SEATTLE -- Two hours before the game, Teddy Bridgewater jogged out of the tunnel at Lumen Field with an easy smile. Shaped by injury, adversity and success, Bridgewater remains calmer than a lagoon.
Even by Broncos' standards of quarterback competitions, this one stands out. It isn't so much that both Bridgewater and Drew Lock boast different skillsets -- we've seen that before with the likes of Bubby Brister-Brian Griese and Trevor Siemian-Paxton Lynch. It is that they cannot separate. After three weeks of training camp, they remained in a dead heat, even if it felt like Lock's nose stuck out a smidge when squinting at the race this week.
After Saturday night, Bridgewater deserves to be talked about as the leader, if not the starter, with his play -- economically paced with sprinkles of dynamic. One week after Lock flirted with perfection, Bridgewater matched him, connecting on 9-of-11 passes for 105 yards and a score in the Broncos' impressive 30-3 victory over Seattle.
If coach Vic Fangio wants to declare a winner, Bridgewater presented him with plenty of information.
"Teddy played extremely well. And some of his good plays were good quarterback plays. He stepped up and manipulated the pocket, he moved laterally and waited for something to open late. I thought he did really well," Fangio said. "He was helped by the fourth down conversions, but one of those was caused by a dropped pass on third down. I am (closer to making a decision) because the calendar is closing in on us. It won't be tomorrow. The earliest it would be is next week. Both these guys, Drew and Teddy, have done well as you've seen."
It came not from the numbers, but the nuances. Facing a Seattle defense with five starters in base and six in subpackages, Bridgewater displayed the qualities that prompted general manager George Paton to acquire him in April.
On fourth-and-5 from his own 40-yard line on the opening drive, Bridgewater showed patience, waiting for receiver Jerry Jeudy to create space on a dig route that produced a 35-yard gain. On third-and-goal moments later, Bridgewater recognized the blitz and connected with K.J. Hamler for a 2-yard score. Bridgewater said he learned to find peace on football field after watching his mother battle breast cancer.
"It would be cool if I am named the starter. ... But I am at a point in my life I can't stress over anything. My career could have been taken from me a couple of years ago (because of injury)," Bridgewater said. "When I am out there on that field, it's like I am running from all the problems in the world."
His next opportunity -- if Bridgewater lands the top job -- provided the most compelling evidence. It lasted longer than the wait for DIA trains, a Bridgewater vintage trudge of 16 plays, 87 yards in 9 minutes, 47 seconds.
It featured four straight dump downs to running backs, moving the sticks. Then from the shotgun Bridgewater made his best throw of the summer, a 21-yard floater to tight end Eric Saubert just over the linebacker to the 1-yard line.
Left guard Dalton Risner snatched up a sort of a fumble at the goal line for a score, leaving Bridgewater's bunch with a 14-0 lead.
"I don't know where the ball is. I want it," Risner said. "I am just happy we kicked butt tonight."
While Bridgwater was in the game, the Broncos converted three fourth downs. This was noticeable and became moreso when Lock was called off the field for Brandon McManus to nail a 52-yard field goal on a fourth-and-5 later in the game. Fangio said the game situation called for a field goal based on the score. Lock admitted he wanted to stay on the field.
Lock entered in the second quarter and received five drives, scoring on three of them. He played with the mix-and-match line of backups at three positions.
"This competition has brought out the best in us," Lock said. "This is the best vibe of any team I have been on here."
If this competition was based on wow plays, Lock would have won Saturday. In the third quarter, Lock eluded pressure, and while scrambling executed a Brett Favre-esque flip to rookie Seth Williams that resulted in a 34-yard gain. However, pressure, of no fault of his own, caused Lock issues. He fumbled twice, once on a rugged sack and again when Austin Schlottman stepped on him in the red zone, causing a fall. Lock recovered both times.
Lock finished 9-for-14 for 80 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions. He has challenged for this job in every way. Perhaps, pone area of separation in the evaluation? Bridgewater did more with the second and third stringers than Lock. Will that matter. Should it?
And more importantly did Bridgewater provide enough of a reminder of his experience to move out front, especially knowing the context. The Broncos need a fast start, they have lost eight straight September games, including seven under Fangio.
Will that figure into the decision?
Fangio remains coy, insisting they are even.
One thing that is not equal -- the Broncos' starting defense against Bridgewater, Lock, or, for the first time Saturday, an opponent. The starters wrecked the Seahawks reserves without Russell Wilson.
Think of the Broncos D like Blue Oyster Cult's "Fear The Reaper." It is good. To be special, it needs more cowbell. That means takeaways. No one proved better for Denver last season than Justin Simmons. He netted five of the team's paltry 16. The second-highest paid safety in NFL history -- Seattle's Jamal Adams passed him this week -- intercepted Alex McGough with a toe drag swag on the far sideline.
In two series, the Broncos starters -- only Josey Jewell and Von Miller were absent -- delivered a takeaway and forced a punt. If they want to put them in bubble wrap, save for Von, that's understandable.
With one preseason game remaining, the Broncos still have two potential starting quarterbacks. Bridgewater and Lock posted four touchdowns in five drives with the starters over the past two weeks. Fangio is charged with the decision. He said this week he was pretty damn close.
The question now: Is he ready to make it?
Gettting Warmer for Von, Sutton
Von Miller, Courtland Sutton and Melvin Gordon went through pregame warmups but did not play. Von, Sutton and Gordon will get some reps against the Rams. He's been recovering from a groin injury. All of the aforementioned players, Risner and Fangio were among those signing autographs for fans in the pregame.
Broncos defensive lineman DeShawn Williams produced an interception in the second quarter with the backups. It overjoyed his teammates. "To see that was really something," said Williams, who has been cut four times by the Broncos but keeps improving each season.
Right tackle remains up for grabs. Calvin Anderson received the start and then shifted to left tackle when Bobby Massie entered the game. ...
Outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper has made his case to make the team. He posted a strip sack, a fourth quarter sack and a pass deflection. He said being on the field reminded him of playing football as a kid. "It's hard to explain the joy I had being out there," he admitted. ...
Cornerback Michael Ojemudia limped off with the help of trainers with a knee injury. The current hope is that it's not serious.
Recently signed running back Adrian Killins left with an ankle injury. ...
Despite only a few practices, inside linebacker Baron Browning played and registered a tackle on his first snap. ...
The second string offensive line featured Netane Muti and Quinn Meinerz at guard, Anderson at left tackle, Bobby Massie right and Lloyd Cushenberry at center. ...
Saturday's captains: Garett Bolles, Alexander Johnson and Josh Watson.