DENVER — Common sense is dead.

Like so many institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL is complicit in its murder.

Just think about the logic, or lack of, that led to the Saints smashing up the Broncos 31-3 on Sunday, literally and figuratively: propping up “quarterbacks” Kendall Hinton and Phillip Lindsay as tackling dummies against a violent Saints defense was ruled the safest option. The NFL is seriously lucky neither got seriously hurt.

No, really. This was throwing 51-year-old Roy Jones into a ring with Mike Tyson in his 20s.

Hinton is a wide receiver shy of 200 pounds and hadn’t played quarterback in two years. Poor guy got thumped, thrown and thrashed for four quarters. Lindsay is a running back. Has been since peewee ball. By the time the third quarter rolled around, he’s chatting up trainers about a knee injury that forced him to leave the game.

Safer my backside. This was the dumbest sporting event I’ve ever witnessed. Outside a Muay Thai match or a girls' lacrosse rivalry game, it was also one of the most violent. NFL defenses are mean enough as it is. Take the field without a real QB so the defense knows what’s coming, you’re a pinata in tight pants.

“I haven’t been tackled in two years,” said Hinton, who was plucked from the Broncos practice squad less than 24 hours before kickoff.

No way, no how, no chance, should this game have been played. And that has nothing to be do with the score or protecting the integrity of the game. The NFL replaced one safety issue with a more dangerous safety issue and no longer gets to carry on and on about player safety again.

Asked if he thought a game postponement was the better option, Broncos coach Vic Fangio avoided yet another donation to NFL charities: “I’m not going to get into that. That’s more on the league level, maybe something for Joe or John to address. I’m not going to go there.”

Sure, like Ellis or Elway will test the NFL when it’s already ticked off about the ownership situation here. The Broncos will take 2020’s popular route: listen to the boss man and go take a seat in the corner. Whatever happened to speaking up when you know something’s wrong?

Oh, it gets better, and by better I mean dumber: the Broncos would’ve been better off with a COVID-19 outbreak than the single asymptomatic positive test they had with backup QB Jeff Driskel. A bunch of positive tests would force the NFL to postpone the game, like it did for the Patriots in October. Instead, the Broncos were forced to play without all four quarterbacks with Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles at home due to contact tracing.

But take it from a kid who tested authority enough to learn the best angles to lessen the boom of a wooden spoon: I know punishment when I see it. This was the NFL punishing the Broncos, either as repeat offenders of its mask rules or for the ongoing, troublesome, hovering ownership ordeal.

Tell you who would’ve said nope. Pat Bowlen would’ve said nope.

“Maybe (the game) could’ve been moved,” veteran safety Kareem Jackson said. “At the same time maybe the league was making an example of us not doing things we need to do.”

Sunday was the latest example of folks in charge trying to look good instead of do good.

That’s been the case with politicians who tell you to stay home while they book Thanksgiving flights to Mississippi. That’s true for governments shutting down small businesses while bankruptcies soar. That was true when high school kids were told they’d be healthier not exercising in sports. Take a closer look. What they’re saying they’re doing is the opposite of what they’re actually doing.

This time the death of reason was televised from Empower Field at Mile High. RIP. We’re now in a spot where three players who consistently tested negative for COVID-19 were considered more of a safety risk than a 190-pound QB running away from a defensive line that goes 265, 300, 320 and 287 pounds. The Saints teed off on Broncos ball carriers, snap after snap. It’s easy to do when you know there’s no one who’s capable of throwing a pass. 

No fans were allowed at Empower Field at Mile High, and that’s too bad. They would’ve had the rare chance to cheer when Garett Bolles earned a holding flag for saving Hinton from getting smashed again. Credit Hinton for toughing it out when the best possible outcome was not dying.

This avoidable disaster got rolling when the NFL viewed surveillance video from Dove Valley and declared Lock and the other quarterbacks had fallen short of COVID-19 protocols.

“In a controlled and socially distanced area, we let our masking slip for a limited amount of time,” Lock said in a tweeted statement. “An honest mistake, but one I will own.”

Cool, fine 'em. Scold 'em good. But move the game to at least feign safety concerns.

“They got lax with their masks, I guess,” Fangio said of the shamed quarterbacks. “They got lax with their distancing from each other, I guess.”

And no, this wasn’t Tebow Time all over again. Goodness gracious this wasn’t Tebow Time. The Broncos had a bye week before his first start of 2011. These Broncos had about 18 hours to prepare a quarterback game plan for a receiver who was selling fundraisers last month.

“Tomorrow morning probably won’t be fun,” Hinton said of his body.

RIP, common sense. Sure was fun while it lasted.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)