The Denver Broncos waited too long to make a charge toward a 4-1 record at Heinz Field in a frustrating performance during their 27-19 loss to Pittsburgh. It was the Steelers’ first win since Week 1 and simultaneously extended the Broncos’ losing streak to two games.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater came within one pass of almost completing an improbable comeback, though his pass intended for wideout Courtland Sutton was intercepted in the end zone shortly before time expired. The Broncos’ outscored Pittsburgh 13-3 in the final quarter in a stark contrast to their glacial-paced first half.
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Bridgewater explained how he saw the last play and why he couldn’t quite convert to get the Broncos within a two-point conversion of tying the game.
“The defender covered it well,” Bridgewater told reporters on October 10. “I just tried to back shoulder Court [Sutton] to give him a chance at least to make a play.
“Like I said, the defender covered it so well that there wasn’t really a window to throw it a high, a high ball outside, so it just sucks man, to end a game like that but the fight that we saw in this team in the fourth quarter, it was impressive. So [there’s] a lot of positives to take away from this one, we can’t just let this feeling of losing linger.”
Slow Start Curses Broncos Again
Denver scored three points in each of the first two quarters before being shut out in the third in what proved crucial. Pittsburgh’s 24-6 lead at the start of the fourth was critical to the overall result and ultimately the reason for the Broncos’ second straight loss. Denver’s offensive leader echoed the sentiment during his postgame press conference.
“Just got to be better,” Bridgewater said. “Start faster, we’ve been preaching over the past couple weeks, getting out to a fast start and it finally caught up to us today man.”
Going back to their roots may be the spark the Broncos need to get going early. Rest assured, they’ll be brainstorming all week.
“We might need to do like the colleges do goal-line in the pregame or something,” Bridgewater said. “Just bash heads or something to get the blood flowing, the juices going but we’ll figure it out this week. We’ve got no choice.”
Missed Opportunities Galore
Denver had its chances to hoist itself atop the AFC West but a lackluster three quarters cost them dearly. During the first half, Pittsburgh maintained the ball for nine minutes more than their opponents while going four-for-six on third down. Disappointingly, the Broncos were drastically worse; completing just one of six third down attempts.
Overall, Denver was 2-for-12 on third down, a staggering conversion rate of 16.7%. Unlike the first three games, the Broncos were beaten comprehensively in the time of possession battle too, holding a minus seven-minute differential. The Baltimore Ravens, a week previous, also beat up the Broncos in the clock battle.
“It’s hard to win a game like that,” Bridgewater said. “Obviously we’ve just got to keep our head down, man, and control what we can control — which is how hard we work, the way we approach each day and we’ve gotta come in with the mindset to get better.
“We can’t wait till the game is out of hand to have a sense of urgency, we can’t wait till we’re down. We’ve just gotta come out shooting the way we played in that fourth quarter [then] we’ll give ourselves a chance to win a lot of games.
Despite Broncos Country’s anger at the display in Pennsylvania, not all is lost with the 2021 NFL season still so young. Their quarterback isn’t giving up anytime soon.
“We’re sitting here with an opportunity to go back home at 3-2, wish we could’ve been 4-1 but we’ve still got so much more in front of us.
“It’s very important to put this losing streak to an end. Obviously no one plays the game to lose, no one likes the feeling of losing, especially after the game. It’s one of those things where we’ll come together man, our leaders, captains of this team and just come up with a plan of action of how we can shift the mindset, push the negativity out of the way. At the end of the day, guys will run to their phones and hear how bad we are, how good we are, how good they played, how bad someone else played.”
As ever, Bridgewater remains composed despite the chaos going on around him. Now he and the team’s veterans will come together in order to help propel the Broncos back into the win column.
“It’s just all about what you believe and that’s where we’ll come together, the leadership counsel and just control the narrative,” he said. “It’s never as bad as it seems, it’s never as good as it seems. We’ve just gotta have that mindset — be the same person every day, win or loss, and help this team move in the right direction.”
Follow Patrick Djordjevic on Twitter: @Patdjordjevic