DENVER — When the Broncos' airplane landed at Denver International late Sunday night, they brought back more than a striking 27-13 triumph over the New York Giants and a 1-0 record for the first time in three years.
They brought trust.
That’s a hard thing to earn these days, and the Broncos found it in Week 1 at MetLife Stadium. They found it by practicing it. On fourth down, Vic Fangio went for it ... three times. Signed to a one-year deal, Von Miller showed he’s still got it ... with two sacks. Awarded the starting quarterback job, Teddy Bridgewater absolutely, positively crushed it ... with a debut for the ages.
Dang, was that fun or what? Trust is fun. Trust is empowering. More institutions should try it.
“That losing stuff is dead,” wide receiver Tim Patrick said afterward.
OK, here’s the requisite disclaimer: the Broncos are not back. The Broncos are not allowed to be back until the Broncos beat the Chiefs. That can’t happen until Week 13, sorry to say, but before anyone goes there, we need a bulletproof metric. Beat the Chiefs. Then they're back.
But trust in the Broncos? It’s alive! It wiggled, at least, because it’s been four years (more on that later) since the Broncos put on a show that made a proud fan base believe again. That’s what this season opener was all about. Shoot, that’s what this season is about: Do you trust in their direction? Betcha felt better Sunday night than you did Sunday morning. I sure did.
But I’m not all the way in. Not yet, anyway. Do it again, then we’ll talk. Do it next Sunday against the Jags, then do it again against the Jets in Week 3. Trust takes time, and it’s been a while. But Sunday afternoon sure nudged a bunch of people closer to the circle of trust that's been cultivated by Vic, Von and Teddy.
Come on, you saw what I saw. You saw a Broncos defense allow one score over the first 59 minutes, 59 seconds, of the game. (Giants quarterback Daniel Jones ran in a meaningless rushing touchdown with 1 second left.) You saw 31-year-old Von look like 2015 Von. You saw a Broncos QB finish an entire game without a turnover ... and throw darts in between.
“Just another day at the office,” Von said, but this wasn’t that.
This was a different day at the office. This was a general manager trusting his coach, his coach trusting his team, the team trusting its quarterback. The Broncos empowered Fangio with an expensive defense and a first-round cornerback. Fangio trusted the QB to convert not one, not two, but three fourth downs. The roster trusted Bridgewater enough they copied his touchdown dance, and there's a lot of trust when wide receivers copy someone else’s touchdown dance.
“I know the receivers did his little strut when they got in the end zone,” Noah Fant said.
“I can still dance a little bit,” Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater made it cool to dance as a Broncos quarterback again. He took my critique that Drew Lock should be the starter and danced on its grave. Seriously, look at these numbers in the first half: 19 of 22, 171 yards, touchdown. He was Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. He couldn’t miss.
No lie: there was a training camp practice where Bridgewater overthrew Courtland Sutton so badly one of my knucklehead friends on the grassy berm joked, “Von’s going to request a quarterback tryout.”
Teddy’s Broncos debut: 28 of 36 for 264 yards, two touchdowns, a quarterback rating of 115.7.
“He’s 10 times better than me,” Von said Sunday night.
Then he corrected himself: “Ah, he’s about eight times better than me.”
Let’s not go overboard but also recognize that Bridgewater has accomplished nothing of importance as Broncos quarterback yet — except for one small thing. Teddy showed he can make something out of nothing, and that’s the surprise. He escaped a sack on a throw to KJ Hamler for a wild first down. He escaped another one to hit Albert Okwuegbunam for a touchdown. Bridgewater converted fourth downs of 7 yards (a pass for 16 yards), 2 yards (pass for 14 yards) and 1 yard (touchdown). Who’s the last quarterback here who was entrusted to convert three fourth downs in a single game? I think we both know the answer. He goes by PFM and he’s calling the game on Monday night.
Fourth-down attempts are “the ultimate sign of belief,” Bridgewater said.
“I think we did a good job of instilling that mutual confidence in each other,” Albert O added.
Not to belabor the point, but the Broncos are not back. In 2017 they smashed the Cowboys in Week 2 for a 2-0 start, and four months later they fired Vance Joseph. Trust is earned in time.
But come on. Sunday was nice — trustworthy, even, and that's no small feat. These days who can you trust? Can’t trust the people in charge of public health. “Wait two weeks” is actually wait two weeks to learn what they lied about this time. Can’t trust government. They’ll refuse a vaccine under one president, require it under the next. Definitely can’t trust media. But you don’t, so that’s good. For three decades the Broncos were the one operation you could trust.
Wouldn't it be nice to trust the Broncos again?
“Just gotta keep shooting," Bridgewater said. "That’s what I tell the guys: 'Keep shootin’.”
You can’t draw up a better scenario for a Week 1 locker room than the one Sunday. Fangio gifted game balls to Von, Teddy and the new GM, George Paton — past, present, future. Perfect.
“The more you can reassure guys that you believe in them, that goes a long way with the guys,” Bridgewater explained.
Trust is a beautiful thing. Trust is a start.