CHICAGO — When the Broncos had every right to quit on Sean Payton, proud NFL veterans Russell Wilson and Kareem Jackson stepped up to save this irascible, unlovable Denver coach from another crisis of his own making.
After the Broncos came back from a 21-point deficit Sunday to beat the bad news Chicago Bears, 31-28, franchise owner Greg Penner graciously awarded Payton a game ball to celebrate his long-overdue first victory on the Denver sideline.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. We’re going to play a lot better teams on our schedule,” Payton said, remaining steadfastly true to his Coach Grumpypants nature.
So let’s not sugarcoat it. Payton did not rally Denver against the league’s worst team. The Broncos won in spite of a coach who has been slow to embrace the players in Denver’s locker room as his guys.
You might find Wilson so earnest as to be corny, so scripted as to be robotic and so past his prime as to not be worth anywhere near his big, fat contract extension.
But none of us can deny the obvious: Wilson willed an 0-3 football team on the brink of entering the sweepstakes for the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL draft to victory. And he did it on a sunny autumn day when the Broncos often played like an embarrassment to the city of Denver, the color orange and themselves.
With the Broncos trailing by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, Wilson entered the Denver huddle and began to quietly preach.
“He looks you dead in the eye and says; ‘We’re going to do this.’ And there’s no reason not to believe him … He’s Russell Wilson for a reason,” Denver offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey said.
McGlinchey then revealed how Denver’s quarterback noted anxiety festering in the eyes of the Bears, causing Wilson to promise: “They can feel we’re going to win this game.”
OK, beating Da Bears is a long way from carrying the Broncos to the Super Bowl. But DangeRuss is not washed.