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'I saw a guy in total control': Teddy Bridgewater posts near-flawless debut in win over Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Ahead of his first start as the Broncos' quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater demurred when asked about earning the support of the fan base.

"I think you win the fans over by winning football games," Bridgewater said Wednesday. "I've never been the guy to try to win the fans over with my words."

If the "TED-DY" chants that rained down on the veteran quarterback as he left the field Sunday evening are any indication, he stated his case quite well in a 27-13 win over the Giants.

Bridgewater excelled in a variety of ways on Sunday, as he showed Broncos fans the potential of the offense and the team.

"I saw a guy in total control, and when he had to improvise, he did, and some of those were on big, big plays," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "He's been doing that his entire career when he's been [playing] and he showed it today."

Bridgewater was perfect on fourth down, led a flawless two-minute drill and made highlight throws as he evaded defenders. As he posted a stat line of 28-of-36 for 264 yards, two touchdowns and a 115.7 quarterback rating, he even proved to Von Miller that he deserved the role. Miller had previously joked that the offense was so talented, that even he could play quarterback. On Sunday, it was clear the offense was far more dangerous with Bridgewater in the shotgun.

"He did an incredible job," Miller said. "He's 10 times better than me — well, he's about eight times better than me, 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."

Miller said Bridgewater even hyped the team up before they kicked off their season opener.

"He gave us a great speech before the game," Miller said. "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."

It's easy to quantify, statistically, the value of Bridgewater's performance. His completion percentage of 77.8 percent was the highest of any Broncos quarterback in a debut, and his 115.7 passer rating ranks sixth. In the first half, Bridgewater only misfired three times, and he posted a 19-of-22 line that was the highest first-half performance by a Bronco since Peyton Manning was 25-of-28 in 2013.

The individual plays, though, shouldn't be overshadowed by the collective stat line. Bridgewater was incredibly patient on a fourth-down throw to Courtland Sutton; he baited a defender in the backfield before tossing a touchdown to Albert Okwuegbunam; and he evaded pressure and launched a pass back across the field to an open KJ Hamler.

"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,'" Bridgewater said of the Hamler play. "But when it works, you're a hero. 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."

The Okwuegbunam touchdown was nearly as impressive, as he avoided a free pass-rusher and still made the play.

"I was joking with the guys the other day and, I was like 'Man, I don't think I got it anymore,'" Bridgewater said. "'My moves don't work anymore, and they're a little outdated.'"

They worked just fine on Sunday.

He missed on a couple of throws — a deep ball to Sutton was too far inside, and he under threw Noah Fant — but his performance was largely above critique. For those who questioned Bridgewater's ability to make big-time throws and lead the offense to points, Sunday's game should serve as convincing evidence to the contrary.

Bridgewater also showed the leadership and emotion that helped him be elected a team captain.

For his performance, Bridgewater was one of three Broncos players to get a game ball. In typical Bridgewater fashion, he spoke for just a moment about the honor of receiving the ball before turning, unprompted, into a compliment of Melvin Gordon III's running style.

His presence certainly had an impact on the outcome of the game. After an Okwuegbunam fumble, Bridgewater spoke with the young player and then targeted him again on the first series of the second half. And after the Broncos' opening touchdown to earn the halftime lead, Bridgewater jumped into a celebration in the style of his "super strut" dance from several years ago.

"That energy is contagious when guys are out there having fun, smiling," Bridgewater said of their dancing. "Hopefully we can just keep this thing going."

As long as Bridgewater continues to play the way he did Sunday, plenty of people will want to dance right along with him.

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