DENVER -- The picture of Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater walking gingerly back to the team's locker room after Sunday's loss to the Las Vegas Raiders was worth a 1,000 words or 17 hits, take your pick.
Bridgewater had the kind of contusion-inducing day that won't be conducive to a productive workplace environment if it's repeated very often.
"Definitely, that's on us," said Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry III. "That's our job, to protect whoever is back there. If he gets hit that many times, obviously something is wrong. We have to fix that fast."
Yes, they do. Especially because their next opponent -- the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox) -- employs Myles Garrett, who was the NFL's sack leader heading into this weekend's games. The Raiders sacked Bridgewater five times, three of those from Maxx Crosby, while also battering the quarterback 17 times overall during their 34-24 victory on Sunday.
Bridgewater was sacked or hit on 30% of his dropbacks. That math simply won't work for the Broncos' offense or Bridgewater's health.
When Bridgewater was asked following Sunday's loss if it was more difficult emotionally or physically in that moment, he said: "It's a combination of both ... just got to find a way to tough it all out. Ninety-six hours is all we got, just have to find a way to tough it all out."
In the Broncos' three consecutive losses, Bridgewater has been sacked nine times combined and was knocked from the loss to the Baltimore Ravens just before halftime with a concussion. He has now thrown four interceptions in the past two games combined under duress after not throwing any over the first four. The Broncos have gone from 28, 30 and 37 rushing attempts in their three wins to 17, 18 and 23 in the three losses.
"Teddy hasn't been a turnover guy ... once you become an unbalanced offense the chance of throwing interceptions go up," said Broncos coach Vic Fangio. "... You get in a throw-it mode that early in the game, [hits on the quarterback] are the risk you run."
In the past two losses, especially, the Broncos have trailed early -- 24-6 in the third quarter to the Steelers and 24-10 in the third quarter to the Raiders. That has forced the Broncos into a throw-first posture, which has taken the things the Broncos have done best with Bridgewater, such as the play-action passing game, largely off the table. And it has put him squarely in harm's way.
After Sunday's loss, Bridgewater said he contributed to the problem by hanging in the pocket longer than he should have, trying to make a play that could help the Broncos attempt some kind of comeback.
"[I was] just trying to exhaust the progression," Bridgewater said. "... I probably did hold the ball a little too long on some of those."
While the Ravens created pressure with a variety of fronts to go with a vast assortment of blitzes to harass Bridgewater, the Raiders were at the other end of the spectrum. They largely stuck to their four-man front as Crosby consistently forced the issue.
"They do a good job creating pressure with just four rushers, that's what they're good at, that's what they've been good at," said Broncos tight end Noah Fant. "... We just got to [be] better in that aspect, honestly there's no other explanation for it. They made plays, we made mistakes."