For a half on Sunday, the Denver Broncos looked like they 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 come up painfully short in a 35-33 loss after a successful Hail Mary gave them a chance to tie the game.
With three seconds left in regulation, Russell Wilson found Brandon Johnson on an unlikely Hail Mary that bounced off multiple Washington defenders to set up a two-point conversion attempt.
But a no-call on contact on the attempt sealed the Washington win. Wilson looked to 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 fell incomplete.
But officials declined to throw a flag, and the Commanders walked off the field victorious.
The ending capped a difficult Broncos day that saw their offense go quiet for most of the second half after building a big early edge. While Denver’s offense went stagnant, its defense struggled to contain a balanced Washington unit helmed by first-year starting quarterback Sam Howell.
A Brian Robinson two-yard touchdown run gave the Commanders their first lead at 28-24 with 13:25 left in the game. A 15-yard scamper by Robinson seven minutes put Washington up by 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 Commanders punt with 48 seconds remaining to set up the late dramatics.
The 18-point comeback is the largest for Washington since 2015 when Kirk Cousins led a rally from a 24-0 deficit for a 31-30 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, inspiring his trademark “You like that” rallying cry.
The day in Denver started out great for the home team with a new offense helmed by first-year head coach Sean Payton and offensive coordinator Joe Lomabardi. The big plays were back from former Pro Bowler Wilson, who put 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.
By halftime, Wilson had completed 6 of 8 passes for 154 yards and two scores. Denver’s offense had racked up 223 yards of total offense.
But they blew their big edge then saw their own rally thwarted by a controversial no call to fall to 0-2.