DENVER -- In a season that has had almost nothing on offense go according to plan, Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson now will deal with a concussion that could impact if, or how much, he plays over the team's final four games of the season.
Wilson was forced to leave Sunday's 34-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High after he was slammed to the turf at the end of a 13-yard scramble with 11 minutes, 45 seconds left to play.
He was checked for a possible concussion and soon thereafter was ruled out.
"(He was) putting his body on the line, man. We can say all we want -- we're 3-9, they're 9-3 and the guy is out there battling his ass off, trying to win the game,'' Broncos backup quarterback Brett Rypien said. "That to me is somebody I want to follow.''
Coach Nathaniel Hackett said after the game that Wilson is formally in the league's concussion protocol.
The Broncos, who had trailed 27-0 in the second quarter, were trying to make it a one-score game when Wilson was injured. On a third-and-11 from the Chiefs' 16-yard line, Wilson pulled the ball down and scampered to the 2.
On the tackle by Kansas City cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, Wilson's helmet impacted the ground with his face down. He stayed there for a few moments and appeared woozy when the team's medical staff helped him to the sideline. He was taken to the injury tent on the sideline and then to the Broncos' locker room.
"He was fighting the whole game," Hackett said.
Wilson, who was 23-of-36 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns, had found some much-needed production as he helped power a Broncos comeback that began just before halftime. Down 27-0, Denver intercepted Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on back-to-back drives in the final two minutes of the first half and turned both turnovers into touchdowns -- with Wilson hitting Jerry Jeudy on each.
Wilson threw his third TD pass on the Broncos' first possession of the second half when a screen to running back Marlon Mack turned into a 66-yard catch-and-run score. It was Wilson's first game with three passing TDs for the Broncos in a season during which he and the offense have struggled mightily to construct scoring drives.
The Broncos entered the game with the league's lowest-scoring offense at 13.8 points per game. Sunday marked their highest point total of the season as Wilson had entered the game with eight touchdown passes in the Broncos' first 12 games. But it still amounted to Denver's eighth loss of the season by seven or fewer points, as the team was officially eliminated from playoff contention.
"Everybody had a choice on how they wanted to continue that game,'' Hackett said. "... And they didn't blink. ... We've got to finish, we had opportunities to continually win that game ... We want to win that game and we had a chance to.''
Rypien threw a touchdown pass to Jeudy to close out the drive on which Wilson was injured but was intercepted later in the fourth quarter. He finished the game 4-of-8 passing for 16 yards and the score as the Broncos have now lost 14 consecutive games to the Chiefs dating to September 2015, when Peyton Manning was their quarterback.
"Yeah, man, frustrating, frustrated I didn't get it done,'' Rypien said. "Seeing how hard Russ fought, how hard our offense fought.''
Because he is in the league's concussion protocol, Wilson will have to achieve several benchmarks to first return to practice and then to play in a game, including exams from an independent physician. With four games left in the season, starting with next Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals in Denver, the question will be how much time Wilson might miss.