The Denver Broncos, or as the Denver Post likes to call the squad, “Team Wait Too Long,” had a golden opportunity to get to 4-1 and further solidify itself as a legit playoff contender. But a sleepy start and untimely miscues ultimately doomed them, in a 27-19 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers, October 10.
All was not a wash, however, as the Broncos’ passing attack fueled a furious near-comeback in the fourth quarter, by scoring two touchdowns in the final minutes of play that made the Heinz Field faithful a little uneasy.
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Making a Statement
Wideout Courtland Sutton, a former Pro Bowler who is working his way back from the torn ACL he suffered, ironically at Pittsburgh in Week 2 of 2020, had a stellar final frame. His sprawling 39-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, with 5:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, was almost the momentum needed to carry the Broncos (3-2) past the Steelers (2-3), as Denver finally awoke from its three-quarters of slumbering. The score cut the deficit to 24-19.
The Broncos’ WR1 celebrated his 26th birthday in a big way with that play and showed that he’s beginning to fully get back his explosiveness and deep-ball play. Sutton finished with seven receptions for 120 yards. His score was the first of the season and the first since the end of the 2019 campaign.
Sutton entered the Steelers game listed as questionable with an ankle sprain, and up until early Sunday morning, it was a 50/50 chance that he’d be able to suit up and play. Alas, his pregame workout went off without a hitch, and the former SMU star put on a show. It was Sutton’s best performance since the Broncos’ Week 2 win at the Jacksonville Jaguars, September 19. During that contest, Sutton tallied season highs in catches (nine) and yards (159).
The Broncos are going to need more of that from Sutton, especially since their wide receivers unit has thinned out over the last few weeks, due to key injuries from Jerry Jeudy (ankle) and KJ Hamler (ACL). The former could return in less than a month, as he was placed on short-term IR after his Week 1 injury at the New York Giants, while the latter is out for the season after tearing his knee in a Week 3 home win over the New York Jets.
Mr. Do Everything
The former Wake Forest star already holds a fond spot in the heart of Broncos Country after he was placed in an impossible position, Week 12 in 2020, against the New Orleans Saints. Hinton, who was primarily a wideout in college, but played some quarterback, too, was pressed into the starting quarterback role against the Saints, due to all four Broncos’ signal callers being out for the game with either Covid-19 (backup Jeff Driskel) or contract tracing (then-starter Drew Lock, practice-squad quarterback Brett Rypien, and ironically Covid-emergency quarterback Blake Bortles).
The game unfolded as one would predict, as Hinton went 1-of-9 for 13 yards and two interceptions in a 31-3 drubbing. It was an admirable attempt by Hinton, who literally had 24 hours to learn the Broncos’ playbook from a quarterback’s viewpoint.
Flash forward to the October 10 Steelers game, and it was Hinton’s time to shine — finally as an NFL wideout. The second-year receiver had the third-most receiving yards (25) for the Broncos on the afternoon. And while the yardage itself wasn’t anything noteworthy, it was the impact of one particular reception that gets notoriety.
The Broncos were trailing the Steelers, 24-6, in the fourth quarter and were in hurry-up desperation mode. Denver had already converted two other fourth-down conversions when a third attempt was called. Bridgewater rolled to his right, and with an oncoming defender closing in, connected with Hinton on the fourth-and-goal pass from the two-yard line to cut the deficit to 24-13.
Hinton now has four catches for 53 yards on the season, and with all the recent injuries as well as his budding play, could be in line for more opportunities going forward.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8