Teddy Bridgewater makes the first impression Denver Broncos hoped to see

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller has said -- to most anyone who would listen -- that the Broncos have improved so much on offense this past offseason that "even I could play quarterback."

But even Miller was impressed with Teddy Bridgewater's regular-season debut with the team Sunday.

"He did an incredible job. He was 10 times better than me, well, maybe eight times better than me," Miller said with a smile. "He did an incredible job. He was poised back there, he got out of some big-time sacks early in the game, he converted off of those scrambles. Just a great day from Teddy."

Bridgewater, who was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers in April, completed 28 of 36 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns during the Broncos' 27-13 victory over the New York Giants in MetLife Stadium. And perhaps most importantly for a team that has churned out turnovers at the quarterback position far too often -- the Broncos led the league in 2020 in both interceptions and giveaways overall -- Bridgewater was routinely cool under pressure and finished without a turnover.

The Broncos piled up 420 yards in all, scored on five of their eight possessions, had three scoring drives of at least 10 plays and would have added another scoring drive to the total had tight end Albert Okwuegbunam not fumbled on the Giants' 4-yard line in the second quarter.

Bridgewater finished with a league-best 95.7 QBR. It was the Broncos' first September win since 2018. It was an offensive output that would have been their third best last season. It was enough for the crowd of Broncos fans who stayed in the stadium until the final play to serenade Bridgewater with chants of "Ted-dy! Ted-dy!" as he walked up the tunnel to the locker room.

"I saw a guy in total control, and when he had to improvise, he did," said Broncos coach Vic Fangio. "And a lot of those were on big, big plays."

For a team that has searched for composure and reliability behind center since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season, Bridgewater is quite the breath of fresh air. Several teammates said Bridgewater gave an impassioned talk before the game that included the message of wasting no opportunities.

"You could just feel it, when a guy is not faking it, you can just feel it," Miller said of the speech.

Beyond the kickoff-to-final-whistle consistency, Bridgewater showed elusiveness in the pocket, extending plays when needed. His ability to, as he put it, "keep shooting" and to convince his teammates to do the same after some early mistakes was as important as any pass he threw.

Bridgewater could be seen on the Broncos' bench repeatedly trying to encourage teammates. When KJ Hamler dropped what would have been a certain 50-yard touchdown reception during the Broncos' first possession of the second half, Bridgewater quickly reminded Hamler of a third-down catch the receiver made for a first down four plays before and hit him for another 22-yard reception during the Broncos' next drive.

"Keep shooting. KJ had the ball down in the end zone, OK, we miss, I miss [tight end] Noah [Fant], Big O [Okwuegbunam] had a fumble early in the game, but the game goes on -- we can't blink," Bridgewater said. "You can't linger on one play, because on the next series, we'll be holding ourselves back."

Bridgewater, who got one of the game balls after the win, kept to his usual "it's cool" to all of the verbal bouquets tossed his way. He also made a promise to keep things in perspective.

"Continue to control the things that we can control, which is our hard work every day, the type of mindset that we have and just how we approach each day," Bridgewater said. "... [But it] means a lot, come out, new organization, have a game like this. But it's not just me ... to come out with a win is a great feeling."