On Sunday, it looked like the Denver Broncos were turning the page on their disastrous 2022 season.
Then it all came crashing down.
The Broncos blew a 21-3 lead against the Washington Commanders, then saw their own rally falter in a 35-33 loss after a successful Hail Mary gave them a chance to tie the game.
With three seconds left, Russell Wilson found Brandon Johnson on an improbable 50-yard Hail Mary that bounced off several Washington defenders before landing in the hands of a Denver receiver to set up a two-point conversion attempt.
But a no-call on contact on the attempt sealed the win for Washington. Wilson looked at Courtland Sutton in the end zone with Benjamin St-Juste in coverage. St-Juste made contact with Sutton before the ball arrived and the pass was incomplete.
But the officials refused to throw the flag and the Commanders walked off the field victorious.
The finish capped a difficult day for the Broncos, where their offense went quiet for most of the second half after building a big early lead. While Denver’s offense stagnated, its defense struggled to contain a balanced Washington unit led by first-year quarterback Sam Howell.
Brian Robinson’s two-yard touchdown run gave the Commanders their first lead at 28-24 with 13:25 left in the game. Robinson’s 15-yard scamper with seven minutes left put Washington up 11.
Denver managed a field goal in response after driving to the Washington one-yard line on its next possession. Then the Broncos forced a commanding punt with 48 seconds left to set up late drama.
The 18-point comeback is Washington’s biggest since 2015, when Kirk Cousins led a rally from a 24-0 deficit to an inspiring 31-30 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. his trademark “You like that” rally cry. The Commanders are now 2-0 after a Week 1 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Denver’s hot start ends in crushing disappointment
The day in Denver got off to a great start for the home team with a new offense led by first-year coach Sean Payton and offensive coordinator Joe Lomabardi. Big plays came from former Pro Bowler Wilson, who put the Broncos up 14-3 with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Mims Jr.
A 53-yard strike to Mims on Denver’s next possession helped set up another Broncos touchdown to extend the lead to 21–3.
By halftime, Wilson had completed 6 of 8 passes for 154 yards and two scores. Denver’s offense amassed 223 yards of total offense. The spark seemed to be back.
But the second half belonged to Howell and Robinson as Washington went on a 32-3 run to start the second quarter. Howell completed 18 of 32 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns and 1 interception in his second game since being named the full-time starter. Robinson tallied 129 yards from scrimmage and two scores.
Wilson finished the day 18 of 32 for 308 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He accounted for most of his second-half yardage on Denver’s final two drives, which included 50-yard Hail Marys. He added 56 yards on the ground.
The Broncos fall to 0-2 with the loss as they continue to try to put last season’s disappointment behind them.