Despite changes, Broncos stuck with same old result in KC

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, left, is hit by Kansas City Chiefs defensive end...
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, left, is hit by Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) while throwing during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)(Ed Zurga | AP)
Published: Jan. 1, 2023 at 6:53 PM MST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The coach making all the important decisions on the Denver sideline was different Sunday.

So was the one calling the offensive plays from a booth high above Arrowhead Stadium.

The result was very much the same.

Less than a week after the beaten-down Broncos fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett, and put 67-year-old career assistant Jerry Rosburg in charge, they fumbled through another game they could’ve won. Their defense collapsed when it mattered the most, and their offense made many familiar mistakes, in a 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

It was the seventh loss in eight games for a once-proud franchise that will once again miss the playoffs.

“The only way this streak thing that I keep getting asked about is going to stop,” Rosburg said, “is if we stop making errors down the stretch in the game, or we stop making errors at the beginning of the game that put us behind the 8-ball.

“Those got to stop. I made a commitment to those guys to be a better coach. I’ve got to be better and they’ve got to be better, and pay more attention to the details that put us in those situations.”

What has been one of the league’s most inept offenses didn’t look a whole lot better most of the game, despite offensive coordinator Justin Outten becoming the third different voice in Russell Wilson’s headset calling the plays.

They went three-and-out to open the game. Fumbled the ball away on a strip-sack later in the first half. Had another three-and-out early in the second half, when it had a chance to build on a 17-13 lead and Courtland Sutton was hit with a dubious offensive pass interference call on what would have been a third-down conversion.

The biggest error may have come on the Broncos’ next possession, though.

The Chiefs had just regained the lead on Patrick Mahomes’ third touchdown pass of the game when Wilson dropped back to pass. Under pressure, the quarterback with the $165 million guaranteed extension threw a wobbly pass high into the air and into the hands of Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, setting up Kansas City’s clinching touchdown.

“Sneed’s play was a big play for us,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid acknowledged. “He did a nice job there.”

Wilson finished with 222 yards passing and a touchdown along with two TD runs. But the rest of the Denver offense did little to help him out, going 3 for 12 on third down and gaining just 307 total yards.

“I give my all every day. I don’t know any less,” an emotional Wilson said afterward. “All I want to do is help this team win, and I know we’re going to find a way to overcome those obstacles. And I’m not going to blink, because I know who I am and I know the dedication I have for this game and how much it means to me.”

The one bright spot most of the season for Denver has been its defense, and even that collapsed in crunch time Sunday.

The Broncos, who picked off Mahomes three times three weeks ago in Denver, were once again causing him problems when Kansas City took over midway through the third quarter.

Mahomes promptly led them downfield, going 4 for 4 with a touchdown throw to Blake Bell, then led them to pay dirt again after Wilson’s interception moments later.

“We have a lot of talent in that room and these guys have been getting ripped,” said Rosburg, an 18-year NFL coaching vet. “I see a bunch of talented players that need to come together and need to play with fundamentals and need to understand complementary football. That was my mission this week. We made some progress but it wasn’t good enough. These players deserve and need to win a football game. We’re planting seeds here. We want this thing to grow.”