The Broncos are 3-0 for the first time since the 2016 season, a campaign in which Denver was defending its Super Bowl 50 triumph, but failed to return to the playoffs.
Those Broncos were on their way down the mountain. Melvin Gordon believes these Broncos are just starting to climb it.
“We believe that we can be special. We’re not just saying it,” Gordon said of the 2021 Broncos during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “You know, I think that’s the difference: We were just saying it last year. We actually believe that we can be special. We know we can be special.”
The most recognizable change between last year’s Broncos and this year’s squad is who is playing the game’s most important position. Out went Drew Lock (to the bench), and in came veteran signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater, who has thrown for over 250 yards in each of his first three games this season and is helping Denver score 25.3 points per game, the 12th-best mark in the league.
Bridgewater leads the NFL in pulling off the unlikely, currently owning the league’s best completion percentage over expected (+11.1 percent) among 33 qualifying quarterbacks. That’s ahead of the likes of Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield. Gordon believes it’s a key reason for Denver’s hot start.
“He’s just got a calmness to him that I feel like most quarterbacks should have,” Gordon said of Bridgewater. “No moment is too big, no moment is too small.
“He knows what to say and how to say it. His leadership, you can tell that he’s been in some huddles before. He’s been the guy before. He’s been the guy that people have looked to to say the right things, or what to say in certain situations. He handles every moment how he should as the quarterback, as a leader on the team.”
Denver has followed his lead to this point, taking down its first three opponents in convincing fashion and leading many to ask: Are the Broncos for real?
Well, a peek at the standings might beg to differ. Denver is 3-0, yes, but the combined record of the teams they’ve beaten — the Giants, Jaguars and Jets — is 0-9. There’s at least a decent chance at this point those three teams will all be picking in the top five of next spring’s draft.
Gordon didn’t shy away from this reality, but looked at it as a collection of opportunities ahead for the Broncos — and especially for their quarterback, a former first-round pick who is stunning people with his play following an underwhelming 2020 spent in Carolina.
“Now, the schedule gets a lot tougher, and in the National Football League, you’re going to have some shootouts where we’ll be down, and we have to rally,” Gordon said. “Then I can really give you that feel of what Teddy Bridgewater is, really in the face of adversity. Me just guessing and just throwing this out there, I think that he can weather the storm. Whether we’re facing adversity or not, he’s going to get the job done.”
Historically, the Broncos are in a good spot: Five other teams have started 3-0 by beating three 0-3 teams in the Super Bowl era, and all but one made the playoffs. One team — the 1986 Broncos, of “The Drive” fame — even reached the Super Bowl.
Gordon is a believer, as are the rest of his teammates. We’ll see if the rest of the football world can be converted in the weeks ahead.
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