Frustration spills over for Broncos in humbling loss to Rams

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Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee celebrates after scoring past Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II during the first half of an NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Russell Wilson, ever the optimist, couldn’t find a way to rationalize the Denver Broncos’ dire 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

“Well, the bottom line is unacceptable, you know, and it starts with me,” he said. “The bottom line is that I let us down. It can’t happen, and it’s been disappointing.”

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Wilson threw interceptions on the Broncos’ first two possessions, allowing the Rams to build a 17-0 lead before the visitors had even gained a first down in a performance that looked to be Denver's rock bottom in a season will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. And without any help from their offense, the Broncos’ defense finally buckled, allowing the Rams to score on eight straight possessions before they took a knee with six seconds to go.

“This was an entire team loss. Nobody played good enough to win. It’s across the board, whether it’s offense or defense,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “Everybody’s got to do better.”

The Broncos (4-11) didn’t expect to be in this position when the schedule came out in May — one that included a nationally televised spot on Christmas Day. They had traded for Wilson, finally giving a team that had all the other components the top-tier quarterback it had lacked in the quest for another Super Bowl appearance.

Instead, erratic play from Wilson and the offense doomed the Broncos to a seventh straight season without a playoff berth.

His second pass of the game sailed over the head of wide receiver Courtland Sutton and into the waiting hands of Rams cornerback Cobie Durant, who returned it to the Denver 34. The Rams scored three plays later to go up 10-0.

Wilson’s next attempt, a throw over the middle to tight end Greg Dulcich, was picked by linebacker Bobby Wagner, his longtime Seattle teammate. Cam Akers ran for the first of three touchdowns two plays later, and the game was effectively over with 4:45 left in the first quarter.

“It’s been a storm all year, and not what we hoped for and what we dreamed for,” said Wilson, who threw for 214 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. “But it doesn’t mean it’s gonna end that way, you know, for years to come. We got to change it, and, like I said, it starts with me and I’m gonna be the first one to make sure I do everything I can, that we can to change it.”

Wilson is seemingly assured of sticking around to try and reverse those struggles with a five-year, $245 million contract extension he got in September. But the pieces around him could be different, especially after frustration showed up Sunday on the sideline and field.

Backup quarterback Brett Rypien got into a confrontation with the offensive line, and left guard Dalton Risner shoved him in response. Outside linebacker Randy Gregory was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct in the second quarter following a Rams touchdown pass and was briefly benched. Then Gregory got into a skirmish with Rams right guard Oday Aboushi after the game and they traded blows to the helmet.

“I think we’re all frustrated because we feel like we can be better,” Wilson said, who threw at least three interceptions for just the fifth time in his 11-year career. “We feel like we’re more capable, capable of being better. We feel like we’ve had some good moments and all that, but nobody wants to put out what we put out today. That was terrible. That was not us.”

This is the second straight season in which Wilson has a losing record, but count Wagner among those who believes the Broncos will turn things around next season — led by their quarterback.

“I don’t expect this to be a long-term thing,” Wagner said. “I know that he’s going to get right and perform at a high level and lead that team to victory. So I’m confident in him. I’m always confident in him. My money is always on Russ.”


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