On the surface, the report that Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson received treatment on Friday for a shoulder injury he suffered against the Raiders last Sunday helps explain why he watched most if not all of the game. Thursday night against the Colts. On a deeper level, it raises more questions about the decisions made by Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett.
Given the injury, why did Hackett put the ball in Wilson’s hands for each of the two important plays late in the game?
The Broncos led by three with 2:19 left in regulation. They had the ball on Indy 13, facing third and fourth. Hackett dialed in a passing play that allowed Wilson to throw an interception into the end zone. This was clearly the worst possible outcome of the play. An incomplete pass or sack would have given the Broncos a chance to score a field goal that would have given them a six-point lead, on a night the Broncos had consistently prevented the Colts from scoring a touchdown.
Then, with a fourth-and-one of five from the Colts and Denver to three in overtime, Hackett decided to put the Broncos in a shotgun formation, putting the ball in Wilson’s hands, the game hinged on his ability to deliver a precise pass.
The shoulder injury may excuse Wilson for not delivering. It could make Broncos fans who regularly booed Wilson reconsider their reaction to his performance. This does not exempt Hackett from expecting Wilson to deliver at a time when Wilson was apparently inebriated.
The Broncos can’t have it both ways. If Wilson’s shoulder injury is affecting his game, Hackett must take that into account when making critical decisions. He apparently didn’t on Thursday night, twice.
The Broncos will face the Chargers in LA in nine days, the Monday night football. It remains to be seen whether the shoulder injury affects Wilson and whether Hackett revises his strategies accordingly.