ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A day after Teddy Bridgewater failed to tackle Eagles cornerback Darius Slay en route to a game-changing fumble return touchdown, the Broncos' quarterback deemed his effort "unacceptable."
"Initially, I thought Melvin [Gordon III] was down already, [and that] they were just going to blow the whistle eventually and say, 'Hey, he was down.' And then there wasn't a whistle, so it kind of caught me by surprise. At the same time, I'm right there, [and have an] opportunity to just dive, sacrifice, do whatever I can to help the team in that moment. I felt — and I owned up to it — it's unacceptable as a football player, as a member of this team. We play this game and you lay it all on the line every week, and that's one of those moments where I've just got to accept the fact that I didn't give everything I had in me on that play.
"I understand, man, there's going to be some backlash that comes with it. I'm a grown man. I'm a professional athlete. I understand that's what comes with it — backlash and things like that. It doesn't define who we are as a football team, it doesn't define me as a man and as a football player."
Bridgewater said Head Coach Vic Fangio showed a clip of the play to the team on Monday, and he noted that Fangio told Bridgewater his effort needed to be better. Speaking to the press before Bridgewater, Fangio said the entire unit could have pursued Slay better following Gordon's fumble on fourth-and-1.
"I'd like to see us all pursue it a little bit better offensively and find a way to get that guy down," Fangio said. "At the top of [the return], where Teddy got involved, I think he thought he was forcing it back into somebody else that had an angle on him, but I'd like to see Teddy … at least make a play at the guy."
Bridgewater said he agreed completely with Fangio's assessment of the play.
"That's not the type of tape that I want to put out there," Bridgewater said. "It's one of those situations where you get pissed after you watch it because it's like, you know how much this game means to you, you know guys are out there trying to make a play. It's like you feel like you got a little help running toward the sideline, you try to force the cutback. … In real time it feels like, 'Hey everything's happening fast. I should force a cutback.' But when you slow it down, it's like, 'Man, just give more effort.' You watch it and you walk away from it pissed at yourself at the effort. Credit Slay, he made a great play also, but it's one of those deals where we've got guys diving, trying to make the tackle. I just needed to lay it all out for the guys in that room."
When Fangio brought the play up, Bridgewater said he didn't "sink in his chair" to avoid criticism.
"I take full ownership in what happened," Bridgewater said. "I said, 'Coach called me out, I hold myself accountable.' We all have a standard that we live by around here, and I'm happy Coach called me out to show, 'Hey man, we need more out of you right here.'"
While Bridgewater has reviewed losses, fumbles and interceptions in the past, he said this was one of the toughest plays he's ever had to watch on film.
"Yeah, it definitely was," Bridgewater said. "Especially when you slow it down. In real time, everything's happening fast. You've got the sideline to your advantage to force the cutback, and then when you slow it down with the clicker and the remote in your hand, it's like, 'Man, this is bad.' Hopefully, man, I never have to be put in that situation again. If I am, I'm going to make sure I lay it all on the line. I won't be the talk of social media or the internet or whatever. Hopefully we can just but this behind [us] and move forward."
Bridgewater said he was not trying to protect himself from injury on the play, and he also was "not worried" about those who questioned his toughness after the play.
"I know how tough I am physically, mentally through what I've gone through in life," Bridgewater said. "Nothing compares to some of the things in my life."
Bridgewater has spoken to several teammates about the play since Sunday, but he preferred not to reveal those conversations. Center Lloyd Cushenberry III noted his own effort could have been better on the play, and defensive end Shelby Harris declined to blame Bridgewater for the play.
"I believe there's a lot of other opportunities to go out there and make plays," Harris said. "You can't just sit there and try to point the finger at one person. Football's the ultimate team game and then Slay also just made a play. You can't just sit there and point the finger at Teddy and [think] Teddy's just supposed to stop everything. I'm with my quarterback, and I'm going to ride with him."
Fangio squashed any thought about a possible quarterback change and said he did not agree with the sentiment that Bridgewater should be benched for a lack of effort.
"Teddy's our quarterback moving forward," Fangio said.
And with Bridgewater, the Broncos will try to make the most of the five division games that still remain on the slate.
"We get this bye week, we get some time to just reflect, embrace the good, accept the bad, embrace the bad and just move forward," Bridgewater said. "We can't let Sunday's performance linger. We can't let that determine the outcome of the rest of the season."