One day after the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Denver Broncos traveled to MetLife Stadium to play the season opener against the New York Giants. The game is a rematch of the September 10th matchup that was played 20 years ago, one day before that horrific attack on the United States.
With fans in full capacity for the first time in more than a year, that patriotic tone of red, white, and blue rang throughout the stadium. Amid the Orange and Blue in attendance, spectators representing the FDNY and NYPD paid respects to all the Americans killed and the heroes lost 20 years ago.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect for this game. The Broncos have previously struggled on the East Coast, and against an energized crowd, there’s no such thing as an easy opponent. But this game proved to be relieving for Broncos fans who have been subjected to not only bad football, but boring football for the last half-decade.
On Sunday, though, the Broncos provided a fun football game full of drama and significant storylines.
What did we learn from the Broncos' 27-13 win over the Giants? Here are my three key takeaways.
Fangio Believes in Teddy When Chips are Down
Head coach Vic Fangio isn’t exactly known for trusting his offensive players. Despite his previous shortcomings which consisted of time management errors and lack of offensive involvement, the third-year head coach turned over a new leaf on Sunday.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Fangio opted to go for it on a 4th-&-7 situation. The play resulted in a 15-yard completion from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to wideout Tim Patrick that ultimately allowed kicker Brandon McManus to score the team's first points of the season.
Later in the second quarter, Fangio once again showed faith in his new-look offense led by coordinator Pat Shurmur and Bridgewater, the veteran signal-caller. On 4th-&-2 from the Giants' 49-yard line, Bridgewater completed a strike to wideout Courtland Sutton for a 14-yard gain.
Again, the fourth-down conversion resulted in the Broncos scoring points, only this time Bridgewater, found Patrick for the team's first touchdown of the season.
The Broncos' offense ran 35 plays to the Giants' 20 by halftime, with Bridgewater being the model of efficiency by going 19-of-22 for 177 yards and a touchdown. So, is it any wonder Fangio felt inclined to pull the trigger on fourth down yet again?
Teddy was playing extremely smart football, connecting with nine different receivers and allowing Fangio’s defense to remain well-rested on the sideline. Finally, Bridgewater connected with tight end Albert Okwuegbunam for the first touchdown of the second half on a 4th-&-1 from the Giants' 3-yard line.
The score all but solidified Bridgewater’s impression on his new team and allowed 'Albert. O' to redeem himself after previously fumbling the ball away in the red zone. The Broncos' new starting quarterback finished the day throwing for 264 yards and two touchdowns, completing nearly 78% of his passes and earning a 115.7 QB rating.
Dare I say that Fangio will be significantly more aggressive with Bridgewater at the helm of the offense? I know it sounds bizarre, but against the Giants, the proof was quite literally in the Bridgewater pudding.
Von Miller is Back — With a Vengeance
The long-anticipated return of Denver's superstar pass rusher was a sight for sore eyes. In what could be Miller's last year in Denver, the former Super Bowl 50 MVP made true on his promise that he was living in the moment and not focusing on the unknowns of the future.
After recovering from a freak ankle injury that cost him the entire 2020 campaign, Miller quite returned to form. In the first quarter, Miller beat Giants' right tackle Nate Solder for his first sack of the 2021 season and it came early in the first quarter and on third down.
Not only did the sack result in a forced punt and end the possession for New York, but it was Miller’s 108th career sack. Von also contained Giants's running backs Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker on the perimeter with two nice tackles.
The 32-year-old played extremely well without his fellow pass rusher Bradley Chubb, who was ruled out prior to the game. Miller consistently made Giants' QB Daniel Jones nervous with pressure and perimeter containment.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft shook off the cobwebs by doubling down on his sack total for the day with approximately three minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Miller sacked Jones again on a critical 3rd-&-10 from the Denver 16-yard line, virtually ending the game for the Giants after a fourth-down incompletion ensued.
Jeudy's Grizzly Ankle Injury Leaves Massive Hole at WR
Jeudy suffered a graphic lower-leg injury against the Giants in the third quarter. KOA's Benjamin Allbright reported post-game that Jeudy suffered a high-ankle sprain and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
On a 3rd-&-7, Bridgewater connected with Jeudy for a 20-yard gain before the second-year wideout fumbled after his right ankle was twisted and bent his in an unnatural manner.
The seriousness of Jeudy's injury was realized when both offensive and defensive players came to check on him while he was being evaluated on the field. Broncos trainers and medical staff later accompanied Jeudy on the team cart as the dynamic receiver buried his head in his hands and was visibly upset and in pain.
Before exiting the game, Jeudy was leading the team with six catches on seven targets for 72 yards.
While I’ve previously been critical of the 22-year-old’s focus last season, he revealed himself to be the Broncos' MVP of training camp this summer through hard work and consistent play. Make no mistake, Jeudy is a tough football player and has taken a plethora of big hits in the SEC at Alabama and even last season as a rookie.
This injury has nothing to do with toughness, but rather the nature of football itself. It was a freak occurrence.
Yes, the Broncos are extremely deep at the wide receiver position, but the loss of Jeudy is extremely concerning. For now, Broncos Country must hold its collective breath and pray for a quick and healthy recovery for Jeudy, who was Denver’s first-round draft pick just a year ago.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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