Are the Broncos Back?
Updated: Oct 19
As the 2022 NFL season begins, the anticipation for Broncos football is higher
than it’s been in years. With nine time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson being
traded to Denver in March, it’s easy to see why there is so much excitement for a team
that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2015 season. With the Broncos having eleven
starting quarterbacks since 2016, Wilson brings to the table what hasn’t been had in
Denver since hall of famer Peyton Manning’s retirement, competent quarterback play.
Many fans and analysts would tell you that having at least an above average QB has
been Denver’s biggest drawback during their current playoff drought. After adding what
seems to have been the missing piece to the puzzle, the Broncos should be right back
in the playoff hunt for the 2022 season.
On top of the addition of Wilson, the Broncos have also made some additions to
higher-up positions within the franchise. Shortly before the blockbuster trade for Wilson,
Denver filled another hole on their team by hiring former Packers offensive coordinator
Nathaniel Hackett to be their head coach. After parting ways with the not-so-fan favorite
Vic Fangio, Hackett’s hiring is just another asset to building onto the anticipation of the
2022 season. With a new head coach taking the reins, Denver is destined for success
through a new game plan. Another major piece that the Broncos have added is a new
ownership group, taking control of the team. Chairman of Walmart, Rob Walton has
bought the team in a well-renowned leadership group. This group includes noteworthy
names such as Mellody Hobson, Condoleezza Rice, and Lewis Hamilton. With a net-
worth of $57.6 billion, Walton is now the richest owner in the NFL, bringing a security to
the franchise that has not been present since previous owner Pat Bowlen was
diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 and later passing away in 2019, leaving a
void in the team’s ownership for years.
After the week one contest vs. the Seahawks, the excitement over Denver’s
season was tampered with a disappointing 17-16 loss. The Broncos got off to a slow
start, trailing 17-13 at half and failed to score more than 3 points in the second half,
despite having many opportunities to find the end zone. On consecutive drives, running
backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams fumbled at the goal line, which was the
difference between a 30-17 lead and continuing to trail throughout the second half.
Russell Wilson was strong, throwing for 340 yards and a touchdown, but his lead of the
offense was still not enough to take advantage of Seattle’s scoreless second half. On
top of poor first half defense and an inability to score touchdowns, the Broncos also took
a whopping 12 penalties for 106 yards, which did not help. Despite many woes, the
game still came down to the final drive, where Denver had an opportunity to win it late. It
came down to the final play in which head coach Nathaniel Hackett decided to send
kicker Brandon Mcmanus out to attempt a 64 yard field goal, opting not to go for it on
4th and 5. The decision turned out to be costly, as Mcmanus missed the kick wide to the
left, leaving the Broncos in disappointment. Hackett’s late-game decisions have been
widely criticized since the loss, with Peyton Manning even expressing his confusion for
Hackett’s clock management during the “Manningcast” on ESPN 2, jokingly calling
timeouts for Denver during their final drive, as the clock continued to run out. After
Monday’s disappointment, fans had to put their excitement aside for the next game
against the Houston Texans.
Following the loss, the Broncos came out slow on the offensive side of the ball,
continuing their main issues from before. Despite multiple trips to the red zone, Denver
failed to find the end zone and had to settle for two field goals in the first half, entering
halftime tied 6-6. The third quarter entailed a continuation of the Broncos’ sloppy ways,
as they were stalled on offense and more questionable play calls by Nathaniel Hackett
kept them that way. With boos raining from the stands, the crowd had begun to voice
their displeasure with how the team was operating. In a sarcastic response to ongoing
struggles with calling plays on time, the fans even began to count down the play clock to
let the offense know how much time they had to snap the ball. Late in the fourth quarter,
Russell Wilson was finally able to lead the offense to a touchdown, finding tight end Eric
Saubert on a 35 yard pass. Thanks to that score and the defense remaining stout, the
Broncos held on to a 16-9 win, which still left more questions than answers about how
this team will operate from here forward.
In their next game against the 49ers, a similar theme was the story of the day.
The offense remained dormant, as they struggled to find a groove and only came away
with 11 points. Punter Corliss Waitman’s name was called much more than fans would
have desired, kicking the ball away 10 times for an average of 47.6 yards. Although the
offensive struggles continued, Denver’s defense had yet another incredible
performance, forcing 3 turnovers, two of which coming on the 49ers’ final two drives, to
seal an 11-10 win. Including the turnovers, the Broncos’ defense was able to put two
points on the board, as San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo stepped out of the
back of the end zone, resulting in a safety. The 49ers may have even gotten a bit lucky
that Garoppolo had stepped out of bounds because Bradley Chubb intercepted his pass
and ran it back for a touchdown that would not count on the same play. With yet another
win thanks to the defense, the Broncos are now on a two game winning streak and
hope to keep that going next week in Las Vegas when they take on the Raiders.
With a disappointing loss followed by two sloppy, low-scoring wins, it is still too
early to determine if the Broncos are for real this year. If Russell Wilson can lead the
offense to pick it up as the defense looks to be among the top in the league, Denver can
be a strong playoff team, but it will be difficult to continue winning games in the manner
that they have been for a 17 game season. We did see them win a Super Bowl 6 years
ago solely because of an elite defense carrying a below average offense, but there is a
long way to go before the Broncos can prove that they are back to their contending
ways for certain.