ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the fourth quarter of a close game, Teddy Bridgewater must be more than just an accurate passer.
He must do more than throw completions and avoid interceptions.
If the game is tight on Sunday in MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants, Bridgewater must also be a bit of a salesman.
"You got to sell hope," Bridgewater said Wednesday as he nears his first start with the Broncos. "You got to sell hope to the guys that, 'OK, this might be our first time out here — but listen, we've been doing this since we were 6 years old, 5 years old.' So you just continue to exude that confidence in the guys, make them have that self-belief. Once they know that someone else believes in them, it's like, man, the sky's the limit."
Bridgewater's presence — as a veteran and as a motivator — should be stabilizing for an offense that features still young players in Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Noah Fant, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry III and Javonte Williams. Running back Melvin Gordon III said Bridgewater is "consistent" and that you never see the quarterback too high or too low.
"His calmness brings calmness to the whole group," Gordon said. "It kind of calms everybody down, and we're going to need that. We're going to need that type of leadership from him. Teddy has been around for a while. It's not like he's the new guy coming in. He's learned from some greats, especially [former Saints QB] Drew Brees, a Hall of Famer. He knows what it takes, he's seen what it takes. There's no question that Teddy knows everything he needs to do, and he knows what he needs to do to get the job done on game day for us."
Bridgewater said he expects to be "calm, cool [and] very chill" on Sunday, as he leads the Broncos' offense in the regular season for the first time.
The Broncos would certainly benefit if he could guide the offense early in the contest; a year ago, the Broncos scored three or fewer points in the first quarter in 10 of their 16 games. If the Broncos are to improve their offensive output, it likely must begin earlier in their matchups.
Bridgewater said Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur's tendency to script the opening plays — which is common among play-callers — can help the players get into a rhythm.
"I think you just gain confidence with the opening plays," Bridgewater said. "… You just go out there and just play. I think sometimes nerves are high. Different things may come into play that may limit you from a fast start or maybe things that help you get off to a fast start, but I think for us, man, we've just got to go out there and play one play at a time. Understand that throughout the course of a game things happen, but if we could just come out and start fast and control our own destiny throughout the course of the game, I think things will work in our favor."
A deep pass or two to Courtland Sutton, Jeudy, Fant, Hamler or Tim Patrick could help push the Broncos in the right direction, as well. Bridgewater said he viewed the deep ball as a "huge opportunity" in the Broncos' offense.
"We have guys who can bring that spark, that big-play ability to the games, and we want to make sure that when we call them, we hit them," Bridgewater said. "Last year [in Carolina] — I don't want to dwell on it — but I had some guys who were pretty good at tracking the ball down the field and making plays. This unit that we have here, with the group of receivers that we have, you watch throughout training camp and preseason games, we're hitting big plays, and that's the thing that I love about this team. It's a group of guys that all have a unique skill set and if we need a guy to catch a ball 50 yards down the field, if we need a guy to catch a slant on third-and-1, we need a guy to go in and block in the run game — all those guys can do different things. When you can combine all that talent in that room, it could be a nightmare for defenses, but at the same time, we've got to continue to put the work in to get to that stage."
With those three elements — a fast start, deep shots down the field and a steadying presence in the game's big moments — Bridgewater could be due for a strong first outing. The veteran, though, said individual statistics were of little concern to him. He's more excited to see teammates like Sutton and Von Miller back on the field and to help guide the team to an opening victory.
"The only goal that matters to me is winning," Bridgewater said. "Of course, you want to win the first game and the last game, and if you're doing that hopefully you're doing something special at the end of the season. Every day I come in here, it's about winning, whether it's winning the day or winning the rep and then ultimately on Sundays winning the games."
That, in turn, should be the best pitch he can make to Broncos fans about his ability as a quarterback. Because while Bridgewater can "sell hope" to his teammates in the huddle — their shared time on the field and around the building gives him credibility — he knows he'll earn the fans' trust via results.
"I think you win the fans over by winning football games," Bridgewater said. "I've never been the guy to try to win the fans over with my words. I try to be who I am. A genuine guy, be the same person every day and hopefully, my play can be enough to win the fans over in the end. I appreciate the fans that we have here. In the last preseason game I think we had 50,000 fans or something like that, so we appreciate the support that we get from them — especially at home games. I'm pretty sure on social media guys get a lot of love and things like that — I'm not really on social media — but you definitely can tell that this is a football environment, and the fans want to just see the Broncos win."