After a career game in front of an audience that included two idols in Falcons WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, you'd think Jerry Jeudy would have every reason to be happy with himself.
With 125 yards and a touchdown on the day, the Broncos' rookie receiver recorded his first 100-yard game of his young NFL career — but the only thing that mattered at the end of the day was the score.
"We ain't finish with a dub, so it don't mean nothing," Jeudy said after the game.
With the 34-27 loss, the Broncos fell to 3-5 on the season. Those five losses are one more than the total number of games Jeudy's Crimson Tide lost during his three seasons.
But that fact isn't making Jeudy despondent or dispirited; he's only becoming more devoted to helping create team success.
"I'm just tired of losing," Jeudy said. "I just want to do whatever I can to make the team better and just make us better as a whole. Going out there at practice the other day, I just remind myself, 'Get better, just get better.' Everything I do, I do at 100 percent."
That commitment to improving has been visible to his teammates and his head coach, who have said as much in recent weeks and after Sunday's game.
"I think he's made really good strides here in the last couple weeks, two [or] three games," Head Coach Vic Fangio said Sunday. "I like where Jerry's been playing, like where's he headed. He's been practicing better, and it translates to the game. I think he's doing a good job, and his arrow is definitely up.
"He's what we thought we got when we drafted him."
In the second half, Jeudy represented a mismatch on most plays as the Broncos looked to the air to power a comeback attempt. On 12 second-half targets, Jeudy caught six passes for 107 yards. He also accounted for four of the Broncos' seven longest plays on the day, including a 41-yarder. Jeudy also drew a pair of pass interference calls for 36 total yards.
Beyond his route-running, he also showcased some ingenious thinking to help create separation. On third down at the Falcons' 20-yard line, Jeudy began a route by sprinting down the right sideline. He brought up his right hand and waved it, a typical signal by a receiver who feels like he's open on a go route.
But instead, Jeudy stopped short at the 5-yard line as his defender's momentum carried him to the goal line. After securing the catch, Jeudy cut inside and split two defenders for the touchdown.
"I just threw my hand up to make the DB feel like I was running the go route," Jeudy said. "That's something creative I've been thinking about with my route-running."
So far in his first season, Jeudy may still be looking for more team success, but by driving himself to be better, he's become a more reliable player. His connection with quarterback Drew Lock is growing with each game, which can be seen in his production over the last two games — 11 receptions for 198 yards.
"I mean, he's hit his stride," Lock said. "He's asserting himself in that wide-receiver room and in the NFL. Guys are going to take a second look at him. Maybe earlier in the year, they're like, 'Yeah, he runs some pretty crisp and clean routes,' but Jerry's getting physical. He does his job extremely well right now, and he's playing really, really hard. … One thing you're going to see when you watch the film is Jerry plays extremely hard. It's one of those things where you know if he does make a mistake, it's never not at 100 miles per hour, 100 percent. I'm proud of him."
As Jeudy and the Broncos move forward, more even and bigger games may await them.
"I feel like I'm getting better each week," Jeudy said. "Playing together, I feel like just as a unit we have to start off faster."
If they can accomplish that, happier days will come soon.
Get a closer look at Sunday's action against the Atlanta Falcons with photos from Team Photographer Gabriel Christus and others.