CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Denver Broncos’ offense is stuck in mud — and it appears no one is coming to help pull it out.
Russell Wilson turned in yet another lackluster performance on Sunday, managing just one late touchdown pass in a 23-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The Broncos fell to 3-8 since he was acquired in a blockbuster offseason trade with the Seattle Seahawks and later signed a $245 million contract extension.
The combination of Wilson and rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett — the source of offseason optimism in Denver — is not working out. The Broncos have scored fewer than 17 points in nine of 11 games and are last in the league in scoring.
Wilson, who finished 19 of 35 for 142 yards and was sacked three times, called the team’s offensive performance “unacceptable.”
“This organization, this tradition here, everything else, we got to honor it,” Wilson said. “We got to honor it by winning. We got to honor it by our work ethic. Continue to work hard. We got to go out there and play. Play great and be able to find ways to score touchdowns.”
Latavius Murray rushed for 92 yards — 52 on one run — after Melvin Gordon was released earlier in the week because of fumbling issues, and Courtland Sutton had six catches for 75 yards.
But no one else stepped up to make big plays for the Broncos, who have lost seven of eight.
“We got to get the losing out of our system,” Wilson said. “Winning is a habit. Losing can be too. We got to make sure we have winning habits throughout the process. Not just throughout the week, but throughout the whole game.”
Hackett, who is facing weekly questions about his job status, said his team’s lack of production on third down is what bothers him the most.
The Broncos came into the game ranked 31st in the league in third-down conversion percentage, and they were 4 of 14 against the Panthers.
Hackett referenced the injuries to starting receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler as factors in the team’s offensive falloff since its 21-17 win over Jacksonville in London on Oct. 30.
Both players sat out again Sunday.
“We’ve had a lot different personnel with people going in and out,” Hackett said. “That’s no excuse. We got to get those guys caught up to speed. They got to be able to contribute and we got to continually work with the guys that we have that are going to be out there.”
Defensive end Brian Burns playfully mocked Wilson after a strip-sack, imitating the QB’s pregame ritual by putting his arms out to the side, palms up, and closing his eyes.
Wilson has thrown multiple touchdown passes in just one game and has eight for the season.
“We got to keep believing in it,” Wilson said. “We got to keep not blinking. You got to believe that at any point, something great is going to happen.”
So far this season, that hasn’t happened much for the Broncos’ offense.