LONDON — Russell Wilson’s high knees on the plane wasn’t the only notable thing to happen on Tuesday for the Denver Broncos as they prepared to play the Jaguars in London.

Tuesday night, the Broncos teammates got together for a team-bonding dinner.

“We kind of went out, just kind of let loose a little bit and just had some fun. I think that was kind of the kick start, I believe, to just a great week,” Russell Wilson said after the Broncos’ 21-17 win over the Jaguars. “We had a good time, guys had a great time laughing, enjoying it… I think that allowed us to have a really great week of practice, and coach Hackett did a great job of allowing us to get our bodies adjusted this whole week and just kind of get going. And then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, we just kept soaring throughout the week, and obviously Sunday we came up with a huge win.”

It wasn’t just the offense that got together for team bonding. It was the whole team.

“It wasn’t mandatory, like the dinner we had, and that just shows guys care, and that goes a long way. I’m proud of this team, man. I’m proud of the way we battled. We’re going to have to find ways to continue to do that and find ways to win the rest of the year,” Justin Simmons added. “Coaches, players, the way we rally together as a team.”

That dinner helped roll the team into Sunday’s game. But not until the second quarter. In the first quarter, the Broncos’ offense struggled. Mightily.

Through 15 minutes of play, Denver had zero points, zero first downs, 21 net yards and one interception.

“The first quarter, that was a hot start,” Nathaniel Hackett joked after the game. “We come out and we go three-and-out, throw a pick on the second play. Again, that comes to that pressing, people wanting to make things happen instead of operating and not trying to do too much. Talked with Russell, told him to take a breath, breathe, just do what he does.”

The small talk Hackett had with Russ helped lead Wilson to a great second quarter, where he went 10-of-15 for 98 yards along with a touchdown and a 107.1 passer rating.

“We hadn’t had something like that happen to us that early and that quick, both one three-and-out and in the second play an interception. Just went up to him and just tried to explain, ‘Hey, take what they give you. Don’t force it.’ He looked, and it was like he had a big smile on his face,” Hackett added about their conversation. “You learn a lot about a quarterback when they throw a pick, especially early. I’ve had some quarterbacks that go in the tank; I’ve had some quarterbacks that are like, hey, got that one out of the way.”

But before Denver’s offense was able to get rolling in the second quarter, their defense came up with the play of the game — and potentially of the season.

Down 7-0, and only one yard away from the end zone, Simmons followed Trevor Lawrence as he rolled out to the right and picked off his pass, saving a touchdown and avoiding a 14-0 deficit.

“It was huge,” Hackett said about the interception. “Justin had the penalty I think in the same drive right before that had advanced them. He didn’t skip a beat. He knew, bend, don’t break. Goes down there and they run the sprint over to the right and he picks it off, which is absolutely an incredible play and huge for us.”

Although Denver wasn’t able to capitalize on the following possession, the Broncos’ defense had their best drive of the season just a few possessions later. On their first drive of the third quarter, Denver started with the ball on their own two-yard line.

Backed up nearly 100 yards away from the end zone, Russ delivered a message to his teammates before the drive.

“We went into the huddle and told the guys, hey, listen, we are going to go 98 yards right now. Believe in it. Believe in it. Believe in it,” Wilson said. “First play, Dulcich makes a great catch, gets 15, 20 yards. Next thing you know we caught that momentum and just went all the way down the field. That was a huge drive for us. You know, the defense gives us a lot of belief that we can do that, too, because they’re doing everything they can to get the ball back for us. That was really key.”

Hackett added that the offense took the right mindset into what could have been a daunting situation.

“You’ve got two ways to look at it. You’re either on the minus 2 or you get to have a chance to get 98 yards of offense. I thought those guys took it that way. They wanted to go 98 yards,” the head coach stated. “They wanted to get those plays… I thought that it was great to see Russell feel comfortable, especially on that drive. Just sitting in the pocket, the line did a great job of protecting him during that time. I thought it was a really good drive.”

Not only was Russ cooking, but his main chef on that drive was Greg Dulcich, who had three catches for 78 yards in that lone drive.

“Oh that was big. We was down, so that 98-yard drive, we needed that to be able to get back in the game,” Jerry Jeudy added. “The way Russ drove down the field and had the offense execute each play, that was a big part of the game.”

At the end of the game, it was the defense’s turn to step up one more time.

Up 21-17 with 1:43 left, Denver’s defense didn’t waste any time sucking the life out of the Jaguars.

On Jacksonville’s first play, K’Waun Williams jumped Trevor Lawrences pass to the right sideline, dove and picked off the ball to all but wrap up the game and send Denver home with a dub.

“He’s got one arm, and how you catch that, I still don’t know,” Hackett said in astonishment, wondering how Williams caught the ball while wearing a cast on his wrist and hand.

“‘K’ is a baller,” Simmons added. “It’s funny, because he told us earlier. I don’t even remember what quarter it was, but they ran that out route and he had a big pass breakup on 1st down. I don’t know if was the same exact play, but they ran it and we came to the sideline and he says, dog, they throw that again I’m going to pick it. A lot of us say that throughout the game.
But it was cool because it happened again… Man, it was a heck of a way to end it.”

Now, the Broncos ride off into their Bye Week with a win under their belt. The four-game losing streak is no more.

And it all started off the field on the first night the Broncos landed in London.


Zac Stevens was born and raised in Denver, went to the University of Denver and now covers the Denver Broncos. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from DU in 2014, Zac worked for the Cleveland Browns as a remote scout. He then jumped straight into the journalism industry at the beginning of 2016 covering the reigning world-champion Broncos and joined DNVR soon after. Catch him on Twitter @ZacStevensDNVR and daily on the DNVR Broncos podcast as the co-host.