ENGLEWOOD — Six years ago, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater learned how intimidating a full Empower Field at Mile High can be for opposing teams.
Then-Minnesota's starting quarterback, Bridgewater and the Vikings had a rough day, falling 23-20 with Minnesota's offense struggling to move the ball throughout the day. Now a Bronco, Bridgewater is excited to experience Broncos Country on the right side of things.
"I remember getting sacked seven times. It was loud, third downs you just had to buckle down and try to block out the noise," Bridgewater said. "I’m excited that we get this opportunity to play at home this weekend. Hopefully, we can make the Jets feel what I felt in 2015."
Sunday's game will mark the first full capacity crowd at Empower Field since a 16-15 win over the Raiders in the final week of the 2019 season. Due to COVID-19 last year, all games either featured no fans or a limited capacity.
"I’m looking forward to it. It’s fun," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "It’s more enjoyable in my mind when you get the full experience. I really believe that our game is about our players. Our game is about their families and about our fans. For the fans to be back and get the full experience, that’s a key component to our business.”
But it's not just about returning to a full stadium for the first time since 2019 — it's about how the Broncos are coming home.
For the first time since 2018, the Broncos are 2-0, earning wins on the road over the Giants and Jaguars. And the players can already feel Broncos Country having their back in a season that could put them back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015-16.
"I can’t even remember — not to make a dramatic — but I can’t even remember the last time I was this excited to go back home," safety Justin Simmons said. "We’re talking about after a whole season of no fans and the play being what it’s been the past few years. I’m really excited. Won the last two. We’re looking to be 1-0 this week, and then coming back home to what we know is going to be a sold-out stadium and just deafening loud. I’m so excited to see Broncos Country on Sunday.”
Broncos fans have always turned out, especially early in the season. But having not had a winning season in four years, the crowds haven't been the same since their Super Bowl run in 2015. The hope is that a 2-0 start — and a good chance to start 3-0 — will breath some life back into Empower Field.
“I expect it to be crazy. I expect it to be ridiculous. I expect it to be like the glory days in 2015, 2014 and 2013 with all of those runs that we had—2012," linebacker Von Miller said. "I expect it to be like that. We’re coming in 2-0, and Broncos Country has seen the type of football that we’ve played over the last two weeks. Now we’re coming home, and I expect it to be rowdy, I expect it to be crazy. I expect it to be a great atmosphere to go play football.”
So, above all, players and coaches know Broncos Country is going to deliver come 2:05 p.m. That's a given.
But now it's their turn to return the favor for the first time in a long time.
“We have to go win at home. It’s as simple as that," coach Vic Fangio said. "These fan bases are very, very enthusiastic. I’ve been in some of the best fan bases — Chicago, San Francisco. I grew up in the Philadelphia area. These guys are right there with them, if not better as fans, I think. They love the Broncos, and we have to give them what they’re hungry for.”