ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos looked to cut into Kansas City's lead in the fourth quarter of a Week 14 contest, they faced a dire scenario.
Moments earlier, the Broncos had moved from a fourth-and-4 at their own 45-yard line to the Kansas City 15-yard line on the heels of a 40-yard defensive pass interference call. Denver, though, would only move backward from there.
Denver was whistled for holding on first-and-10, and Latavius Murray lost four yards on a screen on first-and-20. On the ensuing play, the Broncos were flagged for holding again.
Instead of a first-and-10 at the 15-yard line, the Broncos faced second-and-34 at the 39-yard line.
And yet, they got all that yardage — and more — back over the following two plays.
On second down, Wilson fired a pass down the center of the field to rookie tight end Greg Dulcich. The pass was batted up into the air, but Dulcich whirled around and made the grab. Then, on third down, Wilson scrambled to his right, avoided a tackle, took off and dove forward for a first down. Wilson took a hard hit on the play and suffered a concussion, but the series was indicative of Wilson's ability to erase a potentially drive-killing hole.
"[That's] pretty rare, and I'm glad he's on our team," Offensive Coordinator Justin Outten said Thursday. "Those situations, you're sitting on the call sheet going, 'There's nothing we have right now that could even advance [the ball close].' Even the second down, there was a huge catch with Dulcich to get it in that position. Even that one was a phenomenal catch and throw. That was a tight window, that was a great concentration with Dulcich, and that was great timing. That ball was out before Dulcich even turned around. Those are the things that we love about Russ."
Throughout the game, Wilson delivered in big moments. He threw three touchdown passes for the first time this season, and he averaged 14.3 yards per carry as he ran for 57 yards. Wilson set up a pair of touchdown drives with his legs and converted a pair of third downs.
"It's the Russell we all know and love," Outten said. "It's the guy that's going to take the team on his shoulders and do whatever he can to get the ball out or use his legs. I got flashbacks [to] when we used to play him back in the days of just him running down the field and going, 'Oh, no. Here we go.' But now we're on his side, so it was a better situation. It was exciting to see him get back in it and just seeing the field and just understanding the rush patterns and just taking off on a few of those. He's a special player, and in those crucial situations, you love to have a guy like that [who] can get you back in those games."
The Broncos fell short in Sunday's matchup without Wilson, but the veteran quarterback provided perhaps the best example this season of the skill set that poses an ever-present threat to defenses.
'YOU CAN DO A LOT MORE IN THOSE SITUATIONS'
Without Courtland Sutton in the lineup against the Chiefs, the Broncos moved Jerry Jeudy to the "X" wide receiver role — and he found immediate success in a career-best three-touchdown game.
As Outten explained Thursday, a player with Jeudy's skill set can thrive in that role.
"Jerry is a unique player, because he can play all three positions," Outten said. "In that spot, it's usually your work horse — a guy that can blow it off the top but also can do intermediate routes and choice routes and put them inside. With Jerry at that position, you can do a lot more in those situations."
The Broncos, though, will have a decision to make when Sutton returns to the field. Outten said Denver must decide whether to put the two receivers on the same side of the formation or play them opposite each other.
For now, the Broncos will hope Jeudy can maintain the momentum he began on Sunday vs. Kansas City.
PLAYING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP
As the Broncos hope for better results in 2023, Colorado School of Mines is preparing for a championship showdown.
The Division II Orediggers are set to play in their first national championship game, and they'll take on the Ferris State Bulldogs on Saturday in McKinney, Texas.
Ahead of the game, the School of Mines announced on Twitter the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group had made "a generous donation from [the Broncos] Foundation to the Mines Foundation, helping to offset costs for our students to cheer us on."
Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett, who played college football at Division II UC-Davis, wished the Orediggers luck during his Thursday media availability.
"I think it's awesome," Hackett said of the donation. "It's absolutely fantastic what our organization has done for the students. I played Division II football, so I absolutely love that whole playoff, that whole system. [It's their] first national championship [game appearance and they've been] scoring all the points. [Mines head] coach [Brandon] Moore has done a great job. I'm very excited to see them go there and for the students to be able to go and support them."
The championship game kicks off at 11 a.m. MT on Saturday and can be seen on ESPNU.