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Bridgewater called out in team meeting for lack of effort on Slay TD return

Bridgewater: "I failed. And I own up to it. It’s unacceptable."

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — To accusations of lacking effort and toughness and putting his own self preservation above the good of the team, Teddy Bridgewater bravely confessed Monday to a job poorly done.

"We watched today as a team," Bridgewater, the Broncos’ starting quarterback, said in a Zoom press conference Monday. "Coach pointed it out that, ‘Hey, my effort had to be better there.’ And I totally agree. That’s not the type of tape I want to put out there. It’s one of those situations where you get pissed after watching because it’s like you know how much the game means to you. Guys out there trying to make a play. It feels like you’ve got a little help running towards the sideline, try to force the cutback but in real time it feels like everything is happening fast, I should force the cutback. But when you slow it down it’s like, man, just give more effort. You watch it and you walk away from it pissed at yourself at your effort. Credit Slay, he made a great play also but it’s one of those deals where we’ve got guys diving trying to make a tackle and I just needed to lay it all out for the guys in that moment."

Ordinarily, Bridgewater would not have met the press during the bye week, which the Broncos are now on after they lost Sunday at home to the Philadelphia Eagles, 30-13 on Sunday. But the public reaction to Bridgewater’s lackadaisical effort in trying to stop the Eagles’ Darius Slay Jr. during his 83-yard, game-changing, fumble return for a touchdown as so visceral, the Broncos and the quarterback felt the need to address it as soon as possible.

The setup: The Broncos were trailing, 20-13 with seconds left in the third quarter when Broncos coach Vic Fangio decided to go for it on a fourth-and- 1 ½ from the Eagles’ 23 yard line. Running back Melvin Gordon III appeared to have picked up the first down as Eagles and former University of Colorado linebacker Davion Taylor punched the ball out of his arm. From a scrum of humanity came the cornerback Slay with the ball. He dropped the ball, picked it up, went backwards, reversed field and finally sped upfield the other way.

Bridgewater was waiting back near midfield. TV replays showed Bridgewater barely nodding his head toward Slay as he ran near him, and bye him. Stop Slay and it’s still a 20-13 game. But Slay scored and the Broncos were toast, down 27-13 at the end of the third quarter.

Credit: Drew Litton

RELATED: Eagles put Hurts on stumbling, bumbling Broncos in 30-13 rout

"Initially, I thought Melvin was down already," Bridgewater said. "And then there wasn’t a whistle. So it kind of caught me by surprise. But at the same time, I’m right there, opportunity to dive, sacrifice, do whatever I can to help the team in that moment. And I failed. And I own up to it. It’s unacceptable.

"As a football player, as a member of this team, you play this game and you lay it on the line every weekend. That’s one of those moments where I have to accept the fact that I didn’t give everything I had in me on that play. And I understand there’s going to be some backlash that comes with it. And I’m a grown man, I’m a professional athlete and I understand that’s what comes with it, the backlash and things like that. It doesn’t define who we are as a football team and it doesn’t define me as a man and as a football player."

Two Broncos players – center Lloyd Cushenberry III and defensive lineman Shelby Harris – were asked about Bridgewater’s lack of effort on Slay’s return.

"I probably could have had more effort to the ball,'' Cushenberry said. "We all should have had an opportunity to make a play.''

Harris said you can’t point to one individual.

"I'm with my quarterback and I'm going to ride with him,'' Harris said.

Fangio said Monday he would have liked to have seen Bridgewater try to make a play on Slay, but that he wasn’t about to bench him and consider starting last year’s quarterback Drew Lock after the bye.

"No, Teddy’s our quarterback," Fangio said.

RELATED: In case of emergency, Broncos sign QB Danny Etling to practice squad

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