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Nathaniel Hackett’s Broncos field goal decision shocks NFL community

Nathaniel Hackett’s regular season debut as the Broncos’ new head coach ended with many in shock.

And not the good kind.

Trailing late during the team’s “Monday Night Football” game against the Seahawks — which also featured Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle — the Broncos were driving while trailing 17-16.

On third-and 14, Wilson completed a short pass to Javonte Williams for nine yards to bring Denver to the Seahawks’ 46-yard line with 1:11 left, facing a fourth-and-5 while still owning two timeouts.

Hackett decided against allowing his offense, and prize of their offseason blockbuster trade in Wilson, to go for the first down. Instead, he opted to run the clock down to 20 seconds, call a timeout and attempt a 64-yard field goal with Brandon McManus to take the lead.

“[Wilson] knew where we had to get,” Hackett told reporters after the game. “I thought Javonte made an amazing … why I was expecting to have to go for it, on that down and distance, because we were about third-and-14, third-and-15, I thought Javonte made an incredible play and put us in the field goal range, the mark that we were looking for.”

Nathaniel Hackett signals from the sideline during the Broncos’ loss to the Seahawks.
AP

McManus’ kick missed wide left to seal the Seahawks’ 17-16 win, and Seattle even gave Hackett a second chance to rethink his decision. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll called a timeout to ice McManus before he missed a kick that didn’t count, but it apparently wasn’t enough to dissuade Hackett.

“I was happy he got that one [kick that didn’t count] out of the way,” Hackett said. “I thought he had plenty of distance on that one, I just thought we were gonna be able to make that. I have confidence in him, and if we have to put him in that situation again, I think he’ll be able to make it.”

Hackett’s decision was scrutinized — and largely questioned — after the game.

“I was surprised by it,” color analyst Troy Aikman said on ESPN after the game. “We [Joe Buck and I] were surprised by it. We were caught off guard by the time out. Like everybody, we couldn’t quite understand why they were letting so much time come off the clock. They went with McManus and that was the decision Hackett made. He trusted McManus’ leg more than he trusted Russell Wilson to be able to convert there on fourth down. That will be heavily dissected as we move through the week and it won’t sit well with Russell Wilson.”

Brandon McManus attempts a field goal.
Brandon McManus attempts a field goal.
AP

Aikan’s broadcast partner Joe Buck still believes Hackett and the Broncos will be a good marriage, but the call left him in disbelief.

“It was shocking, once we came out of that little moment on camera to look down and there’s McManus,” Buck said. “They didn’t have to try this desperate field goal. And this is why you make a deal to get Russell Wilson in my estimation. …. This is a weird ending to this game to game say the least.”

Here’s some other reaction to Hackett’s controversial decision:

Hackett and the Broncos come back home to face the Texans next Sunday.

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