If there will ever be a play that’ll define the Denver Broncos‘ 2021 season, it just may be what starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did — or actually, didn’t do — in a lackluster Week 10 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on November 14.
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As the Broncos were trying to close the gap in the waning seconds of the third quarter and the game still within reach, running back Melvin Gordon III fumbled on a 4th-and-1 attempt from the Eagles’ 22-yard-line and the Broncos only down 20-13.
What happened next was the Broncos’ 2021 season in a nutshell.
Philadelphia’s cornerback Darius Slay picked up the loose ball out of the pile and zigged-zagged 82 yards for the deflating touchdown.
The fumble itself will go down as one of the most soul-crushing plays in the Broncos’ 2021 season, but the way Bridgewater handled the tracking of Slay will be the unequivocal play of ignominy for Broncos’ football. Bridgewater pulling up on the tackle attempt will be a direct reflection of the lax behavior, lack of urgency, and lack of fundamentals that head coach Vic Fangio and staff have allowed.
Bridgewater was immediately crushed on Broncos Twitter — and rightfully so — as the rabid fanbase was in disbelief at what transpired from one of the team’s most respected leaders.
Former NFL linebacker turned media star Emmanuel Acho called Bridewater’s attempt the “most egregious business decision I think I’ve ever seen on a football field.”
The comments section of this tweet should be avoided at all costs by Bridgewater and any of his supporters, as the heat will certainly be turned on the quarterback throughout the week, as the Broncos head into their bye.
But more alarming is that the sequence all but sealed the Broncos’ fate, crushing any hope for a comeback. And looking at possible long-term ramifications, Gordon III’s fumble and the lack of effort by Bridgewater could provide a hangover which could also kill any positive belief within that Denver locker room that they’re worthy of competing for supremacy in a very crowded AFC West race, or at the very least, an AFC Wild Card berth.
About the only solace the Broncos (5-5) can take in such a soul-sucking defeat, is that the Los Angeles Chargers (5-4) lost, and the Kansas City Chiefs (5-4) and Las Vegas Raiders (5-3) entered their November 14 Sunday-night primetime matchup each still within reach.
Lamest of Excuse
Perhaps Broncos Country wouldn’t be as harsh on the otherwise likeable Bridgewater if his reasoning for not attempting the tackle wasn’t so lame. When asked during his post-game appearance, Bridgewater wasn’t too convincing in his explanation.
That’s the kind of reasoning that may eventually end up getting the veteran journeyman run out of Denver.
Bridgewater will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022, and with the Broncos set to have an exorbitant amount of money under the salary cap, general manager George Paton will be in prime position to make a power move and either be a major player in the free-agent market, make a major trade, or use the team’s immense draft capital to put together a 2022 draft-day package and go get one of college football’s top quarterback prospects.
Cam Newton Can Relate
Once upon a time, Broncos Country and football critics abound had a tremendous time poking fun of Carolina Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton for his lack of enthusiasm on a momentum-swinging play.
Of course, that play was a lame fumble recovery attempt in Super Bowl 50 — a game the Broncos ended up dominating Newton, the reigning league MVP, and the Panthers, who were 15-1 in the regular season.
Newton, who later explained himself, still hasn’t lived down the way he let the ball — and Super Bowl — slip away. And while the Bridgewater play is obviously nowhere near the magnitude of Newton’s mishap, it will go down as momentous play in the Broncos’ 2021 season.
As Andrew Mason, of DNVR Sports tweeted, as good a guy as Bridgewater is, and despite being the best Broncos quarterback since Peyton Manning retired in 2016, the veteran may never live down this play.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8