DENVER — The moments were different. The defining plays were unique.
And yet, it still felt all very much the same.
In the Broncos' 22-16 overtime loss to the Raiders – their sixth one-possession defeat of the year — Denver had its chances.
The Broncos stifled the opposing offense for much of the game, held a late lead and seemed poised to snap a division skid. And yet, they were still handed their seventh loss of the season as they lost their sixth-consecutive game to the Raiders.
Davante Adams running away from Pat Surtain II for a game-winning score will be the lasting image, but the trouble started much earlier.
The Broncos raced out to a 10-0 lead as Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Klint Kubiak called plays for the first time this season. Denver's offense posted three plays of at least 15 yards on its opening drive and six in the first half; the unit mustered just two such plays after halftime.
"For me, I want to do whatever I can to help this team," Hackett said. "We're so close, we continually talk about this over and over again. A couple plays here and there, and there's a lot of different outcomes. I have to look at myself first, to see if there's something that I can do to give some kind of spark to the offense. So I thought it would be good if I stepped away from that, let Klint get upstairs to be able to see it from a bird's-eye view up in the box and see if that would help us. It allowed [Offensive Coordinator] Justin [Outten] to be down on the sideline and be able to talk with Russell [Wilson], talk with him about the runs. I thought that would help us, and I wanted to be sure I had that opportunity to give that to him."
Denver, though, would see its odds of winning fall from that opening drive. On a key end-of-half possession, leading 10-7, the Broncos moved the ball into the red zone following a back-shoulder catch by Courtland Sutton on third down. But on third-and-1 from the Las Vegas 3-yard line, Melvin Gordon III lost a fumble, his fifth of the season. While the Broncos recovered, they were forced to settle for a field-goal attempt, which was then blocked.
"He's scored a lot of touchdowns down there for us," Hackett said of Gordon. "He's been in our tank package, our goal-line package. He's had a lot of opportunities there, and he's scored a lot of touchdowns for us. In that situation, he has to be smart with it. He can't fumble. He knows that you just can't do that. That's unacceptable. We have to find a way to get the ball in the end zone."
Added Gordon: "I was sick about it, obviously. I kind of know what comes after that at this point. I shot my own self in the foot. I am a little salty because I was feeling it today. That happened, and I kind of knew that I was going to have to find a way to get back in rhythm. I knew it was going to be tough. I tried to make splashes here and there after it but my share of opportunities kind of dwindled after that, and that was my fault."
Instead of heading to the locker room with a 13-7 or 17-7 lead, the Broncos clung to a field-goal advantage.
Out of the locker room, Denver posted yet another scoreless third quarter. Through 10 games, the Broncos have posted just 10 third-quarter points on offense.
"We need to keep looking at all the different things that we're doing," Hackett said of the second half. "We need to be sure that we're moving the chains, scoring points, finishing drives. We had a chance there at the end of that first half to get some more points, and we came away with nothing. It's unacceptable. We can't do that. We have to score a touchdown, at least get a field goal. We didn't come away with either, so that's frustrating. We have to keep on working to get Courtland the ball. All the different things we need to do to get [RB] Latavius [Murray] going. I thought he had a pretty nice game. So we have to find ways to score points."
Despite the change in play-caller, the Broncos finished 3-of-12 on third down and could not score multiple touchdowns.
The Broncos, though, held the Raiders to just a field goal in the quarter. They then jumped ahead, 13-10, early in the fourth quarter.
Denver, unfortunately, could not put any breathing room between itself and Las Vegas. After a Raiders three-and-out, the Broncos went three-and-out themselves, failing to build on a three-point lead.
And after the Broncos took the lead again with 3:34 to play and cornerback Damarri Mathis' pass breakup ended a Raiders scoring opportunity, the Broncos could not run out the clock. On third-and-10 at the two-minute warning, Russell Wilson threw an incompletion and the clock stopped.
"We were discussing whether or not we wanted to run the ball," Hackett said. "We wanted to give ourselves a chance to be able to close the game out and win it. So we called a pass and — you have to keep the clock running one way or the other, whether you take a shot down the field and you try to go up, maybe get a [pass interference] opportunity because if you do catch it, you have a chance to win the game, and it's great. If it doesn't, the one thing we just want to be sure [of is] that the clock is running if we can. It lets us have a chance at a shot to win the game."
The Raiders, armed with plenty of time, quickly hit Josh Jacobs on a wheel route that tested the Broncos' ability to even send the game to overtime. Jacobs was a consistent issue for Denver, as he finished with 160 all-purpose yards.
"Jacobs is very good running back," Hackett said. "He ran hard. There was a lot of contact, guys were hitting him, and he was moving them. We knew they were going to run the ball, and he did a nice job, again."
Denver held strong on three consecutive passing plays to force a field-goal attempt, but the Broncos' defense would fail to do the same in overtime.
Following a 33-yard pass to Foster Moreau on the second play of the extra frame, Derek Carr ended the game with a 35-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Adams. The All-Pro receiver beat Surtain on the play with a double move.
"It's not his fault," safety Justin Simmons said of Surtain. "This game is not on one guy, ever. There are 11 guys out there on the field, and we all have a responsibility, especially in overtime, to make a play, get off the field, and give our offense a chance to win the game."
The Broncos were left with another division loss, their 12th in their last 13 attempts. Denver has now dropped all three games in which it has built a 10-point lead, and the Broncos have lost six of their last seven games.
A team that entered the season with playoff and championship aspirations has instead battled through weekly struggles.
"I think that we're on the learning end of the experience of how to get back to winning," Wilson said. "Sometimes it's a journey; sometimes it's an ugly one; sometimes it's a tough one. What hurts probably more than anything else is that these games were close, one-score games. We have to be able to find ways to win them.
"… We're in a process of understanding that the journey of winning and the journey of learning how to be our best throughout the whole entire game, learning how to continue to grow, learning how to stay together. We have one of the best defenses in the world. We have a really good potential on offense. Potential doesn't mean anything. It just means that we haven't done it yet. We're going to keep working for it, that's for sure."
Now, all that can salvage Denver's season is near perfection.
"We can't lose any more games," Wilson said. "… That has to be our mentality."