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Teddy Bridgewater lifts Broncos past Giants 27-13

Broncos' new starting quarterback sandwiched halftime with 2 touchdown passes.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Broncos tight end Albert O fumbles the ball away at the Giants' 4-yard line. KJ Hamler drops a 50-yard touchdown pass. The running game was mostly ineffective until Melvin Gordon broke open late.

Teddy didn't care. 

The Broncos new but veteran quarterback is not one to fret about what just happened, no matter how bad. On to the next play. Third down, fourth down, whatever the next play presents.

"It’s just one of those deals where you have to stay calm,'' Bridgewater told 9News after he led the Broncos to a 27-13 season-opening victory Sunday over the host New York Giants. "Over the course of the game, things happen. As long as you don’t get too high or too low, you can still stay in control. We have guys who are resilient. Guys who continue to fight through adversity. And it showed tonight.”

Teddy Bridgewater one game into the regular season was the same quarterback the Broncos have seen since they acquired him in a trade on the eve of the NFL Draft.

Patient. Efficient. Accurate. Composed. And Winning.

Credit: Drew Litton

Terrific Teddy led the Broncos to a resounding win -- the Giants scored a garbage touchdown on essentially the last play of the game to make the score closer than it should have been -- on a comfortably warm early-September Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium on the 20th anniversary weekend of 9-11.

The Broncos, folks, have themselves a quarterback.

“We did today,'' said Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. "Teddy played extremely well. Thought he made some plays improvising with his feet and buying time for the routes to develop. Any time you can do that offensively with your quarterback it always helps.’’

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A 70-yard touchdown run by Gordon with 4:37 remaining clinched it for the Broncos who won their first season opener in three years under Fangio. 

Moving the ball all game long, Bridgewater never panicked over his team’s inability to convert in the red zone early in the game, as he finished off a final-minute drive of the first half with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Tim Patrick. 

Bridgewater then started the second half by converting a remarkable third-and-6 play by stiff-arming away from a sack and completing a 6-yard pass to the redemptive Albert Okwuegbunam. And the same duo hooked up to convert another fourth down in much the same fashion. On fourth-and-1 from the 4, Bridgewater again stiff-armed away from a would-be sack and threw a touchdown pass to Albert O.

"That's something I'm definitely going to work on this week, ball security,'' Okwuegbunam told 9News after the game. "I felt like I needed to score that touchdown to kind of redeem myself a little bit. But, yeah, it was huge, Teddy played his butt off.''

The Broncos went up, 17-7, at that point. Looking back, this game was won before it started. Co-captain and kicker Brandon McManus called "heads" to win the coin toss and the decision to defer was key to the game. Touchdown going into the half; touchdown coming out.

“I was actually talking to (safety) Kareem Jackson about that maybe two days ago,'' Bridgewater said. "He was like “What’s your thoughts on that? I said I like when the defense is on the field first. Hopefully we can get the ball at the end of the first half and go down and score and then get the ball at the start of the second half and try to steal some points.''

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon (25) runs past New York Giants' Adoree' Jackson (22) and Lorenzo Carter (59) for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Broncos won 27-13. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Bridgewater showed why Fangio gave the veteran the nod over previous starter Drew Lock following a summer-long quarterback competition. Teddy Two Gloves finished 28 of 36 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He directed two scoring drives that took 15 and 16 plays and a combined 16 minutes and 54 seconds of game clock.

Nothing helps a defense like an offense that controls the ball.

"We didn't have that many reps out there today, so it felt pretty good, '' said inside linebacker Josey Jewell. "We had a lot of air in us and I felt like we had a little bit of energy after every drive the offense had."

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Bridgewater enabled the Broncos to convert 7 of 12 third downs and 3 of 3 fourth downs through three quarters.

That's right, Fangio went for it on fourth down three times. Made them all. Not exactly what one might think from a 63-year-old coach.

“I’m old school but I look like I’m 40,'' Fangio said. "I just felt like at those times it was the right move to make. I didn’t have a lot of backing on the one at midfield at the end of the half but sometimes you go with your gut.”

It did appear the Broncos may have lost star receiver Jerry Jeudy to a serious lower leg injury. Jeudy caught a 20-yard pass on third-and-7 to set up first down at the Giants' 13-yard line on that first drive of the second half. Jeudy was carted off the field.

“X-rays revealed no fracture or anything so they think it’s a high ankle sprain right now,'' Fangio said.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (10) is carted off the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The drive ended when on fourth-and-1, Bridgewater scrambled away from what looked like a certain sack, zipped it to Okwuegbunam, who broke a tackle while driving to the pylon for a touchdown. It was the third, fourth-down conversion Bridgewater converted for Fangio, his gutsy head coach.

