Justin Herbert came into the Mile High City as the hot commodity NFL quarterback.
But it was Teddy Bridgewater who stood head and shoulders above Herbert (and Drew Lock, too).
Herbert was incredible last week, throwing for 382 yards and 3 TDs while rushing for 90 more in the big win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. And coming into today’s game against the Broncos, it was clear Herbert would be the pivotal player.
But not many thought it would be in the way he ended up being.
In fact, there were many unexpected twists and turns in terms of quarterbacking on Sunday in the Mile High City.
Teddy Bridgewater pushed the Broncos down the field and then actually ran the ball in himself, the first QB surprise of the day. That put Denver up 7-0 before he was injured on the team’s next drive.
That led to the next surprise, Drew Lock going into the game. After Bridgewater moved the ball to the 44, Lock was carried down field by Denver’s duo of running backs, and the Broncos led 14-0 in the second quarter.
But, outside of finishing off Teddy’s drive with a touchdown thanks to the running backs, Lock was largely ineffective. Oh, outside the “critical” interception he threw before halftime.
Up two touchdowns, all Lock had to do was protect the football. But, instead of that, he rolled out and forced into a covered Kendall Hinton and threw an interception. It was a classic, “What are you thinking?!” interception by Lock which helped set the Chargers up with their first score of the day.
Los Angeles head coach Brandon Staley called it “critical” to CBS sideline reporter AJ Ross at halftime, and it was a swing of momentum for the road team, certainly.
All of a sudden, Denver was up a mere one score with a half to play.
That’s when Bridgewater, even hobbled with an injury, was thrust back into the game because he was clearly the better quarterback in Denver.
Meanwhile, the boy wonder Herbert and his offense were struggling to score points. After the half, LA drove deep but were stopped by Denver’s staunch defense, and the Chargers missed a field goal.
Then, at the end of a 13-play drive, Herbert threw it short to his tight end Jared Cook in the end zone. That’s where Patrick Surtain was though, able to pick off his first pass of the day.
The wily veteran Bridgewater then answered with a crucial 10 play, 80-yard drive to push Denver’s lead to 21-7. Javonte Williams’ sensational juke-and-run for 42 yards moved the Broncos into goal-to-go position and Bridgewater’s rollout pass to Todd Saubert was the drive’s capper.
Down two touchdowns and under 9 minutes to play, the Chargers were in pass-first mode. That’s when Herbert made his second massive mistake of the day, a tipped ball pick-6 returned 70 yards by Broncos rookie sensation Patrick Surtain.
For Surtain, it was the first touchdown of his career, his first two-interception game and his score was the nail in the coffin of Denver’s win.
When it was all said and done, Bridgewater’s game wasn’t great, but it was good enough. He went 11-18 for 129 yards and 1 TD, certainly not jaw-dropping numbers.
Meanwhile, Herbert finished 28-44 for 303 yards and 2 TDs with the killer 2 INTs. Lock’s numbers aren’t really worth mentioning, but he went 4-7 for 26 yards and 1 INT, and 1 fumble.
Simply, Teddy was mostly “meh” overall. His numbers were basically half of Herbert’s, except that young buck turned the ball over twice. And the Chargers have lost every time he’s done that this year. Conversely, Teddy didn’t turn the ball over a single time and the defense led the Broncos to victory. It was the exact playbook we all expected when the season began.
Even that mediocre but controlled play was clearly better than how Drew Lock played. Lock now has 2 interceptions in a mere 25 passes this year, and he fumbled in this game as well; the young quarterback is simply a turnover liability.
Given not only that, but the fact that Bridgewater was put back into the game after being injured and it seems clear; this is Teddy’s team from here on out.
And with good reason.
The Broncos are now 6-5 on the season and hot off a massive win over a divisional foe who was ahead of them in the standings before today’s game. They were buoyed by a fired-up defense that came to play from the first whistle. And that dominant defense — even down a ton of starters and stars — was helped by a disciplined offensive attack when Bridgewater was behind center.
Denver knew they had the upper hand when running the ball against LA, the worst rushing defense in the NFL. So, they ran it relentlessly, and then Bridgewater did what he needed to in order to move the chains and score twice. Plus, they converted on 8-of-11 third downs today, which was the highest percentage (72.7) in the history of the Broncos.
It’s not electric, and it’s not exhilarating offense. Hell, it’s not even that entertaining most of the time. But, with a sometimes world-class defense, Denver’s been competitive with a game-manager in Bridgewater.
And now they have the biggest test of the season next week against the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) in Arrowhead.