Nathaniel Hackett found himself in no-man’s land and secured his place in football purgatory with a decision that turned his managerial debut into a failure and spoiled Russell Wilson’s homecoming.
Trailing the Seahawks 17-16 on Monday night, the Broncos drove through midfield with just over a minute left when Javonte Williams caught a short pass from Wilson and rushed to the Seattle 46.
That put Denver on fourth down, barely within field goal range but 5 yards short of the first down marker.
Isn’t that why the Broncos sent three players and five picks to Seattle six months ago for Wilson, who they signed to a megamillion contract?
“It put us in that weird spot because we were in field goal range, but we ended up in a fourth-down situation,” Hackett said. “I didn’t think we were going to get that many yards, so I thought Javonte did a great job. We just made a decision that we wanted to make or shoot there on this one.”
Hackett decided to take the ball out of his $296 million man’s hands and trust the kicker, who is now 1-for-8 from 60-plus yards behind Brandon McManus. curled in a 64-yard field goal attempt it would be the second-longest field goal in NFL history.
Hackett called a timeout with 20 seconds left after 43 seconds had expired and then sent McManus off, capping a weekend full of fumbles, mistakes and special teams blunders.
Hackett’s call left Troy Aikman and Joe Buck deadlocked in their Monday Night Football debut.
“I was surprised by that,” Aikman said. “The timeout caught us off guard. Like everyone else, we couldn’t understand why they were letting so much time off the clock.”
Wilson’s call to the sideline showed “that he trusted McManus’ leg more than he trusted Russell Wilson to convert there on fourth down,” Aikman argued. “And it’s going to be seriously dealt with over the course of a week, and Russell Wilson is not going to like it.”
Hackett had all three timeouts and 63 seconds left when Williams was tackled 5 yards for a first down.
“When they finally call timeout with one second left on the game clock and we’re looking at the camera, they switch and take their team out of the game and it was shocking (look down and there’s McManus”). Buck said.
“And they didn’t have to try that desperate field goal,” Buck insisted. “And that’s why you made the deal to get Russell Wilson, I think.”
Go for it on fourth and five and at least get McManus closer to a higher percentage field goal attempt.
“I think Nathaniel Hackett is going to be a great head coach and it’s going to be a great marriage going forward,” Buck said. – But this is, to say the least, a strange ending to this game.”
And to a wild opening weekend in which kickers, punters, long-nappers and holders made an unusual number of jaw-dropping plays, both good and bad.
Saints kicker Will Lutz hit a 51-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to beat Atlanta, and Browns rookie Cod York kicked a 58-yarder with 8 seconds left against Carolina to deny Baker Mayfield desire to take revenge.
As time expired, Randy Bullock hit a 47-yarder down the left field to give the Giants a victory over the Titans, and the Colts’ Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 42-yard field goal with 2 minutes left in overtime to tie the game with the Texans.
The wildest and wildest of the Week 1 games was the Steelers’ 23-20 win at Cincinnati in a game that featured unfortunate mistakes by the backup long snapper, two missed field goals and a blocked extra point that sent the game into overtime, where Chris Boswell hit a 53-yarder as time expired.
Chief of Security Justin “Case” Reed, who was the operator at Stanford, received one of the two extra points and exploded with a blow through the back of the end zone for a touchback before kicker Harrison Butker returned from a sprained ankle in the Chiefs’ rout of the Cardinals.
Buccaneers punter Jake Camardo kicked the ball off the giant video board that hung high above the field at Cowboys Stadium, and at swampy Soldier Field, Bears owner Trenton Gill was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for taking a towel onto the field and trying to dry the place of impact before attempting a field goal.
All of those shots went over Hackett, and he stood by his decision even after McManus missed badly on a field goal attempt that didn’t count as Seattle called a timeout.
“I was happy he got rid of it,” Hackett explained. “I thought he had a lot of distance and I just thought we could do it. I trust him, and if we have to put him in that situation again, I think he can do it.”
Wilson was diplomatic in refusing to publicly criticize his coach’s decision.
“Well, we have the best field goal, maybe in the game,” Wilson said. “We said, ‘Where can you do that tonight?’ And he said, “46 left hashes.” I think we were on 46. That was before the trip. We got it there; unfortunately, they did not come.
“I think he’s got the leg up for it for sure,” Wilson added. “Just went a little to the left, I believe and just – I believe in Coach Hackett. I believe in what we do. Believe in everything, and any time you can try to find a way to make a play on fourth and five, that’s great, too. Also, I don’t think it was the wrong decision. I think he will manage. Obviously, in hindsight, he didn’t make it, but we’re in this situation again, I wouldn’t doubt that he made up his mind.”
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