SEATTLE — In a setting where Russell Wilson has won so many wild and unpredictable games, it appeared he would add another prime-time win to his resume.
During the final moments of Denver's 17-16 loss to Seattle on "Monday Night Football," the Broncos had a chance to wipe away their mistakes and earn a season-opening win.
Yet while the final images of the loss are of a missed field goal, the Broncos' defeat cannot be pinned on the shoulders of Brandon McManus.
Put simply, the Broncos made too many mistakes to overcome.
"Just to start off with it, when you're 0-and-4 in the red zone, 12 penalties, two turnovers, it's not a good deal," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said after the loss. "I give so much credit to the Seahawks. I give a ton of credit to our players battling the whole night to put ourselves in position to potentially win [on] a game-winning field goal. With all those things against us, I thought those guys did a good job. But we've just got to be better in that red zone, and that starts with me. I've got to be sure we've got a better plan and we're able to be get physical down there and score some touchdowns instead of field goals — or nothing at all."
The Broncos moved the ball at will at times between the 20-yard lines, and their 433 total yards were the most since Week 17 of the 2020 season. Denver, though, scored just six points in four red-zone trips. And twice, the Broncos lost fumbles that left them without points. The first came as Melvin Gordon III tried to fight for the goal line on a fourth-down play that was almost stopped short. On the next drive, after Randy Gregory forced a fumble and Justin Simmons returned it to the Seattle 32-yard line, Javonte Williams lost the ball after he was hit nearly immediately in the backfield.
After the game, center Lloyd Cushenberry III noted the Broncos changed the play prior to the Williams fumble, but the crowd noise meant all five linemen were not aware of the switch.
"I think I could do a better job by potentially not giving too many checks and stuff like that in that situation and just calling and running some plays," Hackett said. "Got to learn from that. All of us."
On the Broncos' final red-zone trip, which came with just over six minutes to play, the Broncos scored the go-ahead touchdown, only to have it be called back for a false start.
"We had a walk-in touchdown and we ended up having a false start, which is unacceptable," Hackett said. "You can't have penalties there. We had a couple opportunities that were there, we've just got to capitalize on them. And we didn't. And that's what's frustrating in those situations."
The penalties were equally as problematic. In addition to a pair of false starts in the red zone, the Broncos also had multiple delay of game penalties. Defensively, a taunting penalty helped push a Seattle drive downfield that resulted in a field goal, though the Broncos were otherwise able to survive the defensive penalties due to a fourth-down stop and Gregory's forced fumble.
"We've got to look at the ones we can control," Hackett said. "There are some that were some — I don't know if it was taunting or unnecessary roughness and things like that — so we can pull those ones back for sure. Those are big chunks of yards that kept drives alive. So we've just got to make sure we keep our wits about us. One thing we talked about coming here was we had to be sure we controlled our emotions. There were too many times when we didn't, and that hurt us."
As Cushenberry explained, the Broncos' inability to win the game boiled down to those key moments.
"That's the game," Cushenberry said. "You see the stats; we killed them in everything except turnovers and penalties. So when we get down to the 1-yard line, we've got to finish. That's the main thing. Running it in, throwing it in — whatever. Just got to get seven [points]. That was the game. That's why we lost. We didn't score when we got down to the goal line."
The Broncos, though, believe there was plenty of good among the mistakes that cost them a Week 1 win. Wilson completed 29-of-42 passes for 340 yards, a touchdown and a 101.3 rating. Jerry Jeudy broke through for his first 100-yard game since the final week of 2020. The defense rebounded in the second half to pitch a shutout and hold Seattle to 34 total yards after halftime.
"I feel like we had a lot of success moving the ball," Courtland Sutton said. "We just unfortunately weren't able to finish those drives and finish the job and get the ball in the end zone. That's on us. That's things we've got to control, we've got to fix. We know that we can do that, and it's on us to go into this week of preparation, learn from the mistakes that we had in this game, move on from them and then continue to work on the things that work for us and master them and get to that level of understanding so that when we get into those situations, it's a no-brainer. We already know exactly what we want to do and we're going to go in there and score."
That will be the focus as the Broncos try to rebound in Week 2 in their home opener against Houston.
"I didn't play for just this one game," Wilson said. "I've got a bigger mission on hand. This was just step one, and we've got 16 more steps to go. … That's what I'm looking forward to. We're going to be unwavering. And just keep battling, keep our head up and know we've got a great football team.
"We're going to do special things this year."