Russell Wilson hits back, leading struggling Broncos past Jaguars

It feels like the whole NFL world has had their jokes on the Denver Broncos, especially Russell Wilson.

When the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback — at the worst point of his career — told reporters earlier this week how he was squatting on a plane flying overseas while teammates slept, Twitter had a big day.

Other NFL teams jumped into the fray. On Thursday night, as the Baltimore Ravens sat on the plane home after a primetime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker joked that Lamar Jackson was leading the team in high knees, adding a “Ravens flock, let’s.” fly” – a nod to Wilson’s catchphrase “Broncos Country, let’s ride”.

But after Denver beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 21-17 at London’s Wembley Stadium on Sunday, nobody jokes about the Broncos anymore. It certainly wasn’t a perfect game. But for at least a week, they can celebrate and stop the disaster that has been their first seven weeks of the season.

And it was Wilson, their new franchise quarterback, who signed a five-year extension with $165 million in guarantees and helped break the charge for the Broncos (3-5) versus the Jaguars (2-6) to lead

“I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t handle the pressure, you know?” Wilson said in a post-game interview on the field. “I kinda enjoy it.”

Wilson led an 80-yard touchdown drive with seven games and less than four minutes left that propelled the Broncos by the final points of the game. It was Wilson’s dart on the touchline to wide receiver KJ Hamler on the first game of possession – a 47-yard pickup against man coverage – that put Denver within goal range. A few plays later, Wilson hit a critical first down on a 10-yard scramble to put the Broncos in the red zone.

And after an impressive interception from cornerback K’Waun Williams, Denver returned the ball with 1:43 minutes remaining. It was a successful Wilson sneak on the fourth and 1 of the Jaguars’ 26 with 36 seconds left that sealed the game with Jacksonville from timeouts.

This was what Wilson NFL watchers saw so often while he was with the Seattle Seahawks: delivering in the clutch. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown with an interception for the Broncos, who were on a four-game losing streak.

It’s a win that could force the team to hold onto several key pieces until Tuesday’s close. Star outside linebacker Bradley Chubb was among the players who have been the subject of trade rumors.

“[My teammates have been] They pick me up and pick me up every day,” said Wilson, who missed last week’s game against the New York Jets with a hamstring injury. “Your work ethic. How they come to work every day, no matter what’s going on, no matter what’s been said. At the end of the day, I know who I am.”

Starting off, the Broncos’ offense was the terrible unit that defined the first seven games of the season. Denver had 10 net yards and no first downs in 12 games with his first four possessions. Wilson’s first game after the scrimmage was a near-interception by Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams. On the second game of the second drive, Wilson was picked off by cornerback Tyson Campbell – a poor and short pass aimed at a well-marked Courtland Sutton on the touchline.

But over the next three rides, the Broncos showed the potential everyone saw in their offense earlier in the season, with Wilson at center and talented guns on the outside. Each drive was at least nine games. Two of those series ended in touchdowns, including one that started from her own 2-yard line. With that possession, tight end Greg Dulcich had 78 of his 98 yards from three receptions.

The Broncos’ offense wasn’t great that day. Wilson missed several throws. Denver converted downs on just two of 11 thirds. But it also tied a season high with three touchdowns. We’ve seen what the Broncos can do when Wilson is able to throw the ball quickly and provide decent pass protection on slower plays, helping an elite defense. The Broncos had two takeaways, held by Trevor Lawrence for 133 yards and kept the Jaguars scoreless on six of their last seven possessions.

The defense made their contribution as always – but the offensive was enough this Sunday.

At least for now, Wilson has the last laugh.

“At the end of the day, I won’t blink,” Wilson said.

“Yo, Broncos Country! Let’s ride, baby.”

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beatwriter for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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