The Denver Broncos defeated the Houston Texans 16-9 on Sunday.
But it wasn’t pretty. A series of managerial miscues prompted a standing ovation from the Denver crowd in rookie Nathaniel Hackett’s home opener. Then, in a remarkable event, the home crowd, frustrated by repeated delay-of-match penalties, counted down the final seconds of the game clock in the waning minutes — and Denver had the ball.
Before the countdown, the boos came
Broncos fans’ frustrations began to boil over later in the third quarter. With Denver trailing 9-6 with 3:41 left in the third, Hackett opted to attempt a field goal on fourth-and-2 from the Houston 36-yard line rather than go for a first down.
But the Broncos were slow to settle the kick as Hackett decided what to do in the situation known for fourth down gambling. (Sound familiar?) Officials whistled the Broncos for delay of game, and ended up punting rather than attempting a 59-yard field goal after the five-yard penalty.
That’s when the boos rained down from the Denver crowd. Again, this was Hackett’s home start. The sequence that prompted the boos can be seen in the video below:
All this was after a run from tight end Andrew Beck on a third-and-inch option that went for a loss and forced the ill-fated fourth down sequence. It was the second carry of his career. His first went for three yards in 2019.
The delay-of-game penalty was Denver’s third this season including last week’s road loss to the Seattle Seahawks. According to CBS, there were two of them last season under head coach Vic Fangio.
Time wasting adds to Hackett’s woes
The Broncos rallied for the win, but there was more troubling game management from Denver on Sunday that will only intensify the criticism of Hackett after his second game as an NFL head coach.
Denver burned the last two timeouts in situations they shouldn’t have. With 9:55 left in the game and Denver leading 16-9, the Broncos forced the Texans to punt on fourth-and-14 from the Denver 45. But quarterback Montrell Washington didn’t catch the field in time to field the punt. . Denver asked for a timeout to buy him time to do that.
Then the Broncos burned the final timeout on offense with 7:38 left – on second and 16. As the play clock ticked down again, Denver wasn’t ready to play, so Hackett called the timeout time left by the Broncos to avoid another penalty.
From that point on, Broncos fans helped the team out with the clock counting down.
The Seahawks loss set Hackett up for Sunday
Hackett took a lot of heat for the final moments of last week’s loss. In that game, he picked off Brandon McManus’ 64-yard field goal attempt with the game on the line instead of allowing Wilson to attempt a first down on fourth-and-5. Only two field goals of that distance have ever been converted in NFL history. McManus probably lost, and the Broncos lost in front of a great crowd Monday night as Wilson watched from the sidelines as he returned to Seattle.
So Broncos fans were eager to take their frustrations out on Hackett on Sunday. It didn’t help his cause with the Texans team that won four games last season in the third quarter.
Thankfully for Hackett, Wilson rallied from a 6-of-20 passing start for a strong finish, highlighted by a 22-yard touchdown pass to Eric Saubert that was the difference in the game.
After the game, even Broncos social media called it that.
The win obviously helps the Broncos in the standings. But Sunday’s effort did little to comfort fans worried about Hackett’s readiness to become an NFL head coach.