Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton and quarterback Russell Wilson had a tense moment on the sideline after Wilson fumbled the ball and the New York Jets returned it for a touchdown to seal a 31-21 win on Sunday.
The CBS broadcast showed Payton seemingly yelling and pointing at Wilson as he walked to the bench, while Wilson looked away and took off his helmet. The clip went viral on social media, sparking speculation about the relationship between the coach and the star player.
However, on Monday, Payton clarified what happened and said it was not a big deal.
“I don’t think I was that animated,” Payton said in a press conference. “It wasn’t as big of an exchange or big deal I think maybe as some may have thought.”
Payton explained that he was trying to communicate with Wilson about the play that led to the fumble, which occurred with 41 seconds left in the game and the Broncos trailing by three points.
“I just wanted to make sure he knew the linebacker was a free-rusher,” Payton said. “We were in some longer yardage situations. I thought we could have been a little stronger at tackle. The pocket got collapsed a few times. He made some things happen, and yet with the zone coverage we were seeing, those immediate throws or progressions were slower because of the coverage.”
Wilson took responsibility for the fumble and said he has a great relationship with Payton.
Wilson, who was sacked four times and lost two fumbles in the game, also addressed the incident and said he had no issue with Payton.
“He’s a great coach. He’s passionate. He wants to win. I want to win. We all want to win,” Wilson said. “He was just trying to tell me something real quick and I was frustrated about the play obviously. It’s nothing personal. It’s just part of the game.”
Wilson took full responsibility for the fumble, which was caused by Jets linebacker Quincy Williams, who blitzed from Wilson’s blind side and knocked the ball out of his hands.
“I’ve got to find a way to get rid of it or make a play,” Wilson said. “That’s on me. That’s my fault.”
Wilson also praised Payton for his offensive scheme and his leadership, saying he has learned a lot from him since he joined the Broncos in March.
“He’s been unbelievable for me,” Wilson said. “He’s been so detailed, so smart, so creative. He’s helped me grow as a player and as a leader. He’s been awesome.”
Payton and Wilson are trying to turn around the Broncos’ season after a 1-4 start.
The Broncos acquired Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks in a blockbuster trade that sent three first-round picks, a third-round pick, and quarterback Drew Lock to Seattle.
The move was seen as a bold attempt by Payton, who was hired by the Broncos in January after leaving the New Orleans Saints, to revive the franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2015.
However, the results have not been as expected so far, as the Broncos have lost four straight games after winning their season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Broncos rank 25th in total offense, 23rd in scoring offense, and 28th in turnover differential. Wilson has thrown for 1,264 yards, eight touchdowns, and six interceptions, with a passer rating of 84.4.
Payton and Wilson are confident that they can turn things around and get back on track.
“We’ve got to stick together. We’ve got to keep working hard. We’ve got to keep believing,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a lot of talent on this team. We’ve got a great coaching staff. We’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us.”
Payton echoed Wilson’s sentiments and said he has faith in his team.
“We’re not going to panic. We’re not going to point fingers. We’re going to look at ourselves and see what we can do better,” Payton said. “We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep improving. We’re going to find a way to win.”