Sometimes, it takes a special play or two to get a team going. Sometimes, it takes an entire drive.
For the Denver Broncos, that was their 2-minute drive to basically end the first half with the 10-7 lead.
To that point in the game, the Broncos were so-so at best on offense, trailing 7-3 with only 2:25 to go in the half. The good news was they had 151 yards on offense to that point, but the bad news was Denver had only the field goal while they also fumbled the ball in the red zone.
Then, the magic happened.
Starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater found Jerry Jeudy for six yards which set up a 4th and 2 at the Giants’ 49 yard line. Head coach Vic Fangio — who went for it five times on 4th down during the preseason — elected to go for it for the second time on the day.
That in itself was surprising because the Broncos had only gone for it 31 times during Fangio’s two-year tenure.
But it worked for a second time, when Bridgewater connected with Courtland Sutton for a 14-yard gain. Follow that up with a 17-yard pass to Jeudy outside which stopped the clock, and the Broncos were 18 yards away with 27 seconds til the break. After a solid 16-yard connection to Tim Patrick, Bridgewater kept it on a play-fake, rolled left and connected with Patrick for the first touchdown of the day.
That drive was special for both that touchdown play, but also for the 4th down call and conversion by Fangio and the offense.
What made it even more spectacular was the fact it left New York with basically no time left in the first half, and Denver got the ball back after the bathroom and beer break.
Bridgewater and the Broncos were incredibly efficient (he was 6-6 on the drive), marching 57 yards in just over two minutes.
Then, they rode that momentum for a touchdown drive right out of halftime.
On that set of downs, the new starter for the Broncos found Jeudy for 20-yard gain outside of the hashmarks on the left side, but sadly Jeudy was rolled up on and carted off the field after that play. (UPDATE: Jeudy’s x-rays came back negative.)
The Broncos gutted it out through the massive injury, and as the veteran quarterback escaped another sack on third down. He found Albert Okwuegbunam a few yards short of the goal line, but the backup tight end’s leap helped him put the ball over the goal line.
Just like that, 14 unanswered points for the Broncos.
And then, Bridgewater and the Broncos started deep in their own territory, but found a way to take five minutes off the clock and put another field goal on the board, for 17 unanswered.
Finally, 24 unanswered points, as Melvin Gordon ran 70 yards to the house.
No doubt about it, the 2-minute drive before the half propelled the Broncos forward and they rode that momentum the rest of the contest.
And now, they can look to that play all season long.
It takes efficiency, intelligence and guts to play as well as Denver did from that last-minute drive on.
Speaking of efficiency, Bridgewater finished the game 28-36 (77.8 percent) for 264 yards and two touchdowns. The Broncos offense was astounding on the most crucial downs, going 10-17 on 3rd and 4th downs. Meanwhile, the Giants went 6-14 on those money downs. The Broncos won 27-13 with a last-second New York touchdown.
These Broncos can win tough games on the road against hungry opponents. These Broncos can keep opponents reeling with solid pressure and great coverage.
These Broncos can — if they play like this the whole season — make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Teddy Bridgewater is efficient and that’s what the offense needs this year, when they have a possibly elite defense backing them up. And Vic Fangio is proving he’s got the guts to go for it on 4th down when the team needs to gamble a bit.
It’s only one game into the year, but these Broncos look legit on this mid-September Sunday.
Ride the high, Broncos fans, as the summer sun sets and the fall moon rises.