To conclude a head-scratching span of puzzling time management and decisions, Denver Broncos rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett took the game out of Russell Wilson's hand and put it upon Brandon McManus' foot Monday night.
Criticism cascaded down upon Hackett in the moment and after a potential 64-yard game-winning field goal by McManus on fourth-and-5 went wide to seal Denver's 17-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Less than 24 hours after McManus' game-winner gone awry, Hackett admitted he didn't make the right choice.
"Looking back at it, we definitely should've gone for it," Hackett said at the start of his Tuesday news conference. "One of those things, you look back at it and you say, 'Of course we should go for it, we missed the field goal.' But, in that situation, we had a plan. We had a plan, we knew the [46-yard line] was the mark."
Hackett explained, as he had Monday, the plan going into the Broncos' final drive was to work into field goal range, which extended to the Seahawks' 46. That range was set before the game began when McManus conveyed from where he was comfortable kicking. More problematic in Hackett's eyes was a play earlier in the drive when running back Javonte Williams lost four yards on first-and-10 from the Denver 49. That led to third-and-14 prior to the McManus attempt.
"I'm more upset about that play before it, to lose yards," Hackett said. "Getting that there would've definitely been better to be able to call that same play and get extra yards. [Wilson] dumps it out to Javonte, Javonte makes a move, goes a lot farther than I think we had anticipated. We were expecting to go for it on fourth down. And then you hit the mark. The mark that we had all set before we started. We said, 46-yard line was where we wanted to be. And we got there, so we had to make the decision if we wanted to give it to Brandon. And we did. It didn't work. Sucks. But hey, that's part of it."
Only two kicks in NFL history -- Justin Tucker from 66 yards and Matt Prater from 64 -- have been made from the distance McManus was attempting or longer. Nonetheless, Hackett underscored that the plan all along was a kick and they'd be comfortable attempting a game-winner once they got to the 46-yard line.
"Looking back at it, if you miss the field goal, you're always gonna wish you would've gone for it," Hackett said. "And if you would've gone for it and not gotten it, you wish you would've given him a chance."
One yard that would've changed the plan is if Williams would've been held to an 8-yard gain rather than the 9-yard reception he had prior to the field goal. Because of McManus' preset range, had Williams not advanced to that point, the ball would've remained in Wilson's hands for a fourth-down attempt.
"Javonte, if he's one yard less, we're going for it," Hackett said.
There was puzzlement that reached beyond the decision to go for the second-longest field goal in NFL history rather than for five yards with a future Hall of Fame quarterback, though.
The Broncos didn't take their first timeout until they stopped the clock to set up McManus. That, too, was part of the plan.
"We wanted to be sure that we left no time for them," Hackett said.
An offensive drive prior, McManus converted a 26-yard field goal that cut the Broncos' one-score deficit of 17-13 to another one-score deficit of 17-16, rather than go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 8. It was the third consecutive trip for the Broncos into the red zone and the only time they came away with points.
On the previous two drives, the Broncos fumbled away possession on the Seahawks 1-yard line. Since 1991, no team had lost multiple fumbles on plays from the opponent's 1-yard line in the same game, per NFL Research. But on this night of chaos, it happened -- on consecutive drives.
"I think the thing that frustrates me more is that red zone. We had so many opportunities," Hackett said. "It should've never gotten to that [last play]."
But it did come down to the Broncos' last offensive play.
"In the end, it lies on me. I made that decision," Hackett said. "That was our plan, that's what we said, that's the yard we had to get to."