DENVER (AP) — For a guy who wouldn’t put himself in harm’s way or Darius Slay’s path, Teddy Bridgewater sure didn’t have any problem falling on the sword.
Or was he pushed?
Broncos coach Vic Fangio called out Bridgewater in a team meeting Monday for being a bystander instead of a barrier on Slay’s 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown Sunday.
It was the decisive play in Denver’s 30-13 loss to Philadelphia that sent the Broncos skidding into their bye at 5-5 instead of tied atop the AFC West with the resurgent Chiefs.
“I’d like to see Teddy at least make a play at the guy,” Fangio said.
Bridgewater explained after the game he was trying to steer Slay away from the sideline so that one of his teammates could make the tackle. Only, Bridgewater was the last line of defense without any of the Broncos’ speedy receivers on the field in the three-tight end formation on fourth-and-1 when Melvin Gordon III fumbled the football.
All three tight ends came close to tackling Slay but once he swept past Bridgewater at the Eagles 45-yard line, he was in the clear.
Bridgewater bristled when asked after the game if he’d made a business decision not to attempt the tackle.
He was roasted on social media both for his matador defense and for his awkward defense of that decision to let Slay sweep past him untouched.
When he met with reporters Monday, Bridgewater said the things he should have said after the game to curb the onslaught of criticism.
“We watched it today as a team. Coach (Fangio) pointed out that my effort had to be better there. I totally agree,” Bridgewater said. “That’s not the type of tape that I want to put out there.”
Because it made him look like he wasn’t a team player, that he didn’t love the game like he professes and that he wasn’t willing to do everything he could to win.
“It’s one of those situations where you get (mad) after you watch it because you know how much this game means to you,” Bridgewater said. “Guys are out there trying to make a play. You feel like you have a little help running toward the sideline and you try to force a cut back. In real time, it feels like everything is happening fast—let’s force a cutback. But when you slow it down, it’s like, ‘Man, just give more effort.’
“You watch it and you walk away from it (mad) at yourself. Credit Slay—he made a great play also. It’s one of those deals where we have guys that were trying to make the tackle. I just needed to lay it all out for the guys in that moment.”
The Broncos were about 20 yards away from tying the game when Gordon gained two yards on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 23. But linebacker Davion Taylor punched the ball out of Gordon’s hands and Slay scooped up Gordon’s 20th career fumble.
Bridgewater said he was waiting for the officials to blow the play dead and rule that Gordon was down. “Then there wasn’t a whistle. It kind of caught me by surprise,” Bridgewater said.
“But at the same time, I’m right there (with an) opportunity to just dive, sacrifice and do whatever I can to help the team in that moment. I failed and I own up to it. It’s unacceptable as a football player and as a member of his team.
“You play this game and you lay it all on the line every week. That’s one of those moments where I just have to accept the fact that I didn’t give everything I had in me on that play,” Bridgewater said. “I understand that there’s going to be some backlash that comes with it. I’m a grown man. I’m a professional athlete. I understand that’s what comes with it.
“But it doesn’t define who we are as a football team,” Bridgewater added. “It doesn’t define me as a man and as a football player.”
Bridgewater had a devastating knee injury early in his career, so many fans would understand if he was simply trying to avoid an injury. But Bridgewater said that wasn’t the case at all.
“You watch throughout the course of the game and there are times where I’m trying to extend the play in the pocket. I’m not thinking about my body or trying to hold back or anything,” he said.
Bridgewater added that he’s actually glad Fangio didn’t let the whole thing slide.
“It was great that Coach called it out in the team meeting,” Bridgewater said. “We talk about holding each other accountable. That’s a moment right there where I’m not going to sink in my chair or feel bad that Coach called me out. I take full ownership in what happened.”
Still, it was one of the toughest film reviews he’s ever endured.
“Especially when you slow it down,” Bridgewater said. “Like I said, in real time, everything is happening fast. You have the sideline to your advantage to force a cutback. Then when you slow it down with a clicker and a remote in your hand, it’s just like, ‘Man, this is bad.’”
Bridgewater said he actually began to realize his mistake while replaying the game in his head Sunday night, and Monday’s film session only confirmed his regrets.
“Hopefully, I never have to be put in that situation again,” Bridgewater said. “If I am, I’ll make sure that I lay it all on the line. I won’t be the talk of social media or the internet or whatever.
“Hopefully we can just put this behind and move forward.”
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