Denver Broncos' Rocky Start Raises Questions About Payton-Wilson Partnership


In a surprising turn of events, Sean Payton's critique of Nathaniel Hackett's coaching stint with the Broncos has come back to haunt him. Hackett, who held the reins for 15 games, is now being viewed in a different light after Payton's Broncos stumbled to an 0-2 start, squandering an 18-point lead against the Washington Commanders in a heart-stopping 35-33 loss that culminated in a failed two-point conversion.

Controversy marred the game's conclusion as Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste seemed to have Sutton in a stranglehold during the pivotal play. Yet, the spotlight should be on Denver's missed opportunity to enter Week 3 with a 1-1 record, celebrating the promising Russell Wilson-Sean Payton alliance.

The initial half showcased a near-flawless pairing. Wilson showcased his prowess, reminiscent of his prime, dismantling the Commanders' defense. His agility, diverse pass execution (highlighted by a spectacular pass to Marvin Mims), and adept orchestration of Payton's playbook left Washington's defense befuddled. Wilson concluded the first half with an impressive 6-8, 154 yards, and two touchdowns.

Regrettably, echoes of their Week 1 loss to the Raiders resurfaced as the Broncos lost their way in the latter half. Despite leading 21-3 in the third quarter, the Commanders clawed back, tallying 32 of the next 35 points. The second half witnessed a series of blunders from Denver, on both offensive and defensive fronts, before a late resurgence nearly forced overtime. The defense lacked urgency, and the offense struggled to find its rhythm.

Post-game, Payton acknowledged the lackluster second-half performance, emphasizing the need for better time management and sharper execution from Wilson. He even floated the idea of Wilson donning a wristband, a suggestion met with resistance, given Wilson's history with Pete Carroll at the Seattle Seahawks.

Undoubtedly, Wilson's performance under Payton surpasses his tenure under Hackett, though this is a low bar to clear. However, a game spans four quarters, and faltering in the second half for two consecutive weeks is cause for concern. The Broncos' Week 1 second-half offense erred on the side of caution, while this week, both sides struggled to counter the Commanders' superior play calling.

In fairness to Payton, the Commanders, now boasting a 2-0 record, have shown marked improvement, particularly on the defensive end. Eric Bieniemy, in his inaugural season as the Commanders' Offensive Coordinator, appears to be making remarkable strides with his young quarterback, Sam Howell. Despite this, given the expectations surrounding Payton's transformative impact on the Broncos, both the Commanders and the Raiders in Week 1 were teams the Broncos should have bested. A hallmark of championship teams is their ability to finish games, a trait noticeably absent in Denver.

Drawing sweeping conclusions about a team's season after only two weeks is premature. There remains potential for the Payton-Wilson partnership to flourish, especially in the face of upcoming challenges against the Dolphins and Jets' formidable defenses.

Yet, with an 0-2 start in games that were seemingly within grasp and a head coach publicly critiquing his quarterback, the Broncos may be on a collision course with adversity.