Vic Fangio could have said: “I told you so.’’
So it was.
Instead, the Broncos’ coach said: “I saw a guy in total control.’’
Teddy Bridgewater gave the most impressive, important, impactful, imposing performance for a Broncos’ new quarterback in a road game opener since perhaps Frank Tripucka in the franchise’s inaugural regular season in 1960 when he and they beat the Patriots in Boston.
Or maybe, oh, forever.
Heady, ready, steady Teddy completed 28 of 36 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns — and it should have been three if KJ Hamler hadn’t let a gumdrop go through his hands in the end zone. Bridgewater also scrambled three times for 19 yards, didn’t have an interception or a fumble and evaded the Giants’ rush all but twice.
Teddy wasn’t a game manager as he has been marketed. He was Broncos Boss Bridgewater in a 27-13 domination of the Giants in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. The Giants aren’t good, but Teddy was more than. He pulled off more escapes than Houdini, hit targets with the precision of Howard Hill, once the world’s greatest archer, and, with his right arm, was indeed in total control like King Arthur and Excalibur.
Even Drew Lock, a bystander on the sideline, would agree that Teddy deserved to be the regular-season starter. In many NFL cities, the most popular man is the team’s backup quarterback, Not in Denver today. If Bridgewater rode a horse down the 16th Street Mall he’d draw a crowd of thousands showering him with rosebuds and beer.
It’s just one game.
But Bridgewater was better than John Elway in his debut on the road in Pittsburgh in 1983, when he lined up behind an offensive guard, played poorly, was injured and didn’t survive to the end of the game, or Manning’s first road game with the Broncos in Atlanta in 2012 when he threw three interceptions in a dreadful defeat to the Falcons. And they both made the Hall of Fame. Jake Plummer, Craig Morton and Brian Griese, whose teams would reach the playoffs in the three quarterbacks’ first seasons as starting quarterbacks, didn’t show much in their initial road games. Don’t consider the rest of the horse horde.
Teddy passed to nine receivers and running backs, and six had multiple catches while five totaled 39 yards or more.
Jerry Jeudy was flashy with six receptions for 72 yards and probably would have surpassed 100 if he hadn’t suffered a wicked injury after one grab when his ankle was bent in a wrong, awkward way. Jeudy didn’t return, and it seemed he might be out for the season, as Courtland Sutton was last season. But he may be fortunate that the diagnosis was high-ankle sprain, which could allow the gifted second-year receiver to return at some point.
Noah Fant’s hands likely will be Bridgewater’s favorite destination, but Tim Patrick, who became a forgotten man in camp, was as reliable as an old foxhound. Tim caught Teddy’s first official touchdown pass, of 2 yards, in the second quarter, and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam redeemed himself, after fumbling the ball away, with the second touchdown in the third quarter.
Melvin Gordon ran longer than has been witnessed in quite a while for a 70-yard touchdown with 4:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Hamler owes Bridgewater, who found him open as the Panama Canal on a fling of 50 yards that was unrewarded for the QB.
As everyone knows, Bridgewater had to beat out Lock for the starting job in the spring and summer, in organized team activities and training camp, in two exhibitions and dozens of workouts, in talk show comparisons and sports columnists’ critiques, in fans’ favorites and Broncos’ coach and front-office debates.
But Fangio would make the final decision, and he appeared to have preferred Bridgewater all along, finally making a public pronouncement on the Wednesday before the last exhibition that Teddy was The Man. Even beat Steven, and Bridgewater’s 50 won over Lock’s 50.
Vic’s Pick was near-perfect Sunday. His only flaw was losing his helmet during four plays before a tool-and-die worker drilled a new hole.
This doesn’t mean that Bridgewater will win every game or play as well all season, but he compiled an 11-5 record in 2015 prior to a devastating leg injury, and he was 5-0 as a replacement QB for Drew Brees in 2019 before winning only four as the Panthers’ starter last season.
Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos are off to a remarkable start.
So be it.