“That was great to see and great to be a part of as an offensive unit,'' Bridgewater said of Fangio's fourth-down decisions. "Coach showing that he has that confidence in me to convert fourth downs and it’s good to keep it manageable. We had one fourth and long. But it was good to see coach have that confidence in you. You call the play in the huddle you see guys and look guys in their eyes and see them have that same confidence, we love it.

"Hopefully we don’t have to live  with going for it on fourth downs but it feels good to be able to convert those fourth downs.”

The Broncos should have been ahead by more than 10-7 at halftime as they moved the ball in each of their four possessions. Bridgewater played as he did during the preseason – in no particular hurry, but clutch under fourth-down pressure, if sans the big play. The Broncos scored first on a 15-play drive that took 8 minutes and 42 seconds of game clock – only to die at the Giants’ 5-yard line. A short Brandon McManus’ field goal early in the second quarter gave the Broncos a 3-0 lead.

Credit: AP
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) evades a tackle from Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

To great frustration, the Giants scored quickly on their next possession with veteran receiver Sterling Shephard beating Broncos’ first-round rookie corner Pat Surtain II on a crossing route, then breaking Surtain’s tackle on his way in for a 37-yard touchdown catch-and-run. The Giants were up 7-3.

Again, Bridgewater led the Broncos deep into Giants’ territory on the next possession – only to see Okwuegbunam fumble it away at the Giants’ 4-yard line. Albert O was stripped by safety Logan Ryan near the sideline, but the ball stayed in bounds just enough for Ryan to recover.

At halftime, the Broncos had a considerable edge in first downs (13 to 5), yards (208-112) and time of possession (18:59 to 11:01) on the Giants.

Yet, they trailed, 7-3 with 2:25 left in the half. It became fourth-and-2 at the Giants’ 49 with 48 seconds left when Fangio showed great confidence in Bridgewater by going for it. The QB delivered – as he did on fourth downs during the preseason -- with a 14-yard strike to Courtland Sutton across the middle – Sutton’s first reception since suffering a torn ACL in game 2 last season (and only reception of the game, big as it was). Bridgewater then hit, in quick succession, Jerry Jeudy for 17 yards and Patrick for 16, setting up first and goal at the 2.

This time, the offense finished as Bridgewater rolled left and snuck in a pass to a tightly covered Patrick just inside the goal line.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (85) runs past New York Giants inside linebacker Blake Martinez (54) for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

To start the second half, Bridgewater didn't get flustered when a wide-open Hamler dropped a 50-yard heave to the end zone. Instead, Bridgewater completed a third-and-4 pass to tight end Noah Fant for 8 yards, a 20-yard out pass to Jerry Jeudy to convert third-and-7 and the 4-yard touchdown flip to a determined Albert 0 to convert fourth-and-1.

Jeudy suffered his knee injury while getting tackled down after his 20-yard catch. The play was initially ruled a fumbled but it was overturned after replay showed Jeudy's knee went down awkwardly before he released the ball in pain.

Denver's D came through in the fourth quarter with one goal-to-goal stop and another red-zone turnover on downs. Fangio's red-zone defense had ranked No. 1 in the NFL each of the past two years.

The Broncos, who have averaged less than 6 wins a year each of the past four seasons, are 1-0 with a great chance to go at least 3-0 as up next are games against the league's two weakest teams from last year in Jacksonville and the New York Jets. 

> Video below: Vic Fangio talks about the Broncos' season-opening win over the Giants.

Bronco Bits

Edge rusher Bradley Chubb was inactive because of his ankle injury. Malik Reed started in his place. …

Von Miller had two sacks -- one early, one late -- his first in more than a year in his return from last season’s ankle injury. He also had a 6-yard tackle for loss on a running play. At 32 years old and after missing all of last season, did Miller feel like he proved something with his monster game? "Come on,'' Miller said. "It's the National Football League, there's a lot of ups, a lot of downs. We had a great team win today. The offense played well, put up 27 points for us. Life is pretty easy on defense whenver you get that. It was a long road to get here for me personally to get here but you really don't think about that. You just think about wins.'' ...

Fangio gave game balls to Miller, Bridgewater and first-year general manager George Paton. The head coach then filled a trash can with water and gave a celebratory shower on offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula, who were in charge of the Giants until they were dismissed after the 2019 season and gained a sweet victory Sunday.

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