Over four quarters and almost a full-length overtime period, neither the Indianapolis Colts nor the Denver Broncos could find their way to the end zone. So in a battle of the league’s two horse mascots that was significantly lacking in horsepower, it was only fitting that the game was decided in overtime by a field goal — and a failed fourth-down pass to the end zone by Broncos QB Russell Wilson.
Chase McLaughlin’s Colts 12, Brandon McManus’s Broncos 9. It was the first time in NFL history that two teams combined for seven field goals in a game and all the points were scored in that fashion.
The game was not without drama, but it took until the final play in overtime to get there.
In Week 1, trailing by just a point, the Broncos elected to attempt a long field goal rather than go for it on fourth down. The kick failed, and the decision was highly questioned in the days that followed a 17-16 loss to Seattle. Four weeks later, the Broncos faced a similar call: Trailing 12-9 in OT, would coach Nathaniel Hackett go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Colts’ 5-yard line or kick the chip-shot and potentially end the game in a tie?
This time, Hackett sent his offense back out to go for it, after the Broncos drove it 70 yards — 2 shy of the longest drive of the game. But Wilson’s pass to the end zone, intended for WR Courtland Sutton, was batted down by CB Stephon Gilmore, who intercepted a pass in the end zone late in regulation to keep the Broncos from winning it.
Analyst Mike Martz of The 33rd Team didn’t criticize the decision to go for it, but he did have some issues with the final play call.
“I was a little disappointed that they didn’t give Russell Wilson some crossing routes in the flat and give them a chance to get in the end zone,” Martz said. “It’s easy to sit here and criticize, but I think if the receiver had bent it back to Russell Wilson, I think they probably complete it and win the game.”
The loss dropped Denver to 2-3, currently third in the AFC West, and boosts Indianapolis to 2-2-1, also third in the AFC South.
The first half ended with just 247 total yards, and nearly as many punts (seven) as points (nine). At one point, four straight possessions ended in three-and-outs. McManus kicked a pair of field goals for Denver, and it took a 52-yarder from McLaughlin with 14 seconds left to put Indy on the board. Yet in the second half, the two offenses tried to out-do their first-half performance, and not in a good way.
The second half featured a trio of interceptions, a blocked field goal try and another that was missed. Prior to the final two drives of regulation, only once did either team reach the red zone (or get within 6 yards of it). And even that took a game official inadvertently wiping out Colts defensive back Rodney Thomas, opening up a 51-yard completion from Wilson to Sutton.
Both teams offered signs of life on their final drives of regulation, when Denver drove it 71 yards and the Colts went 67. Fittingly, however, the Broncos’ drive ended with a Wilson interception in the end zone, and the Colts had to settle for a field goal that tied it and forced overtime. Indianapolis found similar results in overtime, when a 45-yard drive stalled and led to the McLaughlin game-winner.
Something Appears Off With Wilson
The Broncos entered the game last in red-zone offense and second-to-last in scoring inside the 10. They were 0-for-4 in the red zone Thursday nigh, including the final play that drew boos from the Mile High crowd.
In four of the Broncos’ five games this season, they have scored 16 or fewer points — not exactly the production Denver had hoped for when it had traded for Wilson in the offseason.
Martz said something looks off with Wilson.
“He does not look healthy to me,” the former Rams head coach said. “He doesn’t miss throws. Russell Wilson, he just doesn’t miss. And he missed a lot of throws in this game. There’s something going on with him. He just doesn’t look comfortable . He’s tentative.”
Throw Me a Line
Indianapolis quarterback Matt Ryan entered Thursday night’s game having been sacked 15 times, fifth in the league and two off of the 17 times Washington’s Carson Wentz has gone down. Denver got to Ryan six times, four in the first half. The last of those four resulted in Ryan’s league-leading 10th fumble, and one of the second-half tallies resulted in his 11th.
“Ryan’s not going to make it another 2-3 weeks if they don’t do something to shore up that offensive line,” Martz said. “They didn’t do anything to adjust to help the two tackles, which shocked me.”
The Colts entered the game desperate for answers along their offensive line, shuffling starters in a bid to find a group that could protect Ryan. To make matters worse, the shuffling had to continue mid-game, when center Ryan Kelly left in the first half with an injury and did not return.
It wasn’t much easier for Wilson, who went down four times. The Colts’ Yannick Ngakoue and DeForest Buckner and the Broncos’ Bradley Chubb and Baron Browning all were involved on multiple sacks in the game.
A Lengthy, Lengthy Injury Report
Kelly, who was diagnosed with a hip injury, was far from the only player to leave the field. On the first drive of the game, Colts running back Nyheim Hines took a hard hit and was wobbling while trying to stand on the field. He was taken to the locker room and ruled out for the game with a concussion. Hines himself had drawn the start because of an injury in Week 4 to starter Jonathan Taylor. The injuries kept stacking in the second half, when promising edge rusher Kwity Paye was carted off.
Not a good football night. Nothing but field goals and quality players like Kwity Paye and Garrett Bolles carted off. Wish they could go to a running clock.
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) October 7, 2022
Denver was fortunate if it could string together more than a couple drives without a key player going down with some sort of injury. The defense took shot after shot, starting with knee injuries to starting cornerback Ronald Darby and leading tackler Josey Jewell. And, in the midst of a breakout game, Browning left with a wrist injury after putting up 1.5 sacks, six quarterback hits and five tackles (two for loss).
The Broncos did make it through one major scare when Wilson was rocked by Indy’s Zaire Franklin while trying to make a play on an interception return. He went to the medical tent but was back in time for Denver’s next drive. The offense took hits later in the second half, first when left tackle Garrett Bolles was carted off and then when Sutton had to come off with a groin injury, on a play that ended in Wilson’s second interception.