Bridgewater wants Broncos to be humble and focused on fun
It’s been a roller-coaster season for the Denver Broncos. After starting the campaign with a three-game winning streak, the air quickly drained from the Broncos’ balloon with four consecutive losses; at least two of which (at Cleveland and home against Las Vegas) were embarrassments that proved that Denver still had a long way yet to go. Since then, they’ve righted the ship against a moribund Washington team and earned their biggest victory in years with their Week 9 bludgeoning of the contending Dallas Cowboys.
For quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the former first-round pick that suffered a devastating career-threatening injury before fighting his way back to the field and bouncing around the league ever since, it’s nothing new — roller coasters are kind of his thing.
“This is a time in sports where it can be dangerous. Just a couple weeks ago you were hearing, ‘Aw, you guys suck. Get rid of this person, and trade this guy.’ Then you win a game or two, and it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re the best.’ You’ve got to ignore it all because in this game, there’s going to be highs and there’s going to be lows,” Bridgewater said on Wednesday at the Broncos’ Dove Valley headquarters. “I think when you go through those moments where you’re losing, it tests your character. With us, it was a test of our character during those four weeks that we didn’t come away with a win. To come away with two wins in a row, that tests your character also. How are you going to respond? Are you going to feel like you’ve arrived, or are you going to approach it like, Hey man, our job is not done.’ We’ve still got this game to focus on, and then several more games after this. You’ve just got to respect the game and respect your opponent.”
For Broncos fans newly accustomed to season after season of losing football, anything resembling a winning streak can send emotions into overdrive, believing that a bad loss to the Case Keenum-led Browns dooms the season, only to believe weeks later that a terrific win over a star-laden Cowboy team must mean that the team’s ready to compete for the Super Bowl.
Such is the life of a fan. A player can’t afford that luxury.
“I think we learned a huge life lesson that you’ve just got to be humble,” Bridgewater explained. “You’re 3-0; everyone’s telling you, ‘Oh, Super Bowl,’ and ‘Oh, this team is awesome.’ In reality, (there’s) always so much more out there. You can always be better, and when you take the cheese and you believe all the things that have been said, it can blow your head up — or you can feel like you’ve arrived. I think we’ve learned a huge lesson early in the season; you can’t get too high because once that rug is pulled from underneath you and you fall flat on your face, everyone is going to laugh at you and tell you how bad you are. You’ve got to have that mindset that we haven’t played our best football. The past two weeks? It was a great team win Sunday, and against Washington, it was a great team win, but we still haven’t played our best football. That’s the most exciting part about all of this.”
For a Broncos team decimated by injuries, the starting lineup against Dallas barely resembled the one that started the season in New York. Nearly every position unit on the team has suffered losses and had to adjust on the fly. Of late, it’s been the offensive line that’s been hit, with left tackle Garett Bolles, left guard Dalton Risner and right tackle Bobby Massie missing time, while right guard Graham Glasgow suffered a broken leg against the Cowboys that ended his season.
Remarkably, the team’s makeshift offensive line of Calvin Anderson, Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry III, rookie Quinn Meinerz and Cameron Fleming performed as well on Sunday as any five-man group had all season. Meinerz, who entered the game following Glasgow’s injury, stood out with a brilliant sequence of downfield blocks that facilitated a spectacular, tackle-breaking, 30-yard romp from fellow rookie running back Javonte Williams. And with road-grader guard Netane Muti likely to return from COVID-19 protocols on Sunday against Philadelphia, the o-line should get even stronger this weekend.
To Bridgewater, the best way for his young teammates to handle all the turmoil isn’t to overly worry, wear yourself out in preparation, or anything like the dripping-with-machismo “Hard Knocks” shows of the NFL world would tout. Instead, Bridgewater wants them to get back to basics, but he’s not talking about technique. He’s thinking about something even more basic; something that sparked a lifelong love of football.
Teddy Bridgewater wants the Broncos to have fun.
“You watch Muti, Quinn and those guys; if we’re running gap and pull schemes, they’re pushing safeties and blowing linebackers off the ball. Those guys are physical, and they have fun,” Bridgewater said with a smile. “I think lot of times, we forget to have fun when we play this game. They’re just out there just having fun, playing fast, and not trying to think too much. It’s showing. Quinn on Sunday? Javonte breaks a 30-yard run and Quinn blocks two guys. He blocks the safety, and he blocks the corner. Javonte is still up, and he pulls them even more. Javonte’s falling down the field, and you watch Quinn fall on the safety and the safety kind of fluttered. Then you see a guy like Cam come celebrate at the end of the run. You’ve just got to have fun.”
After resurrecting a season in Dallas that had been left for dead following the one-two punch of a 1-4 run of games and the seismic trade of future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Von Miller, it would be all too easy to have a letdown at home against multi-dimensional quarterback Jalen Hurts and the visiting 3-6 Philadelphia Eagles. But faced with the opportunity to reach their bye week with an improbable 6-4 record flush with playoff possibilities, Bridgewater insists that the Broncos will be ready and willing to step up and claim the second three-game winning streak of the season.
“It’s going to be a tough Philly team that’s coming in here,” Bridgewater said. “They play so well on the road; their three wins have all been road games. We just want to make sure we’re locked in on the game plan, their personnel and trying to put ourselves in the best position to win.”
Shawn Drotar (@sdrotar) is the on-air host of “Sandy and Shawn;” weeknights from 9p-midnight on 104.3 The Fan.