SEATTLE — There will be plenty of games still to come Russell Wilsonthe Denver Broncos career of.
But in his first start with his new team as well as his first return commitment to the city where he played his first 10 NFL seasons, the quarterback the Broncos traded five draft picks and three players for – the one they signed to $245 million. extension earlier this month — was the second pick with a season opener on the line.
Wilson’s stat line certainly looked the part in Monday night’s 17-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field. He finished the emotional evening 29-of-42 passing for 340 yards and a touchdown.
But with 20 seconds to play and trailing by one, Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett opted to have Brandon McManus attempt a 64-yard field goal for the win instead of letting Wilson try to lead a play on fourth-and-5 at the Seahawks’ 46-yard line.
“We were right on the line [of McManus’ range],” Hackett said. “… Brandon gave it his best shot … obviously I wish we would have gotten a lot closer, it put us in that weird spot because we were in that field goal range … we just made that decision and made ours. shot there.”
Wilson offered his take.
“We got the best field goal kicker maybe in the game,” Wilson said. “… We got there and unfortunately it didn’t go in … I believe in Coach Hackett, I believe in what we’re doing. , I believe in everything.”
As Wilson added, “I don’t think it was the wrong decision.”
McManus’ first attempt sailed wide left, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called a timeout just before the snap. Hackett said he didn’t consider sending the offense back on the field after the denied miss because “I was happy he got that one out of the way. We had a lot of distance and thought we could do it.”
Carroll said he was “surprised” the Broncos chose to kick.
“We weren’t thinking about a field goal there,” he said. “We thought it was fourth down and they still went. So it gave us a chance to win the game on that play. That was lucky there. Luckily they didn’t make the kick. He kicked the hell out of the ball. .”
McManus’ second attempt also sailed wide left, and a Seahawks quarterback Gene Smithwho won a training camp battle Drew Lock to win the job as Wilson’s successor, took a knee on three snaps to close an emotional night around. Lock was one of the three players the Broncos sent to the Seahawks in the March blockbuster.
“This was a special game, just because I got to see and play against some of my closest friends,” Wilson said.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without this place … but I didn’t play [tonight] for just this game. I have a bigger mission.”
Almost from the moment the full NFL schedule was released, the Wilson-Seahawks reunion was circled on many calendars. Wilson, his new teammates with the Broncos and the Seahawks all publicly played the just-another-play card.
But the answer to the question of whether Wilson would be booed after 10 seasons in Seattle that included nine Pro Bowl selections, two Super Bowl trips and one Super Bowl victory was answered from the moment Wilson took the field for pregame activities. The Seahawks faithful budgeted vigorously everywhere.
The crowd, as if it were an effort to show that many of those on hand had moved on, even chanted “Ge-no, Ge-no, Ge-no” whenever Smith made any notable plays, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was frequently gesturing to the crowd. to get louder whenever the Broncos had the ball. The crowd chanted Smith’s name as the quarterback took those final knees to seal the victory.
“It didn’t bother me,” Wilson said. “It was a hostile environment; it always has been. I didn’t expect to get a round of applause every time. I gave everything I had here, day in, day out, and to anyone who says otherwise, they’re dead wrong.”
Wilson and the Broncos’ offense got off to a rocky start, given that Wilson didn’t target a wide receiver on a pass attempt until he hooked up with Jerry Jedi on a 67-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 5 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half. But overall, even when they got things going, the Broncos couldn’t turn their 433 yards of offense into enough points.
Denver running backs Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams each lost fumbles on plays that started at the Seahawks’ 1-yard line to negate two potential scoring drives, and the Broncos did not tally touchdowns on their other two trips inside the Seattle 20-yard line.
Throw in the Broncos’ 12 penalties (for 106 yards) and the Seahawks won despite just 253 total yards and no second-half points on offense.
“I think he played really well, he took care of the football, he made really good decisions, he had some explosive plays, he was able to distribute the ball all over the field,” Hackett said of Wilson. “That makes me really frustrated with him.”
On the other hand, Smith was almost perfect in the first half. Smith completed his first 13 passes of the game and was 17-of-18 with two touchdowns to lead the Seahawks to a 17-13 halftime advantage. The Broncos’ defense threw a shutout in the second half.
“We got the nerves out a little bit [in the first half],” Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb said
“Once we got it set up … we got back on track.”
As Wilson explained, “We had a lot of great plays, we threw the ball around the field … had a lot of great things. The reality is we didn’t get the ball in the end zone on those red zone plays.”
Wilson arrived at the stadium in a fashion week-worthy ensemble several hours before kickoff, and almost every moment was a reunion of sorts as he moved around the stadium and through his warmups.
A handshake here, a wave there, Wilson went about the business of trying to at least continue to stick to the script he and the rest of the Broncos tried to maintain throughout the days and weeks leading up to Monday’s game.
Former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman appeared on stadium video boards 30 minutes before kick-off to a loud ovation. And a former running back Marshawn Lynch was another of several ex-Seahawks roaming the sidelines during warmups.
It all ended with McManus’ miss and a celebration of the Seattle “12s” that Wilson hoped would welcome him back.
“Tonight was special,” Wilson said.
“It was still a special environment in a place I love.”