ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — While Von boasts, pay no attention to the quarterback limping gingerly off the podium.
"Turn your cameras off," Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said half-jokingly as he braced for his painful step down from the press conference box on the patio outside the team’s UCHealth Training Center headquarters.
And this was after Bridgewater limped noticeably through a media scrum as he moved from the locker room to the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse for the team's walkthrough practice Tuesday.
>>Video above: Klis & Tell: Broncos banged up after Raiders loss, face short week before Browns game
It’s no wonder Bridgewater is limping. He was hit 17 times by Las Vegas Raiders pass rushers Sunday. Seventeen times!
There is no way any quarterback -- much less one of slight stature, at least by NFL standards -- can survive through a 17-game season if he is getting hit 17 times a game.
"Just get the ball out faster and continue to play in rhythm," Bridgewater said. "When we’re doing those things well, we’re executing at a high level. For me, as I’m dropping, I just need to continue to stay in rhythm, trust that our guys will win those one-on-one battles up front, and trust that our receivers will win those one-on-one battles when they’re running routes."
Von Miller proclaimed Tuesday that he was going to play well and if he plays well, the Broncos will beat the Browns on Thursday night in Cleveland. Miller is an impact player but no defensive player can make a difference like the quarterback. And while Bridgewater is expected to play Thursday, how well he plays with his foot injury is of paramount concern. Miller can have two or three sacks. If Bridgewater doesn’t play well because of his foot injury, the Broncos will be in trouble.
"We’re just hitting it aggressively in the training room right now," Bridgewater said. "I’m locked in on his game plan with the mindset of just going out there competing and trying to win a football game."
There were times, as the Broncos fell behind 31-10 to the Raiders this past Sunday, and 24-6 the week before at Pittsburgh, when Bridgewater was holding on to the ball longer than usual. Sometimes it’s because the route is downfield and it does take an extra second in the pocket before heaving. Sometimes it’s to wait for No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton to break free.
Bridgewater said he suffered his foot injury when he was stepped on while throwing a late, 4-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant. It narrowed the score from 31-17 to 34-24 with 1:12 remaining. It appeared to be his own right guard Graham Glasgow who backed up on Bridgewater’s foot. Glasgow had just done a nice job of standing up left end Maxx Crosby, who had circled in on a stunt.
"It was just a little bad luck," Bridgewater said.
The Broncos recovered the onside kick so there was a chance to draw even closer but Bridgewater, on his freshly injured foot, threw his third interception of the game.
Through three games, Bridgewater was 3-0 with a 76.8 completion percentage, 827 yards, 4 touchdown passes, 0 interceptions and a 116.4 passer rating that ranked No. 4 among NFL quarterbacks.
In the next three games, Bridgewater was 0-3 with a 64.1 completion percentage (still pretty good), 687 yards, 6 touchdown passes, 4 interceptions and an 86.5 rating. He is now the 13th-ranked passer in the league with a still impressive 100.9 rating.
The biggest issue is pass protection, or lack thereof. Besides Bridgewater, left tackle Garett Bolles will be questionable to play Saturday because of a knee injury sustained late in the game Sunday against the Raiders.
Bridgewater was asked if the team’s confidence is starting to shatter after three consecutive losses.
"You may see some confidence start to shatter or whatever," he said. "But this group—we’re so tight and we all believe in each other. I say it every week that we’re some special individuals. Ever Sunday and every week, we get an opportunity to do something special. As long as guys continue to believe that we’re here and we’re serving our purpose, then confidence shouldn’t be shattered.
"Everyone has a unique skill set and we’re doing a great job of finding different ways to get everyone involved and get everyone to maximize their skill set that they have. There’s no real room to allow the confidence to be shattered. At the end of the day, we’re all human and sometimes the flesh is weak. That’s where we come together as leaders on his team and as guys who have experience in this league who’ve been a part of winning streaks, losing streaks, championships, never been in the playoffs—different things. You come together, and it just makes you realize that the most important thing is just the common goal of this team—to win."
Perhaps come late Thursday night, Broncos Country will refer to him as "Willis Reed Bridgewater."
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