QB Jarrett Stidham to start in Broncos' finale, head coach Sean Payton announces

Russell Wilson will remain on the bench

Jarrett Stidham was given the ball Sunday to give the Denver Broncos "a spark" on offense, according to head coach Sean Payton after he revealed the team was benching Russell Wilson and elevating Stidham last week.

Under Wilson, the Broncos were 6-5 entering December, but went 1-3 from there and effectively fell out of playoff contention. But even though Denver was still mathematically alive in the playoff race, Payton decided to make the switch for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers defense.

And Stidham repaid him in kind by throwing for 224 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-32 passing in Denver's wire-to-wire, 16-9 victory over the Chargers. Stidham connected with Lil'Jordan Humphrey for a 54-yard house call.

"No. 1, our job is to score," Payton said via ESPN. "We had opportunities ... that's the first thing. I thought Jarrett did a good job after seeing the tape, with his decisions, ball security, all the things you want to see from that position ... A lot of positives to build off of."

Despite the win, the Broncos are now officially eliminated from playoff contention.

Denver Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham smiles during a news conference following a win against the Los Angeles Chargers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Denver Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham will start for a second consecutive week, head coach Sean Payton told reporters on Monday. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

There are a few items that Payton would like to see cleaned up when Denver plays in Las Vegas. Namely, he wants better efficiency from the offense in the red zone, where the team went 0-for-2 against Los Angeles. While the Chargers offered little resistance on defense, the Broncos are about to face a Raiders team that boasts the 10th-best passing defense and eighth-best scoring defense in the NFL.

Denver is also looking to snap its seven-game losing streak to the Raiders, and Payton told the media that the Broncos won't be resting players. At 8-8, Denver has a chance to finish with its first winning record since 2016, and Payton won't forgo that in his inaugural season in Mile High.

"Absolutely not — we do everything in our power to win this game," Payton said Monday. "It's that important, from who's playing quarterback, who's starting in the offensive line, who's starting on defense, it's that simple."

This article contains affiliate links; if you click such a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission.