A lot happens during a typical weekend in the NFL. It's even harder to track what's going on in Week 1, when all 32 teams are playing and revealing what they worked on over the offseason. I did my best Sunday night to evaluate what stood out from Week 1, but I still have plenty of questions about what happened during the opening 16 games.
Let's try to break down six of those questions and answer what they mean for Week 2 and beyond.
There's only one place to start. On top of all the chaos of Sunday, Monday delivered one of the most dramatic and inexplicable endings you'll see. It's rare for the entire football universe to come together to condemn a decision, but that's exactly what happened with the Broncos and new coach Nathaniel Hackett. You don't need me to tell you Hackett made the wrong decision in the fourth against the Seahawks, but I'll begin by trying to get at a bigger, more important question:
Jump to a question:
What was Nathaniel Hackett thinking?
Was another decision actually worse?
What's going on with Kadarius Toney?
How did Minkah Fitzpatrick save the game?
Who got tricked by the Raiders' trick play?
Did Matt Rhule invent a new metric?
Are the Broncos going to be any better dealing with the next late-game situation they face?
In his first regular-season game as a head coach at any level, Nathaniel Hackett, who was hired by Denver in January, looked like ... a person who was doing something for the very first time. As you saw on Monday Night Football, the Broncos stumbled through a disastrous final minute of football to lose 17-16 to the Seahawks, with the former Packers assistant making one of the most inexplicable decisions I've ever seen with the game on the line. Credit to Hackett for publicly admitting he made the wrong decision the following day, but I'm not sure his explanation of what went wrong makes me feel very confident he will make the right choice next time around.
Let's review the situation and try to be helpful. With 1:02 to go, running back Javonte Williams was tackled in bounds, setting up a fourth-and-5 on the Seattle 46-yard line. The Broncos had all three of their timeouts and trailed by one point. There were several ways they could approach the situation. Let's run through the most obvious ones, in what I would consider to be descending order of reasonableness:
Immediately calling a timeout and going for it on fourth down. This is what most teams would do. Calling a timeout right after the play ends allows the offense to be thorough, run through the play sheet, pick the best option the coaches have on the menu and get everybody on offense lined up to run a play. If the play succeeds, great! If it fails, they still would likely have enough time to use their two remaining timeouts and get the ball back for a throw to midfield and either a Hail Mary or a record-attempting field goal try.
Rushing to the line and running a play without using a timeout. I suspect some coordinators -- knowing they need to hurry -- would send in two playcalls on third down and have quarterback Russell Wilson run them both consecutively, with one on third down and the other afterward. Rushing to the line after third down would prevent the Seahawks from substituting, likely forcing them into a relatively simple defensive check, which the Broncos would be in better position to exploit.
What makes this path even better is that it gives the offense another meaningful opportunity, even if it fails. If the Broncos came up short, they still would have had three timeouts to use and get the ball back, likely with about 30 seconds to go. The bonus of adding a possible extra possession is worth running a less efficient play on offense than the one they might get to after a timeout, but either decision would be defensible.
Punting and using your timeouts to get the ball back. I don't like this at all, but with the Broncos only needing a field goal, I could see a scenario in which they tried to punt the ball inside the 10-yard line, held Seattle to a three-and-out, used all three of their timeouts and got the ball back needing only 10 or 15 yards to get in field goal range.