Hackett has 1st win with Broncos but rookie mistakes endure
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By ARNIE STAPLETON
DENVER (AP) Denver Broncos rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett started making corrections Monday by looking in the mirror.
"When it comes to the game operations, that's something that we're talking about quite a bit," Hackett said a day after his first NFL win, a closer-than-anticipated 16-9 escape of the Houston Texans when he was again late getting calls into Russell Wilson. That led to some chaotic moments reminiscent of their 17-16 loss at Seattle a week earlier.
"We've got to make sure the communication is clear and concise," Hackett said. "I need to do better at making decisions faster and quicker, getting that information to the quarterback and being on the same page with him."
Hackett said he needs his staff to streamline its advice so he can keep Wilson from waiting for the play calls.
"We have to communicate better. It starts with me and getting the proper information that I need," Hackett said. "I get excited. I'm a little aggressive at times and then sometimes that might not be the right decision."
Hackett's home debut was filled with more of the same problematic play calling, game management miscues and penalty flags that dogged him in his dismal debut a week earlier when he left Seattle as the laughing stock of the league for choosing a 64-yard field goal try over his new $296 million QB with the game on the line.
The crowd at Empower Field arrived in a forgiving mood, showering Wilson and Hackett with love after an offseason of positivity and change they trusted would herald in a new era of better performances after a six-year playoff drought.
The cheers quickly turned to jeers as the Broncos bungled their way through more curious calls, yellow flags and chaotic execution before pulling out the win minus Jerry Jeudy (rib) and Patrick Surtain II (shoulder).
"I don't blame 'em," Hackett said after the game. "I mean, heck, I'd be booing myself. I was getting very frustrated."
With the red zone foibles and the flags, including two delays on field goal attempts and three false starts that had the home crowd loudly counting down the play clock by the end.
The Broncos' 13 penalties Sunday gives them a franchise-record 25 in back-to-back games. Their four delays so far are double last season's total.
Most embarrassingly, Hackett had to burn a timeout on a fourth-quarter punt return because his rookie returner, Montrell Washington, was still on the sideline.
The Broncos have a lot of kinks to iron out and Hackett has plenty of fodder with all the penalties that were called.
"We're not going to win a lot of games when we get that many penalties," he said.
Hackett didn't wait to dive into figuring out why his game-day operation is so choppy, leading to some of those penalties.
"I think I'll continue the play calling," Hackett said Monday. "I think from the game management standpoint, we've just got to tighten that whole thing up. A lot of us, we're all working together for the first time. So, we just want to be sure we're more efficient in that and have the ability to make better decision and quicker decisions."
Wilson said Hackett will undoubtedly get things fixed quickly.
"I believe in Coach Hackett. I believe in who he is. I believe in his understanding of the game," Wilson said. "We're going to keep getting better and better. This is a journey for us together and I'm excited for it."
Randy Gregory registered his first sack for Denver, along with collecting three QB hits and a forced fumble. Dre'Mont Jones had a pair of sacks and a forced fumble.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Denver's red zone offense, which is a league-worst 0-for-6.
WR Courtland Sutton caught seven passes for 122 yards with Jeudy out and rookie CB Damarri Mathis had five tackles and a pass breakup subbing for Surtain..
The Broncos coaching staff needs to not only clean things up to help Hackett but get the players to stay disciplined to cut down on the penalties.
Jeudy and Surtain are both day to day. "We thought both of those might be bigger, longer injuries," Hackett said, adding their availability for Sunday is unknown. He said ILB Josey Jewell (calf) and RT Billy Turner (knee) are expected to return to practice this week.
16 - The Broncos' scoring average so far, putting them on pace for their worst output since the 1971 team averaged 14.5 points per game.
The Broncos host the 49ers (1-1) Sunday night with an opportunity to prove their prime-time pratfall in the opener was a fluke.
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Updated September 19, 2022