For the second straight week to open the season, the Denver Broncos hit the road to square off against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Friday, the Broncos elected to leave one day earlier than usual to begin acclimating to the East Coast and its humidity.
The Broncos sported their sharp orange jerseys with the Jaguars opting to wear white at home.
Heading into the game, the storylines presented excellent gameday drama as the Jaguars are off to a bumpy start in the Urban Meyer/Trevor Lawrence era after losing to the Houston Texans last week. Naturally, many Broncos fans felt extremely confident with the Week 2 matchup, recognizing the veteran experience of Denver’s squad.
Then again, the Jaguars are a much more talented team than the Giants and there’s no such thing as an easy win in the NFL. Even though it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns for the Orange and Blue in Jacksonville, the fact remains that for the first time since 2018, the Broncos are 2-0 after defeating the Jaguars 23-13 to start the season.
Just like good ole Vin Diesel said in The Fast and the Furious, “Winning is winning. It doesn’t matter if it’s by an inch or a mile.”
Indeed. What did we learn from Sunday's action? It’s time to reflect on my key takeaways from the Broncos' 23-13 road win over the Jaguars on Sunday.
Bridgewater Continues to Exceed Expectations
Broncos' quarterback Teddy Bridgewater proved once more that he was the right man to lead the team as he went 26-of-34 for 328 yards passing and two touchdowns without turning the ball over. While it wasn’t always perfect, there never seemed to be a play in which Bridgewater was not in full command of the offense.
Similar to the Giants game, the veteran QB showed poise and an increased level of comfortability despite being sacked three times. After Vic Fangio's controversial decision to end the Drew Lock era and throw in with Teddy as the starter, the 28-year-old is making his head coach look wise in retrospect.
Patrick Becoming an Elite Weapon
For the second straight week, Bridgewater connected with wideout Tim Patrick for a touchdown before halftime. With under two minutes to go in the first half, Patrick ran an underneath crossing route from the Jaguars' 12-yard line and pranced into the end zone untouched for Denver’s first touchdown of the game.
That scoring reception gave the Broncos their first lead (10-7) of the day. Patrick’s presence on the field has been nothing short of dominant in the last two weeks. Whether it’s nabbing first downs, touchdowns, or executing crisp and efficient blocks on the perimeter, the man does it all.
Bridgewater also went deep for Patrick early in the fourth quarter before the receiver was grabbed for what turned into a 36-yard pass interference penalty against Jacksonville, advancing the Broncos to midfield. Time and time again, Bridgewater consistently scanned for either Courtland Sutton or ‘Timmy Pats’ deep downfield, refusing to let up.
The 27-year-old Patrick went undrafted out of Utah in 2017 and spent time with two different NFL clubs before landing in Denver. He got his opportunity to compete on the Broncos' practice squad where he turned heads with his attention to detail, work ethic, and consistent performance. In 2018, that culminated in him making the 53-man roster and the rest is history.
Patrick is playing on a restricted free-agent tender that's paying him a base salary of $3.384 million for the 2021 season. The future of Sutton remains unclear as the Pro Bowl wideout will likely command a hefty payday as teammates Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler play out their rookie contracts.
Meaning, Patrick will most likely earn a much-deserved second contract elsewhere, making him an undisputed starter and playmaker for another NFL franchise. Prior to the ankle injury that Jeudy suffered last week, I had campaigned for the Broncos to trade Patrick — not because Denver needed the draft capital or because the team would be fine without him, but because the man would undoubtedly be a starter and WR1 on nearly every team in the league.
Thank goodness that GM George Paton has recognized the value that Patrick brings to this team and has kept him around. Patrick finished his day in Jacksonville with three receptions for 37 yards and that score. Let the good times — and touchdowns — roll.
Chubb can't Shake Nagging Injuries
When it rains it pours, especially in the heavy humidity of Jacksonville on Sunday. Broncos' pass rusher Bradley Chubb, who was limited all week at practice, made his first start since suffering an ankle injury last season that cost him the final two games of his one-and-only Pro Bowl campaign.
The team hoped the ankle injury would heal on its own but when OTAs rolled around in May, it didn't progress as hoped, so he went under the knife for corrective surgery. Suffice to say, the procedure hindered him throughout training camp and the preseason.
Sunday morning, Chubb returned to the lineup, and with one minute left in the second quarter, he rushed Jaguars' rookie QB, Trevor Lawrence, out of his traditional two-point stance, nearly getting the sack before he seemed to reaggravate his already injury-plagued ankle.
Television cameras caught the visibly emotional and irate pass rusher slamming his fist and helmet on the turf as he headed towards the medical tent. Shortly after the second-half kickoff, the CBS production team reported that Chubb had been downgraded and would not return to the field.
Only a few plays later, Von Miller sacked Lawrence for his third sack in the past two games. Despite starting the game, Chubb failed to register a tackle in the box score, or a sack.
Through no fault of his own, the 25-year-old former first-round pick has been often hurt during his young four-year career. In fact, Chubb has only appeared in 35 games, including Sunday's contest, leaving many to wonder whether the Broncos' pass-rushing tandem of Miller and Chubb will ever return to its 2018 glory when the duo combined for 26.5 sacks.
Last April, the Broncos exercised Chubb’s fifth-year option and he will see his annual base salary increase from $920,000 in 2021 to $12.7 million next year.
The scathing criticism Fangio has received for his decision to play Chubb against an ostensibly inferior Jaguars squad has already turned into a full-fledged barrage on social media. We may never know whether Chubb was indeed rushed onto the field too soon. It could just be that he's snake-bitten with injuries but the game stops for no man.
Expect the Broncos' reigning sack leader Malik Reed and rookie Jonathon Cooper to make the most of their snaps opposite of Miller. Meanwhile, Paton and Fangio clearly need to go back to the drawing board with regard to Chubb's rehabilitation.
Surtain Answers the Bell After Week 1 Criticism
Ask any coach, player, or media member about Broncos' rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain and you’ll walk away impressed. Since being drafted with the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft, the 21-year-old burst onto the scene this summer with an impressive pick-six in his preseason debut. That shine has continued into the regular season despite a slow Week 1 start.
After Broncos' starting corner Ronald Darby was placed on injured reserve coming out of Week 1, Surtain entered the starting lineup for the first time in Jacksonville. Lawrence continually tested Surtain after the two competitors first met a few years back when the QB's Clemson beat Surtain's Alabama for the National Championship.
Trailing 20-7 late in the fourth quarter, Lawrence was pressing for his offense to score points and was finally caught by Surtain, who nabbed his first career interception. The pick was beautifully executed as Surtain managed to utilize his elite athleticism to jump up and secure the deep ball while maintaining both feet in bounds before crashing to the sideline.
As if the list of firsts for Surtain couldn’t be any sweeter, we learned that junior's first career interception mirrored that of his father Patrick Surtain, Sr, who also nabbed his first pick as a Miami Dolphin in his second NFL game back in 1998.
Junior's interception led to three points as Brandon McManus pounded through a 40-yard field goal to salt the Jaguars away late in the fourth quarter. Surtain’s impressive performance will hardly quiet the Justin Fields fans who are still agonizing over Paton passing on him to take a corner, but the GM should feel vindicated with his selection.
Against the Jaguars, Surtain finished the day with two tackles in addition to the pick and showcased sticky coverage all day, silencing his critics from Week 1.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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