Seahawks stun Denver Broncos in Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle

SEATTLE — Of course it came down to the final seconds.

How could it not be for Russell Wilson in his return to Lumen Field? How could the reunion of a Super Bowl champion and the only franchise he’s known for a decade not end in dramatic style?

How could it not for Pete Carroll and the raucous Seattle crowd, who watched Wilson orchestrate so much late-game magic over 157 starts and 10 seasons and faced the defense for the first time?

Certainly, as Wilson led the Broncos to a pair of third-down conversions and midfield, trailing by a point late in the fourth quarter, many in the building regardless of jersey color or jersey color must have believed that it was to write another The End of the storybook, this one as a villain rather than a hero.

Instead, a twist.

Denver’s Nathaniel Hackett in his head coaching debut opted to send Brandon McManus out for a 64-yard field goal on fourth-and-5 with 20 seconds left instead of giving Wilson and the offense a chance to convert and make . McManus’ job is easier.

McManus told the staff before the game his range extended to the 46-yard line on the left hash. Denver got right to that point, the limit of the veteran kicker’s range, but close enough that Hackett decided it was the Broncos’ best chance at points.

“We were right on the line, but he had quite a bit of distance,” Hackett said. “Brandon gave his best. That’s a long field goal to make. I think he’s perfectly capable of it, but obviously I’d like us to get a lot closer. It put us in that weird spot there because we were in field goal territory but in that fourth down situation.”

There is no gray area at this point for a novice coach. It is the offense or field goal unit.

“Fourth and six, for me at that time, we were moving it around a little bit. We weren’t moving it in large chunks. I think we had just given up a sack right before that,” Hackett said, though the only negative play on the drive was a 4-yard loss after the completion of the flat. “I wanted to make sure we took a chance (at points) when we had the chance and we felt confident in (McManus).”

McManus has a career long of 61 yards and entered Monday 1-of-4 from 60+. Longest field goal made at Lumen Field: 56 yards.

“I knew there was a good chance we could kick it,” McManus said. I have to fix them. I told them I can make that kick.”

Wilson, who earlier this month signed a five-year, $245 million extension with the Broncos through 2028, supported his coach’s decision.

“Anytime you can find a way to try to make a play on fourth-and-5, that’s great, too, but I also don’t think it was the wrong decision,” Wilson said.

Carroll, the 70-year-old Seattle coach, said he believed Wilson would have the ball in his hands.

“I was surprised they got Russ out there at the end,” he said. “We weren’t thinking about the goal there. We thought it was fourth down and they were on.”

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Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is hit by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Uchenna Nwosu.

While Hackett’s claim that Denver had only moved the ball on fits and starts during the final drive, he showed the kind of explosiveness in the middle of the field that an offensive coach could easily rationalize as sufficient reason to put the offense . the field for a potential game-deciding play.

Denver rolled up 433 offensive yards at a 6.8 clip per snap in its first appearance with that leadership and Wilson 29-of-42 for 340 and a touchdown.

“In the end: Turnovers, penalties, red zone. Bad deal,” Hackett said.

The final drive – 10 plays for 32 yards over 3:47 – was just the latest of several missed opportunities for Denver to begin its year as a postseason hopeful in the storied AFC West with a win. Instead, a team that focused heavily on two-minute and red-zone situations through training camp and didn’t live tackle or play many of its fundamentals in the preseason struggled in those departments almost universally.

Two two-minute drives led to a field goal and saw the offense use the entire clock but have questionable production and efficiency before halftime and at the end. Five impressive trips to the red zone resulted in just one three-point field goal plus one touchdown for the talented duo of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.

“We have to be better in the red zone and that starts with me,” Hackett said. “This starts with me. I’ve got to make sure we have a better plan and be able to physically get down there and get a touchdown instead of a field goal or anything.”

Denver’s defense missed tackles and shut down the penalty early before stiffening up in the second half. Even so, a dozen penalties for 106 total yards kept Seattle’s drives alive and hindered Denver’s progress as well. Denver’s defense committed seven infractions, while a fourth-quarter false start by Cortland Sutton led to a go-ahead touchdown and the Broncos had to settle for a field goal to pull within 17-16.

Wilson was flagged for delay of game twice on Denver’s opening drive of the third quarter, a long drive that ended when Melvin Gordon scrambled to reach the goal line on fourth-and-goal. Several other times, the game clock ran to zero or very close as the Seattle crowd roared and made life difficult for the Broncos offense.

“Crowd noise definitely played a factor,” center Lloyd Quesenberry said. “We just have to get out of the huddle quicker. I’m not sure what it was, but we’ll talk about it when we get back to the office and fix it next week.”

Emotional return

All those mistakes — and an opportunistic bunch of Seahawks — conspired to be more than enough to keep Wilson from an emotional homecoming victory here.

“They might be cheering for you, they might be booing you, they’ll love you one day and hate you the next,” Wilson said. “This is sport. At the end of the day, I’m going to keep fighting, I’m going to keep fighting.”

About two-and-a-half hours before kick-off, he emerged from the southeast tunnel in warm-ups, walking up and down the pitch, twirling a ball in his hands as cameras circled him and recorded his every step. He had brief conversations with former Seahawks tight end Marshawn Lynch and current starting quarterback Geno Smith.

Wilson made his way to midfield and spread his arms wide as he made a slow circle to the Seattle logo, looking up and taking in the empty field from under a large pair of headphones.

Circling around the stadium, signs outlined all the views on Wilson’s offseason trade to Denver. One was reading, “Let’s Cook Russ,” a revision of the popular “Let Russ Cook,” from his days in this town. Also, “Seahawks Fans Still Love Russ,” “Russ Can End Cook, Let’s Ride,” and “Dude Turned Diva, Got Hollywood on Us.” A strong group of Denver fans arrived at Lumen Field, but that didn’t stop boos from raining down on Wilson throughout the night.

“It didn’t bother me. This is a hostile environment. It always has been,” Wilson said. “I didn’t expect them to applaud.”

Let Geno do the cooking

The quarterback on the other side, Seattle veteran Geno Smith, torched Denver in the first half.

He finished 17-of-18 for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns – a 38-yarder to Will Dissly in close coverage and a 25-yarder up the seam to Colby Parkinson – helping the Seahawks build a 17.-13 lead.

The Seahawks’ production slowed in the second half — Denver pitched a shutout and Seattle managed just 47 yards and five first downs — but the Lumen Field crowd chanted “GE-NO, GE-NO” after every positive play from the quarter . and the Seahawks were mostly playing up front.

Smith, starting his 35th career game at the start of his ninth professional season, got the nod for Seattle in the three games last fall when Wilson was sidelined with a finger injury.

Monday night came with a win over his former teammate.

“I got written off,” he told ESPN’s Lisa Salters moments after bleeding the final seconds off the clock with a trio of kneelers. “I won’t write again, though.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Seattle Seahawks beat Denver Broncos in Russell Wilson’s return

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