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Sean Payton points to a specific reason why the Denver Broncos’ final play "chaos" failed against the Houston Texans

Zac Stevens Avatar
December 4, 2023

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos’ final play of the game against the Houston Texans didn’t have a name.

But after the fact, Sean Payton gave it a fitting one.

“I don’t know what the [name of the] last play is. I wish I could give it a name,” the Broncos’ head coach said on Monday morning, before dialing one up. “Let’s call it ‘Chaos.'”

While the play ended with Russell Wilson throwing an interception in the end zone to seal the Broncos’ 22-17 loss to the Texans, chaos began before the play even started.

“We finished the game yesterday, [and on] the last play of the game, we leave a shift off, so at the snap of the ball, you have three receivers that are trying to run a route, but they haven’t shifted into their final formation,” Payton revealed. “My experience has always been it’s the details—it’s the little things. Those things have to be better.”

Down 22-17 with 16 seconds left in the game, the Broncos’ offense drove all the way down to the Texans’ eight-yard line. Denver needed to get in the end zone. Facing a third-and-goal from the eight, Lloyd Cushenberry snapped the ball to Wilson with three seconds left on the play clock.

Lined up in a stacked formation on the left side of the line, Courtland Sutton backed up to the sideline for what looked to be an apparent screen, Lucas Kroll ran a hook into the end zone and Jerry Jeudy ran an in route in the end zone.

But right as the ball was snapped, the lack of the receiver’s shifts was evident as Krull and Jeudy both put their hands in the air, showing confusion.

On Monday, when asked specifically why a player without an NFL catch, Krull, was targeted on what turned out to be the final play of the game, Payton made it clear that was not how the play was supposed to unfold.

“There was no shift, so certainly from your vantage point, it looks like, man, they’re calling on Lucas [Krull] to be the hero here. I can promise you — he was in the progression of three receivers, but the shift doesn’t happen, and then we’re playing street ball,” the head coach explained, clearly frustrated with the shift not happening before the snap.

Keep in mind, Sutton, standing at 6-foot-4, leads the entire NFL with eight red-zone receiving touchdowns.

“I don’t blame you for looking at that play and kind of wondering where people are and where the ball is going. I was doing the same thing,” Payton added.

With a defender in Wilson’s face almost immediately from the left side, No. 3 turned his back to the end zone and ran to the 22-yard line to avoid the pressure before turning around and throwing a jump ball to Krull.

Texans’ safety Jimmie Ward jumped the pass and picked it off to seal the win for Houston. In his postgame press conference immediately following the game on Sunday, Payton talked about the play.

“Obviously we want all four downs,” the head coach said, pointing to the interception ending the game one play early. “I want to see the film. But certainly we felt like we were going to have — where the ball was relative to time – we were going to have four plays into the end zone. But there’s not going to be a clean look, if that’s what you’re looking for. You’re going to have to make a play in these tight windows. We’ll see the film.”

After watching the film, it was clear to the head coach that the poor communication on offense wasn’t just limited to the final play of the game.

“Offensively, we talked about it—communication. Communication has to improve, especially on the road,” Payton stated. “Too many snaps where guys aren’t ready, or we didn’t get the shift, or we didn’t get the call. That’s troubling, especially this time of year.”

“Chaos,” the final play of the game, capped off a troubling day of communication on the offensive side of the ball to snap the Broncos’ five-game losing streak and send them back to a .500 record on the season.

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