Broncos heroes and zeros: Kareem Jackson’s illegal hit could be costly

A look at the heroes and zeros from the Broncos’ 35-33 loss to the Washington Commanders.

Marvin Mims Jr.: Do the Broncos finally have a vertical threat? If the first two quarters of Sunday’s game are a harbinger of things to come, the answer is a resounding yes. The Oklahoma product’s first (and only) two receptions Sunday went for 60 and 53 yards (the former for a touchdown), and his lone punt return went for 45. After Sean Payton’s offense was completely devoid of big plays in Week 1, suddenly there’s a ray of hope. Provided Payton actually uses him, of course.

Eric Bieniemy: So, maybe the former CU Buffs star/coach knows what he’s doing after all? Dismissed as an Andy Reid understudy in Kansas City, Bieniemy is out to prove himself as the Commanders’ offensive coordinator and play-caller this season. On Sunday, he didn’t just match wits with Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, he toyed with him, especially in the second half when he shredded Denver with screens on back-to-back TD drives. Washington’s final line: 388 yards, 26 first downs and 35 points. Not too shabby.

Broncos edge rushers: Missing in action with zero sacks in Week 1, the Broncos edge rushers emerged early against the Commanders. Jonathon Cooper nearly pulled Denver back from the brink in the third quarter with a strip sack of Sam Howell that forced Washington into a 59-yard field goal attempt (which was missed). It was one of two sacks for the Ohio State product, and four for the group overall. Somehow, still not enough for Denver.


Kareem Jackson: Given the circumstances — fourth and goal at the Broncos’ 4-yard line — it’s easy to understand why the Denver safety would sell out to jar the ball loose from tight end Logan Thomas. Still, Jackson has to know better than that. It’s one thing to deliver a good, clean hit. But leaving your feet to launch yourself at a pass catcher’s head? That doesn’t play anymore. And neither did Jackson after he was ejected for his second-quarter shot. With a suspension seemingly on the table, he might not next Sunday, either.

Russell Wilson: For roughly 18 minutes, nobody looked better than Russ. The 34-year-old Broncos quarterback wasn’t just cooking, he was serving a buffet line. Deep throws so beautiful they could be hijacked by Denver Art Museum. Precision passes. Crisp decision-making. Even a zone-read option run for a first down. Then came a fumble at midfield that stopped the Broncos in their tracks. Three balls that should’ve been picked (only one actually was, sort of). And another opportunity squandered.

Mile High Miracle denied: For about 45 giddy seconds inside a then-sparsely filled Empower Field, wide receiver Brandon Johnson was on the precipice of etching his name into Broncos lore. A Russell Wilson Hail Mary that appeared ready to land four yards shy of the end zone got batted around and miraculously landed in Johnson’s hands. Then, with a two-point conversion all that stood between Denver and overtime, the officials swallowed their whistles with an obvious pass interference on Courtland Sutton staring them in the face. There’s plenty of blame to go around for this Broncos loss. We’ll give the zebras a tiny slice.

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