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'What a cool feeling it is': QB Jarrett Stidham impresses in first start with Broncos, relishes first NFL win

DENVER — The last time Jarrett Stidham earned a win as a starter, he wore different shades of orange and blue.

More than 1,800 days have passed since Stidham's last win as a starter, when he tossed five touchdowns in the Music City Bowl as his Auburn Tigers rolled past Purdue in 2018.

"Yeah, appreciate that," Stidham joked after the game as he was reminded of the time between wins.

The Broncos' 16-9 win over the Chargers, though, was worth the wait.

"[I] just tried to play with emotion and get a win, and thankfully, we did," Stidham said.

In his first start as a Bronco — and third career NFL start — Stidham completed 20-of-32 passes for 224 yards, one touchdown and a 93.8 quarterback rating. He was sacked just twice and avoided turning the ball over, and he guided the Broncos to a season-high in yardage in the first half of Sunday's victory.

"It's great," Stidham said. "Once I got back to my locker, I texted my wife what a cool feeling it is to get my first NFL win. But with that, it's not about me, it's not about a first win, it's about the team getting the eighth win of the year. I couldn't be prouder of the guys in the locker room. [We] definitely thought we left some points out there, but [the] defense played phenomenal as usual. Special teams played great. Offensively, we just have to find a way — especially in the red zone — to put the ball in a little bit more. Really good team win, for sure."

Stidham made a series of strong throws during the game, including a pass that hit Jerry Jeudy in stride for a 41-yard gain that gave the Broncos a chance at an end-of-half field-goal attempt. Earlier, Stidham avoided pressure to step up in the pocket and find Lil'Jordan Humphrey for a solid gain that became a 54-yard touchdown. Though Humphrey's heroics defined the play, Stidham's ability to keep his eyes downfield gave the play a chance to happen.

"I thought he was good," Head Coach Sean Payton said. "I thought he was collected, calm. I thought he played with really good poise. He felt experienced relative to a guy who hasn't had as many minutes maybe as some others. You certainly didn't feel that during the course of the game. I thought he was efficient in and out of the huddle. I thought he made some good throws for us overall until I see the tape. I thought it went pretty good."

Tight end Adam Trautman echoed Payton's sentiment about Stidham's presence and complimented his ability to direct the offense.

"I thought he had great control of the huddle and offense and getting everything lined up, getting everything going — all the checks, all the kills on the plays," Trautman said. "He's just got this confidence about him. When he comes in the huddle, it's pretty awesome."

As Stidham enjoyed the win, he deflected a question about how his performance could impact his prospects to be the Broncos' future long-term starter.

"I'm just kind of focused on celebrating the win," Stidham said. "[I] have a bunch of family … in town, so [I'm] going to take the night to celebrate that, celebrate the New Year. That's all I can control for right this second."

After a long wait for Stidham, it's a win worth celebrating.

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