The Denver Broncos beat the Houston Texans 16-9 on Sunday.
But it wasn’t pretty. A series of game management errors drew boos from the Denver crowd in rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s home debut. Then, in a remarkable twist, the home crowd, frustrated by repeated delay-of-game penalties, counted down the final seconds of the game clock as the minutes ticked away — while Denver had the ball.
Before the countdown came the boos
Broncos fans’ frustrations began to boil over late in the third quarter. With Denver trailing 9-6 with 3:41 left in the third, Hackett elected to punt on fourth-and-2 from Houston’s 36-yard line instead of going for the first down.
But the Broncos were slow to set up the kick as Hackett decided what to do in a situation where He called for a fourth bet. (Sound familiar?) The refs whistled the Broncos for delay of game and ended up punting instead of attempting a 59-yard field goal after the five-yard penalty.
That’s when boos rained down from the Denver crowd. Again, this was Hackett’s home debut. The series that caused the disapproval can be seen in the video below:
This all followed a run by tight end Andrew Beck on a third-and-inch pick that went for a loss and forced the unfortunate fourth-down series. It was the second transfer 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, they had two all of last season under coach Vic Fangio.
Missed timeouts add to Hackett’s woes
The Broncos rallied for the win, but there was more troubling game management from the Denver side on Sunday that will only heighten the criticism surrounding Hackett after just his second game as an NFL head coach.
Denver burned its last two timeouts in situations it shouldn’t have needed. 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 running back Montrell Washington didn’t get on the field in time for to put the point. Denver called a timeout to buy him time to do so.
The Broncos then burned their final offensive timeout with 7:38 left – on second and 16. As the game clock ticked down again, Denver wasn’t ready to line up, so Hackett called a timeout Broncos to avoid another delay of game penalty.
From that point on, Broncos fans helped the team count down.
The Seahawks loss benched Hackett for Sunday
Hackett took a lot of heat for the final moments of last week’s loss. In that game, he picked off a 64-yard attempt by Brandon McManus 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 his history NFL. McManus was predictably hit and the Broncos lost in front of a home crowd Monday night as Wilson watched from the sidelines in his return to Seattle.
So Broncos fans were ready to take their frustrations out on Hackett on Sunday. Trailing a Texans team that won four games last season in the third quarter didn’t help his cause.
Fortunately for Hackett, Wilson rallied from a 6-for-20 start for a strong finish, highlighted by a 22-yard touchdown pass to Eric Schaubert that proved to be the difference in the game.
After the game, even Broncos social media called it what it was.
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 coach.