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Humbled Hackett admits 'I need to be better' as criticism swirls following win

Crowd counting down play clock represents low point in offense's struggles
Texans Broncos Football
Posted at 4:44 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 19:45:49-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A humbled Nathaniel Hackett met the media on Monday afternoon, the embattled first-year coach pointing the finger in the mirror after the Broncos' clumsy two-game start. Denver boasts a 1-1 record, but few can remember feeling more empty about a victory than Sunday's 16-9 slogfest against the Texans.

Viewing through a wide lens, it was assumed it would take time for an inexperienced coaching staff to gel with a roster stuffed with many players who have never experienced a winning season, let alone reached the playoffs. What has been startling, however, is the battery of penalties, mistakes and offensive play-calling that appears to be running off a dial-up connection. It was so bad Sunday, the Broncos fans counted down the play clock.

"There were some issues that were going on, and it was a great warning for us. I mean, I love that environment," Hackett said. "That place is just awesome. It's going to be hard for people to come in here, and we want to continue to win at home."

For success to unfurl against the 49ers on Sunday night — easily the best team Denver has played this season — Hackett must address procedural issues. The plays are getting relayed to quarterback Russell Wilson late, leading the team to break the huddle with scant seconds on the play clock, limiting audible options. Hackett has no plans to add a veteran offensive mind — the Broncos' defense has Dom Capers as an advisor — or surrender play-calling duties.

"When it comes to the operations, that's something we are talking about quite a bit. We have to make sure the communication is clear and concise. I need to do better about making those decisions faster and quicker, and getting that information to the quarterback," Hackett said. "That's stuff we were talking about this morning, this evening, and it's gotta improve."

It is likely Hackett will simplify who can talk into his ear and when. Collaboration is a wonderful thing, but making decisions in an NFL game under time constraints tests the limits of democracy. The burden falls on Hackett.

He has shown proficiency in calling plays between the 20s, but the red zone has been defined by red faces. The Broncos have yet to score on six trips, including five on goal-to-goal. They fell in love with the run at Seattle and the pass against Houston. Part of the issues can be traced to Hackett and Wilson developing synchronicity.

"It's all about Russ... I need to be on the same page as him," said Hackett, while acknowledging the strong performances by the running backs and receiver Courtland Sutton.

Hackett repeated the phrase, "I need to do better" multiple times during his presser, a sign of growth after he failed to fall on the sword following the decision to kick a 64-yard field goal at Seattle, believing it was only wrong because it didn't work. The gameday operation requires a significant boost.

The Broncos' 25 penalties are the most in a two-game span in franchise history. A delay of game negated a field goal attempt and, in one case, the Broncos burned a timeout because punt returner Montrell Washington wasn't on the field on fourth down.

Hackett arrived in Denver as someone who embraced technology, displayed energy and built strong relationships, but that was an assistant. The job is different when you are in front of the audience, not part of it.

"It's interesting when it's your opinion and your decision that matters. I just want to be sure that I am the most efficient that I can possibly be and communicate the best way I can," Hackett said. "We haven't done that, and I know I can get a lot better."

Surtain, Jeudy day-to-day

The Broncos received good news on Monday as exams on cornerback Pat Surtain II (left shoulder) and receiver Jerry Jeudy (ribs/chest) did not reveal significant damage. Both are listed as day-to-day, leaving open the possibility they could play on Sunday.

Linebacker Josey Jewell (calf) and right tackle Billy Turner (knee) will practice this week with hopes that they will make their season debuts vs. San Francisco. Receiver K.J. Hamler's status for Sunday is uncertain, but he should return for the Raiders game at the latest.