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Broncos revel in small gains as they careen toward basement

Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press
The Broncos (4-11), take on the Kansas City Chiefs (12-3) at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Jack Dempsey/AP

DENVER — Linebacker Josey Jewell hesitated for a second after picking off Patrick Mahomes with the Denver Broncos trailing the Kansas City Chiefs 27-0 on Sunday.

Should he race for the end zone so he and his teammates could preen for the cameras in celebration?

Surely that would be a bad look for a team down by four scores and one whose plummet toward the NFL basement will only benefit the Seattle Seahawks, who stand to get the second overall pick in the 2023 draft as part of the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver.



Or should he trot to the sideline and act as if he’d done this before — he hadn’t. This was the fifth-year pro’s first career interception, and by game’s end, he’d have a pair of them.

“There was definitely a little pause,” said Jewell, who looked to defensive captain Justin Simmons, who encouraged him to celebrate the takeaway.

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So they raced for the north end zone, joined by their jubilant teammates, to let loose, gleefully accepting any mockery if it could provide a spark for a team that has spiraled through a season of belly-flops, letdowns, setbacks and screwups.

“It made people want to make plays and try to get that momentum going,” Jewell said.

The Broncos (3-10) haven’t had much to celebrate this season with Wilson struggling in his transition to Denver, a rash of starters sidelined by injuries and a defense unable to set the edge after GM George Paton traded away Bradley Chubb to recoup a first-round draft pick in 2023.



A season that began with hopes of finally dethroning Mahomes and the Chiefs atop their AFC West perch has devolved into a stretch run where coaches and players alike are trying to save face and preserve their jobs.

Jewell’s interception sparked a 21-0 run with Wilson throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Jerry Jeudy and another to Marlon Mack, but he was sidelined with a concussion by the time the Chiefs eked out a 34-28 win, their 14th straight over the Broncos.

Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Monday that Wilson appeared to have been knocked unconscious on the play but added that Wilson, who is in concussion protocol, “felt great today when we saw him. He looked great.”

Hackett praised his team’s spunk for not folding when down 27-zip.

“They didn’t blink,” he said. “They stayed together.”

What’s working

Wilson finally looked like his vintage self with his first three-TD game since last year’s season finale and he led the team in rushing with 57 yards on four carries. That’s the most by a Denver QB since Tim Tebow ran for 93 yards against New England in 2011.

But with Wilson, who just turned 34, sustaining a concussion at the end of his final run, the Broncos have to wonder if he can subsist playing as he used to with the Seahawks.

What needs work

The decision-making by the offensive coaching staff. With LG Dalton Risner (back, shoulder) missing his first game this season, they decided to start rookie C Luke Wattenberg in his place.

DT Chris Jones, who came in with 10 sacks, manhandled the fifth-rounder from Washington, forcing the Broncos to rotate in others.

Stock up

WR Jerry Jeudy. He caught a career-best three touchdown passes after moving over to flanker with Courtland Sutton (hamstring) out. He caught eight passes for 73 yards despite being the focus of the Chiefs secondary. Jeudy came into the game with just six TD grabs in 36 games.

Stock down

WR Jerry Jeudy. His trio of TDs came after he bumped an official in the second quarter while arguing that he’d been held. Jeudy wasn’t flagged by line judge Tripp Sutter for the infraction but is in line for a hefty fine. Hackett didn’t see the bump, but was told about it by the officials and addressed it immediately with Jeudy.

“He definitely knew that he was wrong,” Hackett said. “That’s unacceptable. You can’t do that.”

Jeudy said he was “out there playing with frustration wanting to make a play for my team. I feel like at that point, I was just held and that should’ve been called. But I have to know how to control my anger and just move on.”

Injuries

Wilson is in concussion protocol and could miss his second game this season after missing just three in his decade in Seattle. RB Mike Boone (ankle) is likely done for the year and Hackett had no update on WR Kendall Hinton (hamstring), who was limping badly after the game.

Key number

66 — RB Marlon Mack’s 66-yard touchdown catch was the longest of his career and the longest by a Broncos running back since Kapri Bibbs’ 69-yarder against the Raiders in 2016.

Up next

The Broncos host Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals, who will be playing on short rest after facing the Patriots on Monday night.


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