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Atwater: Broncos could be ‘in the mix’ in the AFC

Of course it’s early. Hope isn’t a bad thing.

Denver Broncos v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

If you aren’t quite ready to admit to yourself that the Broncos have been fun to watch the last two weeks, then listen to Steve Atwater on Broncos Country Tonight because he never fails to bring the hype and change your perspective.

I promise.

Most of Broncos Country recognizes that Teddy Bridgewater didn’t and won’t become Peyton Manning or Tom Brady overnight. And he was never Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson.

But he has proved the last two games that he does some things really well at quarterback - has a good sense of oncoming pressure, reads his progressions well, is patient with the ball, improvises without panicking - and those things are lifting this franchise up at a critical time.

And even though 2-0 against bottom-five teams should not necessarily be hyped, after four years of losing records, it’s not hurting anyone to celebrate the wins either.

Benjamin Allbright - like many of us - is “cautiously optimistic” Bridgewater can lead this team to wins against the better teams like the Ravens and Chiefs. What has him rightfully concerned is that against the Giants and the Jags, the Broncos could get wins even by only scoring 10 points in the first half and then wearing down the opponent by dominating time of possession and using the defense to break their spirit.

“They’re not getting big leads. What they’re doing is wearing you down with sustained drives and taking advantage of you in the second half,” Allbright said. “And you want to do that, but when you play teams like the Ravens or Kansas City or the Raiders who can score quickly, you’re going to get down quick and then become one-dimensional throwing the ball to catch up.”

But Atwater interrupted with some true crooning - as only he can do: “That’s what Von Miller is for. Pat Surtain. K-JACK! Justin SImmons. C’mon man, that’s what they’re for.”

Of course the Hall-of-Fame safety has a good point. This Broncos team is built for that exact game plan. But I’m with Allbright on this. I’d like to see the offense score more earlier in the game to ensure it doesn’t have to play catch-up when it faces those high-powered offenses that can score easily and quickly.

Atwater did put up a challenge to Allbright, however - what if Bridgewater leads the Broncos to beat the Ravens in Week 4?

“Then I move from ‘cautiously optimistic’ to ‘all in’,” Allbright said.

But getting back to the Jets and Week 3, Atwater once again pointed to the Broncos’ defense and getting after the rookie QB as a key to putting the hammer down.

But he also sees how the team is responding to Bridgewater, and thinks he could be the right quarterback to keep the Broncos “in the mix” in the AFC no matter who the opponent.

“Teddy is a big part of it. Players know when the quarterback gives them a chance to win,” Atwater said. “I think everybody believes Teddy Bridgewater gives us a legitimate opportunity to win. And guys are just in tuned to what’s going on, they know what they have to do, all that plays into guys playing better.”

Atwater even ventured into the Pat Shurmur debate, arguing that the offensive coordinator can do more things now because he has a quarterback able to do more.

“A lot of people have given Pat Shurmur a hard time about the offense, talking about it’s not creative enough. Well I think that has something to do with him not having the players to execute the kind of game plan he wanted to execute,” Atwater said. “But it’s on full display now, and I think he’s doing a great job of calling plays, mixing things up and getting those guys ready to play and putting points on the board.”