three points in the third quarter all season.
With his offense playing so poorly and his defense playing so well, Hackett is trying to keep his team from cracking.
“It starts with me getting up in front of the team and holding everybody accountable, including myself and the coaches,” Hackett said. “I always believe that where communication lacks, negativity fills the void. As long as we keep that communication open at all times, I think that will always keep everybody together so we can band together and get ourselves out of this hole and get us out of this losing streak.”
Denver’s defense, which has held six opponents under 20 points.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
The halftime adjustments, which are only making things worse. In 20 drives after halftime over the last three games, the Broncos have two field goals, a missed field goal, two interceptions, three turnovers on downs and 12 punts.
Hackett said after the game that he’d look at everything to kickstart his stagnant offense when asked if he’d consider relinquishing play-calling duties. But on Monday he said, “Right now, in a short week, we’re going to keep the status quo.”
Patrick Surtain II continues to show he’s worthy of being called the best cornerback in the NFL.
Receiver Courtland Sutton failed to block his guy on a screen pass for the second straight week and this time it got Jerry Jeudy clobbered.
“All of them are going to miss some time,” Hackett said of the three players who got hurt Sunday: OLB Baron Browning (hip), RT Cam Fleming (thigh) and RB Mike Boone (ankle).
8 — The number of touchdowns the Broncos have managed in seven games (five passing, three rushing).
The Broncos face the Jacksonville Jaguars in London in a matchup of 2-5 teams riding four-game losing streaks.
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