EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — One Mississippi.
Teddy Bridgewater stood in the pocket, looked down field for an open man. No one's open as escapes to his right. Two, three Mississippi. Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari grabbed Bridgewater by the shoulder, but Bridgewater escapes again, throwing Ojulari to the ground and heading for the sideline. Four, five Mississippi. Bridgewater quickly surveyed the field, with defenders crashing down on him, as he prepared to throw. Six, seven Mississippi. Bridgewater found an open KJ Hamler halfway across the field, committing the biggest quarterback sin of throwing across one's body.
Eight Mississippi. First down Broncos on a pivotal third down to start the third quarter, which sparked a Broncos win.
"That's not something I'd advise any quarterbacks to do," Bridgewater said with a smile postgame. "I can still dance a little bit."
Bridgewater did plenty of dancing Sunday, helping the Broncos to a 27-13 victory — their first season-opening win since 2018. Bridgewater, who was traded from the Panthers in April, was stellar in his Broncos debut. He was 28 of 36 with 236 yards and two touchdowns, posting a quarterback rating of 115.2.
"I saw a guy in total control and when he had to improvise, he did," coach Vic Fangio said. "And some of those were on big, big plays. He's been doing that his entire career when he's been a player. And he showed it today."
The Broncos' offense didn't have a fast start, trailing 7-3 late in the first half. But a gutsy call by Fangio on the Giants' 49-yard line while facing fourth and 2 with 48 seconds until halftime, changed the game.
Denver not only converted with a 14-yard completion to wide receiver Courtland Sutton, but scored on a 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tim Patrick. Bridgewater made four straight completions in 42 seconds to help the Broncos take a 10-7 lead into half.
"It was just my gut," Fangio said of the decision. "I had confidence in the offense."
Fangio had confidence in the offense all game, going for it on fourth down three times, which the Broncos converted each time.
The third and final conversion came on the first drive of the third quarter, in which Bridgewater, once again, escaped pressure and found tight end Albert Okwuegbunam for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
The Broncos controlled the game from there, going up 17-7 and eventually 27-7 after a second field goal from Brandon McManus and a 70-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon in the fourth quarter. The Giants scored a last-second touchdown to close the gap, 27-13.
It was an all-around, near-perfect performance for the Broncos, which had been 0-7 since 2018 in September the last two seasons entering Sunday. And they did it without outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and partly without star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who suffered a high-ankle sprain early in the third quarter.
And a large part of that was the performance of Bridgewater, who was rewarded a game ball along with outside linebacker Von Miller who returned from injury, and first-year GM George Paton.
"It means a lot to come out, first game, new organization and have a game like this," Bridgewater said. "But not just for me. There are so many guys here — first-year guys, guys returning from injuries. So it just means a lot to come out and win."
With games against the Jaguars and Jets — who both lost Sunday — the Broncos are staring at a chance to start 3-0 for the first time since 2016.
"I think it's important," Fangio said. "The facts are the facts. Obviously we've had bad starts here the past two years, record-wise. To get off to a good start, 1-0, to a good team on the road in a pretty good environment in favor of the home team — I think it speaks volumes about the team we have and what we can possibly do moving forward.
"That would have been the story all week. Now you guys got to throw away those stories and write a new one."
As Bridgewater illustrated above, plays, games, stories and narratives can change in a matter of seconds.