Nathaniel Hackett’s Headscratcher Ends Week 1 Wild

By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Professional Football Writer

Nathaniel Hackett found himself in no man’s land, and he secured a place in football’s purgatory with a headache of a decision that turned his head coaching debut into a dud and ruined the Homecoming of Russell Wilson.

Trailing the Seahawks 17-16 on Monday night, the Broncos raced through midfield with just over a minute to play when Javonte Williams caught a short pass from Wilson and headed for Seattle’s 46.

That put Denver facing on fourth down barely in field goal range, but 5 yards from first down.

Isn’t that why the Broncos sent three players and five picks to Seattle six months ago for Wilson, whom they signed to a megamillion dollar extension?

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“It put us in this weird situation there because we were in field goal range, but we were in this fourth down situation,” Hackett said. “I didn’t think we were going to get that many yards, so I thought that was a great job from Javonte. We just made the decision that we wanted to make or shoot there on that one.

Hackett decided to take the ball out of the hands of his $296million man and trust a kicker who is now 1 of 8 for 60+ yards in his career after Brandon McManus hooked a 64-yard attempt that would be the second longest fielder in NFL history.

Hackett called timeout with 20 seconds left after letting 43 seconds burn the clock, then fired McManus, capping a weekend full of bloopers, blunders and special teams blunders.

Hackett’s call left Troy Aikman and Joe Buck puzzled as they debuted on the “Monday Night Football” stand.

“I was surprised by that,” Aikman said. “We were caught off guard by the timeout. Like everyone else, we couldn’t quite understand why they were letting so much time pass.

Wilson’s call to the sideline showed “he trusted McManus’ leg more than Russell Wilson being able to convert there on the fourth down,” Aikman explained. “And that will be heavily dissected as we go through the week and that will not sit well with Russell Wilson.”

Hackett had all three timeouts and 63 seconds left when Williams was tackled 5 yards out on the first down.

“When they finally call time out with a second left on the game clock and while we’re looking at this camera they change and they bring in their placement team and it was shocking (to) look down and there’s McManus,” Buck said.

“And they didn’t have to try that desperate basket,” Buck insisted. “And that’s why you’re making a deal to get Russell Wilson, in my opinion.”

To go there in fourth and fifth and at least get McManus closer to a higher percentage field goal attempt.

“I think Nathaniel Hackett will be a great head coach and it will be a great marriage going forward,” Buck said. “But it’s a weird ending to this game, to say the least.”

And to a wild opening weekend in which kickers, punters, long snappers and starters made an unusual amount of head-spinning plays, good and bad.

Saints kicker Wil Lutz threw a 51-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to beat Atlanta and Browns rookie Code York hit 58 yards with 8 seconds left against Carolina to deny Baker Mayfield’s revenge bid .

Randy Bullock drove a field goal 47 yards left as time expired, allowing the Giants to escape with a victory over the Titans and the Colts’ Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 42-yard try with 2 minutes left in overtime , resulting in a tie with the Texans.

The craziest and craziest game of Week 1 was the Steelers 23-20 win at Cincinnati in a game that featured blunders by a long save snapper, two missed field goals and a blocked extra point that sent the game to overtime where Chris Boswell threw a 53-yarder as time expired.

Chiefs safety Justin “Case” Reid, who was an emergency kicker at Stanford, scored one of two extra points and kicked off in the back of the end zone for a forward touchdown until kicker Harrison Butker returns from a rolled ankle in the Chiefs rout. Cardinals.

Buccaneers punter Jake Camarda kicked the ball from the giant video board suspended over the field at the Cowboys stadium and at the swampy Soldier Field, Bears holder Trenton Gill was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taking a towel on the field and tried to dry out the shooting area before a try to the basket.

Hackett’s head-scratcher topped all of those, and he stuck to his decision even after McManus missed a field goal try that didn’t count because Seattle called timeout.

“I was happy he knocked that one out,” Hackett explained. “I thought he had a lot of distance on that one and I just thought we were going to be able to do it. I trust him, and if we have to put him back in that situation, I think he can pull through.”

Wilson was diplomatic, refusing to publicly criticize his coach’s decision.

“Well, we might have the best field goal kicker in the game,” Wilson said. “We said, ‘Where can you do it from tonight? And he said, “46 leftover hash.” I think we were on 46. It was before the drive. We had it there; unfortunately we did not enter.

“I think he’s got the leg for it for sure,” Wilson added. “I just went a bit to the left, I believe, and just – I believe in Coach Hackett. I believe in what we do. Believe in everything, and anytime you can try to find a way to play fourth and fifth, that’s fine too. Also, I don’t think it was the wrong decision. I think it can happen. Obviously, in hindsight, he didn’t succeed, but we were in that situation again, I wouldn’t doubt what he would decide.

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