BRONCOS

Broncos’ Wil Lutz has gone from the valley to the peak

Nov 30, 2023, 11:02 AM | Updated: 1:07 pm

In Week 1, Wil Lutz was at the center of the storm. He missed an extra-point and a field-goal attempt in a game the Broncos lost to the Las Vegas Raiders by a single point. And afterward, he bore the brunt of the loss, answering questions in a downcast locker room.

But ever since then, Lutz has been the hero.

And on Wednesday, the NFL honored Lutz by naming him the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Month for November — even though Lutz had just three games to accomplish that.

Of course, in those three contests, Lutz was a perfect 11-for-11 on field-goal attempts, including a game-winning, walk-off kick against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 13. Lutz’s first attempt sailed wide right, but a Buffalo penalty for too many players on the field nullified the miss, and he coolly drilled the rekick to give the Broncos the third of five-consecutive wins to date.

A week later, Lutz was the entirety of the Broncos offense for nearly all of their game against the Minnesota Vikings, going 5-of-5 to keep the team afloat until Russell Wilson could lead a game-winning drive in the final moments to seal a 21-20 win.

WIL LUTZ JOINS EXCLUSIVE COMPANY

He is the first Bronco to earn the AFC’s monthly special-teams award since his predecessor, Brandon McManus, received the same honor in October 2015. Coincidentally, McManus — who the Broncos released in May — also preceded Lutz in winning this award, garnering it for his work in October.

The 11 field goals hit by Wil Lutz in November led the AFC. That tally is also tied for the most in a 3-game stretch in Broncos history; he shares that honor with Connor Barth.

Wil Lutz becomes the fifth different Broncos placekicker to earn the AFC’s monthly honor, joining Jason Elam (November 2001), Matt Prater (September 2009 and December/January 2011-12), Barth (December 2014) and McManus (October 2015).

Four other Broncos also have earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Month plaudits: returners Reuben Droughns (September 2004), Eddie Royal (October 2009) and Trindon Holliday (September 2013) and punter Todd Sauerbrun (October 2005).

JUSTIFYING SEAN PAYTON’S CHOICE

The decision to move on from McManus in May generated consternation over the ensuing months. That accelerated when kickers Brett Maher and Elliott Fry struggled during the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

But when Lutz became available after losing a kicking competition with Blake Grupe, Broncos coach Sean Payton pounced at the chance to reunite with his former kicker, who stabilized the position in New Orleans after 10 seasons that saw the team cycle through kickers.

Lutz has hit 92.3 percent of his field-goal attempts and 90 percent of his extra points. He ranks in the NFL’s top-10 in points by kickers and field-goal success rate.

So far, so good.

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