Sean Payton has gone from being ridiculed and criticized to sparking conversations about potentially producing a playoff team out of the Denver Broncos.
Once 1-5 and the recipient of an infamous 70-20 beatdown at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, Payton and the Broncos instead saw a meltdown out of the Buffalo Bills in Denver’s 24-22 win on Monday Night Football.
How Sean Payton and Denver Got the Stunning Win
Payton and his team watched the Bills pull off two late blunders: a defensive pass-interference call set up by a zero-blitz call on third down, and then the Bills having 12 men on the field, negating a missed Wil Lutz field goal.
Lutz hit the walk-off field goal four seconds after the illegal substitution call. In the process, the final points elevated the Broncos to 4-5 — with Payton helping put together the three-game winning streak.
But along with Lutz’s final points and the Bills’ mental errors, Denver forced three more mistakes: two Josh Allen interceptions and a James Cook fumble, the latter coming on the first play of the night. Payton himself acknowledged that was a huge difference.
“Good win on the road,” Payton began in his postgame presser. “We felt the turnover margin was going to be significant … and it was.”
Payton and Denver got the win in one of the louder venues in the league against a perennial playoff contender.
“I was proud of how we fought and hung in there. Defensively, we did a lot of good things against an explosive team. They’re a tough team to beat here,” Payton said.
Has the Narrative Changed for the Payton Era in Denver?
It wasn’t that long ago when many across the NFL universe began to wonder if the game passed on Payton.
It began with a 17-16 loss to a Las Vegas Raiders team that would eventually fire its head coach Josh McDaniels. Then came an 0-3 start, with the third loss as a stomping at the hands of the Dolphins.
Now, Payton has his team still in the mix in the early playoff picture. Does this mean the narrative has changed on Payton?
ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III gave him a shoutout, saying Payton has been “coaching his tail off.” Even former Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley can’t help but rave about the job Payton has done.
“Sean Payton deserves so much credit right now. Not sure how this season finishes out but he’s done a remarkable job of keeping this team together and playing hard after an awful first six games,” Stokley said on X.
But now, new tests are on the horizon for Payton and the Broncos. For the next three weeks, they have three teams in the playoff hunt on deck — beginning with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football, followed by the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans. Also looming? A huge interconference showdown on Dec. 17 against the red-hot Detroit Lions.
Minus the now 2-8 New England Patriots, Denver has plenty of aspiring playoff contenders for 2023 remaining on the schedule. Payton and the Broncos will get tested again. But this time, they’ve positioned themselves to join these teams in the hunt for the postseason, and in the process, shedding the nightmare of Miami and going 1-5.