In a game that was surprisingly devoid of touchdowns or horseplay, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Broncos 12-9 in overtime as Denver quarterback Russell Wilson and coach Nathaniel Hackett came up short once again on national television.
An ugly game that featured seven field goals, a dozen punts, 25 third-down stops, four interceptions and six fumbles that went unrecovered by the opposing defense could have mercifully come to an end before heading to OT after the Broncos converted on a fourth down deep in Indianapolis territory late in the final quarter. Following that conversion with 2:19 left to play and the Colts out of timeouts, the Broncos were facing third and four from the Indianapolis 13 while leading by three.
Conventional wisdom would dictate running the ball to potentially pick up a first down and, at the very least, getting to the two-minute warning with an opportunity to kick a field goal or go for it again on fourth down. Instead, Wilson threw into the end zone on third down and the ball was intercepted. Had the Broncos handled it differently and been forced to kick a field goal to go up by six points, the Colts would have had to go down the field with on timeouts in under two minutes and score a touchdown — something neither team did all night long.
Predictably, Indianapolis moved the ball well following the interception but was unable to punch it into the end zone and settled for a field goal to send the game to OT. The Colts then got another field goal in the extra session to give the ball back to the Broncos. Once again, Denver moved the ball well until getting stopped in the red zone, and once again, when decisions had to be made, Wilson and Hackett made the wrong choices.
Facing fourth and one just five yards from the Indianapolis end zone, the Broncos lined up as if they were going to go for it instead of kicking a field goal to tie. The team called timeout, lined up as if they were going to go for it again and then called a second timeout. Lining up at the five-yard line for the third time, this time in shotgun formation and clearly passing, the Broncos ran a play and Wilson threw an incompletion to Courtland Sutton in the end zone, giving the Colts the overtime victory.
It was a poor throw as Wilson had wide receiver K.J. Hamler wide open for a game-winning touchdown had he looked his way. It was also a bad call by Hackett, who said afterward that he “got the go to go for it,” presumably from Denver’s analytics team. (Been a lot of that going around lately.) Thanks to those bad decisions, the Broncos are now 2-3 instead of 2-2-1. In both the fourth quarter and overtime, Denver should have simply done what the Seahawks didn’t at the end of the Super Bowl against the Patriots when Wilson threw the most painful interception of his career: run the ball.
Just ask former Seahawk Richard Sherman.
“It’s on me,” Wilson, who is going to be in Denver for a long time no matter how he plays, said after the game. “The one thing I know is I’ve gone through tough times before, gone through obstacles, gone through challenges. Gone through highs and gone through lows, lot of highs, lot of highs. Several lows. No one’s ever going to get me discouraged — ever.”
Hackett, intentionally or not, is going to test that resolve. The good news for Wilson is that test may be over soon.