Will the Losing Curse Continue For Broncos’ Nation?

Broncs Look Less Than Impressive in Opening Pre-season Contest

New Veteran Skipper Still Optimistic About 2023 Season

Trevor Phipps

My primary complaints about the first preseason game for the Denver Broncos were that it started too late and lacked excitement.  If games aren’t going to start until 8 p.m. Mountain Time, the Broncs need to try harder to put  on a better show for their fans.

The team’s first preseason contest was disappointingly uneventful. And then in the end, to add insult to injury, the Orange and Blue suffered an 18-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals by a two point conversion at the game’s final play.

And to me, Russell Wilson looked less than impressive. But what did impress me was the fact that the Broncos’ new head coach, Sean Payton, actually made Wilson strap on pads and play.

Wilson hasn’t taken hits during the first preseason showdown in the league for the last six or seven seasons. Last year under Nathaniel Hackett, Wilson didn’t play in the preseason period at all and he barely ever even padded up during practice.  And needless to say, he looked rather rusty when the real deal began in 2022.

Well, it was very clear during the offseason that when Payton officially took the reins of the struggling team that things would be different. But the change has not yet proven to be one that will give the Broncos “W”s.

In fact, the team looked very similar to last year’s Broncos with a sub-par offense and an extremely weak O-Line. And you could even say that the team is especially worse when it comes to the kicking position.

During the off-season, the Broncos sent their veteran kicker Brandon McManus packing to create the team’s first “kicker controversy/competition” in recent years. During the first pre-season match-up, the Broncos used two kickers, Elliot Fry and Brett Maher.

But, neither of them looked good at all. Maher missed both of his field goal attempts and Fry missed one and made one 55-yarder through the goal posts.

However, after the game Fry was released from the team due to an injury. Now the Broncos are stuck with Maher as their only kicker who missed two field goals in his pre-season debut.

Now back to maybe the league’s most underachieving quarterback, Russell Wilson. Wilson definitely had a rough start to the game, but he basically received zero help from his line with defenders breaking through nearly every play.

Wilson struggled to score on the team’s first three possessions but then he connected with Wide Receiver Jerry Jeudy on 4th  and 4 for a 21-yard touchdown pass. The big score must have been what Coach Payton was looking for because Wilson was pulled from the match after that.

The Broncos’ two backup QBs, Ben DiNucci and Jarrett Stidham, then took turns leading the team’s offense. Stidham looked rough throwing five completions out of 15 attempts, 50 yards in passing and tossing the Broncos’ sole interception. DiNucci looked a little better by completing seven of nine for 57 yards.

Some have even said that there could be a backup quarterback controversy this year. Stidham was acquired from the Raiders during the offseason to become what Payton hoped would be a strong backup in case anything happened to Wilson. But, DiNucci may end up with the job if his play stays better than Stidham’s.

Overall, Coach Payton seemed happy with his team’s performance, but made it clear he was  disappointed about the loss. To sum up his post-game statements, Payton said that the team will look at the tapes to find where things went wrong and how they can improve.

As surprising as it was, Payton didn’t have anything negative to say about the performance of the team’s offensive line. “The assignments were fine,” Payton said of the offensive line’s pass protection after the game. “We just got leveraged on a few plays and got hurried a few too many times. We will be able to clean that up.”

And evidently the coach was also happy with his quarterback’s performance. “Look, he was sharp,” Payton said of Wilson post-game. “He’s had a good week of practice, and we’ll keep working.”

Well, all I can say is that at least pre-season games mean absolutely nothing! And the good news is the meaningless scrimmages are almost over. The Broncos play their first regular season game on September 10 at home against the Las Vegas Raiders.