EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — For the first time since Peyton Manning retired after winning Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos may have a quarterback. All it took was 11 tries.
Teddy Bridgewater threw two touchdowns in his first start for Denver and the Broncos dominated possession and beat the Giants 27-13 on Sunday, spoiling the return of New York running back Saquon Barkley after a long ACL rehabilitation.
Acquired in the offseason from Carolina, Bridgewater completed 28 of 36 passes for 264 yards, sharing the ball with nine receivers. The 28-year-old hit quarterback Tim Patrick on a go-ahead 2-yard TD pass in the closing seconds of the first half. Bridgewater eluded pressure and found tight end Albert Okwuegbunam on a 4-yard, fourth-down toss during a 16-play, 75-yard drive to open the second half, extending the lead to 17-7 with 6:48 to go in the quarter.
“I was joking with the guys the other day,” Bridgewater said. “'Man I don’t think I got it anymore.' My moves don’t work anymore. They’re a little outdated.'"
They certainly weren't against the Giants.
“I saw a guy in total control and when he had to improvise, he did,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “Some of those were on big, big plays. He’s been doing that his entire career when he’s been a player. He showed it today.”
Melvin Gordon III added a late 70-yard TD run and Brandon McManus kicked two field goals for the Broncos, who have had four straight losing seasons since their Super Bowl 50 title led by Manning.
Daniel Jones threw a 37-yard touchdown to Sterling Shepard for New York and ran for a 4-yard touchdown on the final play. The third-year quarterback finished 22 of 37 for 253 yards. He also lost a fumble in the red zone with the Giants trailing 20-7 in the third quarter.
Like the offense, Barkley never got going. The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year finished with 10 carries for 26 yards. His longest run was 5 yards.
The Giants, coming off a 6-10 season under then first-year coach Joe Judge, have not been to the playoffs since 2016, and only once since winning their fourth Super Bowl in February 2012.
Scoring was the Giants' biggest problem last season and it was again Sunday.
“I think it’s about executing, it’s about correcting certain things and making plays,” Jones said. “It’s plays, we can make the plays. We got people on the team that can make them. We got everything we need, it's just about doing it.”
Denver won the ball possession battle 35:08 to 24:52 as its offense converted 7 of 15 on third downs and 3 of 3 on fourth downs.
The Broncos came into the season opener off a perfect preseason and they showed that was not a fluke. Von Miller, playing for the first time since 2019, had an early sack and finished with two. Aided by his big run, Gordon finished with 101 yards on 11 carries.
Denver took a 10-7 lead on a 2-yard pass from Bridgewater to Patrick with 8 seconds left in the first half. It capped a seven-play, 57-yard drive that featured a 14-yard pass from Bridgewater to Courtland Sutton on fourth-and-2 from the Giants 49.
New York had taken the lead on the catch and run by Shepard on the series after a McManus' field goal.
For the first time since the end of the 2019 season, fans were allowed to attend the game without restriction. The announced attendance was 74,119.
After Gordon scored to extend the Broncos' lead to 27-7, most Giants fans exited. By the end of the game, the majority of fans left were wearing orange jerseys and shouting “Teddy, Teddy, Teddy.”
“These people paid their hard-earned money to come see wining football,” Shepard said. “I mean, that’s what this franchise is all about, is winning. So it’s been frustrating the past few years. And I understand their frustration. I mean, we’re not happy about it as well.”
Judge said he knew he could not challenge the touchdown pass from Bridgewater to Okwuegbunam. He said he was yelling at the officials to ask them what the replay showed and they would not talk to him, so he threw the flag.
It ended up costing the Giants their first timeout of the second half.
Broncos: LB Bradley Chubb (ankle) missed the game injury. Second-year wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was carted off the field in the third quarter with a high ankle sprain. He had six catches for a team-high 72 yards. Fangio said an MRI will be done.
Giants: Pro Bowl tight end Evan Engram missed the game with a calf injury.
Broncos: at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 19. The Chargers beat Washington 20-16.
Giants: short turnaround, at Washington on Thursday night.
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