Vic Fangio is not known for handing out compliments - particularly during pressers.
So when he praises multiple players in a post-game press conference, you know it was a win.
“Josey [Jewell] played good. Josey plays well most of the time for us. The thing that he does for us that doesn’t show up in the stats is he’s our communicator out there. He really helps a lot of people get lined up, gives them tips, just the extra stuff that makes a big difference, but he played his position well too.”
“We just wanted [Patrick Surtain II] to play some. He’s too good of a player to only play in the dime package, so we want to have him ready...he deserves to play some, so we’re going to play him some.”
“It does keep them both fresh [Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams], but when you have two good backs like that, that motivates you to do it even more. ...we feel good about both guys.”
“Kyle Fuller came up big there at the end of the game. He had some balls caught on him earlier. I think he can play some of those better. No corner is going to go unscathed, but we need to cut down on the amount that were caught on them.”
“Encouraging is a word you can use, I guess, but I’m not surprised by Tim Patrick’s performance. That’s what I expect from Tim. Tim’s a bona fide good NFL receiver and that’s what he should be able to do because he can do it.”
But Fangio seemed most impressed by his quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. The guy he tapped as QB1 just two weeks ago, to much bemoaning in Broncos Country.
Yet Bridgewater’s 28-of-36 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and a 115.7 passer rating in his first regular season outing as a Bronco earned him some newfound fan appreciation if not also some acceptance.
Honestly, could Teddy be playing any better? If this doesn’t warm up Broncos Country to Teddy nothing will— Tyler Polumbus (@Tyler_Polumbus) September 12, 2021
“His efficiency, his calmness, yet his ability to make plays under duress with improvising,” Fangio said of Bridgewater’s game while noting what stood out to him about the QB’s performance. “I thought he played very well, and it was reflected in the stats.”
Obviously a 27-13 victory is a team effort, but it was led by the quarterback - and that’s a difference many players noticed.
“That’s what Teddy does. He’s a playmaker. He doesn’t have a ‘C’ on his chest for no reason,” said Melvin Gordon, adding that Denver isn’t the first team Bridgewater has been named captain. “That just goes to show you, you know what type of player he is. He makes plays, man. if you watch any film of Teddy—always been a fan of Teddy.”
Gordon told a story of playing against Bridgewater in Minnesota during his early years in the league where No. 5 made a move on one of the Chargers’ safeties. “It was just crazy. I knew then that he had some talent. I’m glad that he’s with us now, and I get to see that every day.”
Von Miller even acknowledged that Bridgewater is a better quarterback than he could be.
“He did an incredible job. He’s 10 times better than me – well, he’s about eight times better than me,” Miller laughed. “But he did an incredible job. He was poised back there, he got out of some big-time sacks early in the game and he converted off of those scrambles. Just a great day from Teddy. He gave us a great speech before the game. You could just feel it. When guys are not faking, you can just feel it in them. Teddy’s a great pickup for us. I’m happy he’s on my team. He’s a great guy.”
There was also a clear level of confidence in the offense, by the players themselves but more notably by their coach.
Although Fangio acknowledged that more teams are going for fourth downs and analytics are showing that the likelihood of converting is increasing, he still chose to go for three fourth downs because his “gut” said it was the right thing to do. With 100% conversion rate, it was clearly the right choice.
“It was just my gut. When I brought it up, I didn’t have a lot of backing by anybody, was kind of cricket-like, but I said we’re doing it,” Fangio said after the game. “So, I just felt like I had confidence in the offense number one, obviously. Number two, I knew if we got the first down, we could go get some points – didn’t know (if) it would be three or seven, but I thought it was important.”
But no matter Fangio’s rationale, the offense took it as a strong vote of confidence and let that feed into its own positive outcome.
“That was the ultimate sign of belief right there,” Bridgewater said of the decisions to go for it on fourth down. “I think we had one fourth down when we were on our side of the 50-yard line, and coach decided to go for it. I’m looking on the sideline, like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it’ because I have nothing but confidence in those guys that take the field for us. But it was good to just see coach trust us, and we delivered.”
Vic Fangio elects to go for it. Teddy Bridgewater finds Tim Patrick on 4th down. Broncos first down. pic.twitter.com/KXb5CkacTS— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 12, 2021
In his truest sign of leadership, Bridgewater pointed to the great play of those around him when asked about his game.
In the drive just before the two-minute warning at halftime to get the go-ahead touchdown, Bridgewater engineered a patient string of plays to move the ball 57 yards in three minutes.
After completing a six-yard pass to Jerry Jeudy on 3rd-and-8 in the first series of the drive, Bridgewater proved what veteran experience can mean to an offense as he delivered a 14-yard strike to Courtland Sutton on 4th-and-2 to move well into field goal range with 48 seconds left.
Bridgewater completed two more first downs with a 17-yard pass to Jeudy followed by a 16-yard pass to Patrick. On 1st-and-goal at the two-yard line, Bridgewater rolled left and then hit Patrick for a TD.
“The guys did a good job upfront, blocking it up. I got to the edge and just made a decision off what the defender was doing. Tim did a great job of outflanking them and giving me a lane to throw the football and it ended up with a nice strut in the end zone,” Bridgewater said. “We practiced that play all OTAs, training camp and we get to the game and guys didn’t blink. So, it was just great to get those points right there and then come out in the second half and get points also.”
Teddy Bridgewater finds Tim Patrick for a Broncos touchdown. pic.twitter.com/rD8jprdFjM— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 12, 2021
Bridgewater gave some advice to Melvin Gordon midway through the game when Gordon was pounding away with runs and gaining just two or three yards at a time.
He reminded the veteran running back to just be patient and wait for the moment to break it open. He described it as a ‘jab, jab, jab, boom!’ approach.
“It’s something you still have to learn every week because it’s tough,” Gordon said, acknowledging that when you put in the work all offseason, you want the big play early. “The earlier the better, but you just have to stay with it, you know you just got to...stay with the game plan, flow of the game. Like Teddy said, ‘jab, jab and then pow.’”
Bridgewater even downplayed credit he got for a deep pass to KJ Hamler that
“Well you got some plays where you exhaust the progression and you may have to scramble around a little bit for a guy to get open or beat one-on-one coverage off the scramble and you find them,” Bridgewater said, noting the defenders ran great routes with Hamler and basically took every player out of the equation who was supposed to be in it.
“It’s one of those deals where I’ll tell my son, ‘Hey, don’t ever do this. Don’t ever scramble to the right and throw it back across the field.’ But when it works, you’re a hero,” he said. “But that’s not something that I advise young quarterbacks or any quarterback to do. But we made a play. We got the first down. Tomorrow when we talk about it, we’ll coach it up. Hopefully we don’t have to make a living doing that.”
Making a living out of getting wins is totally acceptable, however.
Just because Teddy is efficient, he often gets the "safe (read: boring)" moniker, but man was he electric on some of these plays yesterday. https://t.co/eQOQQ3VnXf— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) September 13, 2021