LONDON — After a week in London filled with questions about Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett’s future and what was wrong with Russell Wilson, Hackett felt it was time to look into his quarterback’s eyes.
After the Broncos’ offense, which entered Sunday last in the league in scoring, opened the game with a lackluster three-and-out, Wilson ended the team’s second possession by throwing an interception on just his second pass attempt of the day.
“First quarter, that was a hot start,” Hackett said, tongue firmly planted in cheek, after the Broncos’ 21-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium. “We come out and go three and out and we throw a pick on the second [pass] play. That comes to that pressing, to people wanting to make things happen instead of operating and not trying to do too much.
“I talked with Russell, told him to take a breath, breathe, just do what he does. And as we kind of came into this game … we were able to [make] some efficient plays for him, and that’s how he was able to start feeling that groove.”
The Broncos (3-5) and Wilson did indeed rebound, driving 80 yards for the deciding touchdown with less than two minutes left to erase a 10-0 second-quarter deficit, snap their four-game losing streak and turn down the criticism thermostat — at least going into the bye week.
Wilson finished 18-of-30 for 252 yards with a touchdown as the Broncos scored more than 16 points for just the second time this season. It also was the first time they topped 16 points in a victory. The offense also put together a nine-play, 98-yard drive for its first third-quarter touchdown of the season, and Wilson led the game-winning drive that was capped off by Latavius Murray‘s 2-yard touchdown run.
Hackett has said throughout the offense’s balky start this season that he believed players were pressing at times as the difficulties piled up. And he said after Sunday’s game it was the first time, given Wilson’s interception came so early in the game, he felt he needed to take his quarterback’s temperature after a mistake.
“We hadn’t had something like that happen to us that early and that quick … just went up to him and just tried to explain, ‘Take what they give you, don’t force it,”’ Hackett said. “And he looked, and he had a big smile on his face. You learn a lot about a quarterback when they throw a pick, especially early. I’ve had some quarterbacks that go into the tank, and I’ve had some quarterbacks say, ‘I got that out of the way.’ He was able to rebound and come back and make some plays.”
“You know, sometimes guys make a play,” Wilson said. “Trust our defense, just keep balling, and just find a way to make some plays. Any time something negative happens, it’s how you respond.”
The Broncos did finish with 12 penalties and the Jaguars did pound out 191 rushing yards — the second-highest total the Broncos have surrendered this season behind the Raiders’ 212 in Week 4. Travis Etienne Jr. finished with 156 of those yards, including a 49-yard run in the second quarter. But the Broncos held Trevor Lawrence to 133 passing yards and intercepted him twice, once in the end zone by Justin Simmons and one by K’Waun Williams with 1:36 left to seal the win.
“With the losing streak, it was good to see [the offense] hold it down,” Broncos defensive end Dre’Mont Jones said. “They helped us out more this game than we helped them out.”