Could Hackett and the Broncos team up in their last three games?


There was a marked offensive improvement in the previous two games as Hackett settled into the head coach role without the additional play-calling duties.


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — These final three games for the Broncos may be a referendum on Nathaniel Hackett’s first season as head coach.

As things stand now — a 4-10 record and No. 32 in points despite the casual acquisition of quarterback Russell Wilson — Hackett may need to rally if he wants to convince CEO and owner Greg Penner that he should continue into a second season.

And there was evidence that Hackett was swarming.

Hackett appears to be a more competent head coach now that he has relinquished play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Clint Kubik. The improvement wasn’t immediate—the Broncos went 0-3 while averaging just under 12 points a game in Kubiak’s first three games as a caller—but the offense seemed to have moved up a notch in the previous two.

The Broncos outscored the Kansas City Chiefs, 28-7 in the last 32 minutes of a 34-28 loss two weeks ago, and rallied to beat the Arizona Cardinals, 24-15 in the last week behind quarterback Brett Ripien.

Points 28 and 24 were the Broncos’ highest scores of the season.

“It was great, I think, for the whole group,” Hackett said Wednesday of his team and the indignity after he was released from the burden of calling the play. “It’s allowed me to look at more things. Serving more as a consultant, senior advisor to the offense, both in all the different situations with how we plan to play. It’s allowed me to spread out and see more things.

“I think as a group – it’s not just Clint. (Offensive coordinator) Justin Outten has been absolutely amazing building the run plan with Butch (Barry, the offensive line coach), working with Clint on the passing game. I’ve been overseeing everything, so I think we’ve got it going. When you have these Sunday games in a row (instead of the Thursday, Monday, Sunday prime time schedule from earlier in the season), just as the group has been able to work together efficiently and have these guys be able to make some plays.”

The key for Hackett in these last three games — at the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, at Kansas City on New Year’s Day Sunday and at home against the Chargers — may be winning at least two of them, but for Wilson to play well and score for the Broncos In the twenties.

Wilson may have been at his best this season after trailing the Chiefs 27-0 two weeks ago. He rallied the Broncos to all but 2 yards of 28 points before suffering a concussion that sidelined him for the rest of that game and last week against Arizona. He will start on Sunday against the disjointed Rams.

The play of Wilson specifically and the Broncos in general in these last three games may shape the decisions Penner makes at the end of the season.

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