SEATTLE (AP) — It was a familiar scene in Seattle: Russell Wilson leading his team downfield for a game-winning score late in the fourth quarter.
This time, he wasn’t given a chance by his new coach in Denver, pulled off the field in exchange for a 64-yard field goal attempt that left plenty of confusion and the Seattle Seahawks celebrating an unexpected season-opening, 17-16 victory over the Broncos on Monday night.
With the Broncos facing fourth-and-5 in Seahawks territory with a minute remaining and all their timeouts, coach Nathaniel Hackett opted to let the clock run down to 20 seconds before sending out Brandon McManus to try the low-percentage kick.
“I don’t think it was the wrong decision. I think he could make it,” Wilson said after his return to the city where he played his first 10 seasons. “Obviously in hindsight, we didn’t make it, but if we were in that situation again, I wouldn’t doubt whatever he decided.”
Geno Smith threw two first-half touchdown passes as the Seahawks’ offense started brilliantly in the post-Wilson era. Denver had plenty of chances after halftime but fumbled twice at the 1-yard line.
Then came the final minute, which raised plenty of questions about Hackett’s clock management and decision-making in his debut as a head coach. NFL kickers are 2 for 35 on attempts of 64 yards or more since 1991, according to Sportradar, and McManus’ career long is 61 yards.
The kick missed wide left, and instead of Wilson leading the 36th career fourth-quarter or overtime comeback of his career, the Seahawks celebrated to chants of “Geno! Geno!”
“I was surprised that they took Russ out there,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Denver faced fourth-and-5 at the Seattle 46 after Wilson hit Javonte Williams for a 9-yard gain. McManus said that was the exact spot on the field the offense needed to reach to give him a shot at the kick.
“I wish we would have gotten a lot closer, but it put us in that weird spot there because we were in field-goal range, but we were on that fourth-down situation,” Hackett said. “I didn’t think we were gonna get that many yards. … We just made our decision and wanted to take our shot there.”
Hackett then used his timeouts while the Seahawks kneeled down, elongating the Seattle celebration.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, left, talks with Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, right, after an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 17-16. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)