- The NFL had a terrible week dealing with the fallout of the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic.
- As a result of positive COVID-19 tests and accompanying contact tracing the Denver Broncos were forced to play their game against the New Orleans Saints with none of the QBs on the roster eligible to play.
- To no surprise, the Broncos lost in a non-competitive rout.
Turns out there’s a reason that teams use a specially trained athlete at the quarterback position. The Denver Broncos were forced by a combination of circumstance, COVID-19 and the NFL to play their Sunday game against the New Orleans Saints with no eligible quarterbacks on the roster and the outcome was pretty much what you expected it to be. Denver had trouble moving the football–not exactly a shock considering that a practice team wide receiver was filling in at quarterback–and the Saints beat the Broncos 31-3.
Denver’s best option for a passing game quickly became not to have one. Kendall Hinton went 1-9 for 13 yards with two interceptions though it’s impossible to blame a guy that hadn’t taken a snap under center in a competitive game for five years. Broncos’ head coach Vic Fangio gave Hinton props after the game:
“He did everything he could. That was a big, big ask.”
For Hinton, the whole thing was a bit surreal:
“When I got the call it was pure excitement. Of course, there was nerves and disbelief but the encouragement the team gave me … made it a lot easier for me.”
The game was over by halftime as the Broncos trailed 17-0. For most of the first half the game was competitive before New Orleans scored twice off of turnovers in the final 2:22 of the second quarter. That had more to do with the Saints’ own lack of cohesion on offense than anything Denver did. The Broncos finished the first half with a total of 37 yards and 1 first down. Brandon McManus kicked a 58 yard field goal in the third quarter for Denver’s only score of the day and to prevent the Broncos from getting shut out at home for the first time in team history. That score was set up by the defense–cornerback Essang Bassey returned an interception 26 yards to the Saints’ 50 yard line to get Denver into FG range.
Hinton still hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since October 7, 2017 as a member of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons against Clemson. Oddly enough, the Saints’ starting quarterback Taysom Hill hasn’t thrown one since November 26, 2016 against Utah State when he was the starting quarterback at BYU.
The Broncos communicated with the NFL about their situation but it became clear that they were not going to get any help. Some media outlets attempted to carry water for the league explaining how Denver’s situation was different than the situation in the many games that got postponed previously in the season. They didn’t have any explanation for why the league postponed a New England Patriots’ game when Cam Newton (and at the time no one else on the roster) tested positive for COVID-19 while the Broncos were forced to play without *any* quarterbacks. Denver approached the league about starting an assistant coach at quarterback (‘NYET’) and about postponing the game (‘NYET’). It was obvious that the NFL wanted to ‘make an example’ out of the Broncos for their COVID-19 protocol malfeasance.
Denver safety Kareem Jackson said as much after the game:
“I feel like maybe [the game] could have been moved, but at the same time, maybe the league was making an example of us as far as maybe not doing the things we needed to do in that particular room, that quarterback room. Obviously, the guys didn’t follow their protocols, and for [the NFL] to see that, I guess they felt like they had to make an example, so at the end of [the] day, it is what it is.”
“… Obviously, it’s our guys’ fault for not wearing their masks, but at least maybe move the game to the next day or whenever so we’re given a fighting chance,” Jackson added. “[It’s] obviously disappointing. I’m not sure why it wasn’t moved. I have no clue … as a competitor, [it is] definitely frustrating.”
Head coach Fangio holds himself and his quarterbacks accountable:
“I was disappointed on a couple levels: that our quarterbacks put us in this position, that our quarterbacks put the league in that position. We count on them to be the leaders of the team, the leaders of the offense, and those guys made a mistake, and that is disappointing,” Fangio said. “Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them when they’re on their own … There was a failing there, and that’s disappointing.”
The Saints were also easy winners at the betting window. New Orleans closed as a -16.5 or -17 favorite at most sportsbooks covering even this bloated number with ease. The total closed at 36 or 36.5 which was more of a ‘sweat’ for Unders players.