Sean Payton explains taking timeouts, not going to OT in brutal loss

Dec 24, 2023, 10:00 PM | Updated: Dec 26, 2023, 8:05 am

The Denver Broncos and head coach Sean Payton likely watched their season end on Christmas Eve.

And it was a brutal way to bow out of the playoff picture.

The 7-8 Broncos lost to the New England Patriots 26-23 on a field goal with two seconds to go, and their postseason chances plummeted.

Down 23-7, it looked all but over, but QB Russell Wilson rallied them for two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions in the fourth quarter to tie things at 23-23.

The Broncos even got the ball back with 1:42 to go. It looked like they had all the momentum and were going to drive down and win the game. Instead, a three-and-out forced a punt and the Patriots got the ball back.

On their own 19-yard line with just 58 seconds left to go, it looked like New England was content to run the clock out. They ran the ball with Ezekiel Elliott, ready to head to overtime.

But Payton had all three of his timeouts, and started burning them. After two runs, the Patriots had a short third-down. Payton clearly wanted the football back one more time in regulation, but it didn’t work out. Star cornerback Pat Surtain II got burned on third down and eventually New England got into field goal range with seven seconds left.

Kicker Chad Ryland, who had a tough night to that point, played hero with a 56-yarder. Rather than battle in OT, Payton kept the Patriots on the field and eventually cost his team. After the game, he was asked about it, and cited Denver’s momentum in the big comeback.

“Well, we certainly did. The advantage we had were the timeouts. And so, we got zero-blitzed a few times, they got us to third-down. Clearly, we had to punt it, and then we still had the ability to stop the clock. I mean, we felt like we’d get the stop. We weren’t able to, and then all of the sudden the script’s flipped,” Payton said.

That script flipped to more or less end the Broncos season. It was stunning to see Surtain get burned, and a bitter way to finish things off after a miracle comeback.

“Disappointing finish. Credit them, they made the plays they needed to and weren’t able to,” Payton said.

The Broncos had all kinds of things go wrong on a night that ripped the heart out of their fans. Payton knows this one slipped away, and told his team as much after the game.

“I said to the team there were six or seven different situations in that game, that any one of those play out a little differently, but unfortunately they didn’t. And our margin for error right now isn’t what it needs to be. And we end up on the losing end of a game,” Payton said.

It stinks. There’s no other way to slice it. And if Payton doesn’t get greedy and this goes to overtime, we might still be talking about the playoffs.

Instead, another long offseason awaits and Payton might be a big reason to blame.


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