DENVER — By itself, it’s not exactly the NFL’s marquee matchup of week 1.
The Broncos open their 2021 regular-season by playing a road game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium at 2:25 p.m. Sunday afternoon, September 12, the team and league announced Wednesday.
But look at that date again. It’s the 20th anniversary weekend of 9-11. Twenty years ago, the Broncos played the Giants on the night before 9-11. The Ed McCaffrey game. After the Broncos beat the Giants, 31-10, on Monday night, Sept. 10 at the official opening of the Broncos’ new stadium (then called Invesco Field), New York’s team returned to the devastation of terrorist attacks.
Terrorists highjacked two commercial airplanes and flew them directly into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. Both towers collapsed. A third highjacked planed crashed into the Pentagon.
A fourth highjacked plane was foiled by passengers and crashed into a Pennsylvania field instead of its intended Washington target. In all, there were 2,977 fatalities. Each year, 9-11 is a somber, powerful anniversary to all Americans, but especially to New Yorkers. It’s symbiotic, perhaps, that the Broncos will be the Giants’ opponent on the 20th anniversary weekend.
The Broncos will take it.
For starters, Vic Fangio needs an early win. In his two years as head coach, the Broncos have started 0-4 and 0-3. Not that the Giants will be pushovers at home and they may even be slight favorites for this game. But the Giants have posted records of 4-12, 5-11, 4-12 and 6-10 in their previous four seasons to become one of the few teams whose combined 19-45 record during that stretch is worse than the Broncos’ 23-41 mark.
Those 5-11 and 4-12 Giant marks belonged to Pat Shurmur when he was their head coach in 2018-19. Prior to the 2019 season, the Giants selected Daniel Jones as their quarterback with their No. 6 overall draft pick, and not Drew Lock, who fell to the Broncos with the No. 42 overall selection in the second round.
After coaching Jones in his rookie season, Shurmur was dismissed by the Giants and hired quickly by Fangio to become the Broncos’ new offensive coordinator.
Shurmur’s first season working with Lock didn’t go so well. The Broncos picked up veteran reinforcement two weeks ago by acquiring Teddy Bridgewater to compete with Lock for the starting quarterback job.
If Lock wins, then it will be Lock vs. Jones in the season opener in the Meadowlands. If Bridgewater wins then never mind. On with the 2021 season.
The game 1 matchup does give Bronco fans a break in that they don’t have to wait so long to watch their team play that dreaded late second game of a Monday night doubleheader – the final game of week 1 – as they did the previous two years and three of the past four. Last year, the Broncos opened at home against Tennessee with no fans at Empower Field at Mile High because of COVID-19 restrictions. This year, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has stated he hopes to have MetLife Stadium events at full 82,500 capacity by the start of the regular season, although currently seating is limited to 15%.
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