By Zach Gotlieb | December 3rd, 2019
On Sunday, the Denver Broncos won their fourth game of the season, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 23-20 on a last-second field goal by Brandon McManus. It was a glorious win for both the Broncos, who have lost three such games the exact way and also for rookie Drew Lock. It wasn’t pretty, but Lock brought everything we saw from him out of Mizzou onto Empower Field at Mile High for his first career start. Moxie, confidence, and some flash with his play.
I think the biggest thing we saw was that certain “je ne sais quoi” as used by 104.3 radio host Cecil Lammey. The eagerness in his eyes during the National Anthem, the pocket awareness throughout the game, the excitement after each big play, it all showed what we already knew about Drew Lock. Whether or not Lock is what we believe he can be as a player, the kid has the “it” factor. The confidence and charisma that players will follow and listen too. The way he celebrated after a defensive pass-interference on Casey Hayward with three seconds left was sheer excitement. When Brandon McManus hit the game-winning field goal, Lock sprinted on the field, celebrating with receiver Diontae Spencer before ending up in the arms of draft mate Dalton Risner.
It was quite the start for Lock. It was not perfect by any means, but there was definitely a lot to build off of. He finished the game 18-28 for 134 yards with 2 passing touchdowns and an interception. He also had 15 yards rushing on three attempts. Not Earth-shattering, but the stats really don’t tell much of the story with this game. It was how these plays happened.
Lock’s first touchdown pass was the best throw of the game by either side, and it came on an audible. A 26-yard touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton almost didn’t happen. As Sutton recounted after the game, Lock said in the huddle, “hey, run a fade.” Four simple words that showed the leadership, moxie, and confidence that Lock carries himself with every day. To go in and call an audible in the huddle during your first career, start the way he did is something different. With safety Derwin James bearing down on Lock, he stood in the pocket and put up a perfect throw to Courtland Sutton. It was truly a spectacular catch, but also a perfect throw that only Sutton was going to catch.
He did make some mistakes, but plays like that are the flashes that show the potential Lock may have. We saw a few throws where there was miscommunication between him and the receiver. Both were on deep balls trying to hit Sutton on one throw and another to Noah Fant. Both went to the wrong shoulder and missed wide towards the sideline. Regardless of whether it was on Lock or the receiver, these are the kinds of plays that will get ironed out with more time and reps with his receivers.
He did have one interception, which was a brutal one, but it didn’t cost them anything when Chargers kicker Michael Badgley missed a field goal from 55 yards out. The interception was a bit of a misread.
“It was a little bit of a high-low read on [Denzel Perryman]. He ended up backing up a little farther than I thought he would. I’m a little arrogant at times, and I tried to fit it in there,” Lock said.
What came after that comment was how he was excited to look at the film of what happened on that play. It seems pretty mundane, but with fans still dealing with a little Paxton Lynch PTSD. Hearing that with the many stories we’d end up hearing about Lock’s work ethic that night further separate him from the comparisons with the other recent high draft pick at quarterback.
As for my expectations, which you can read here, I saw a lot more of Lock under center than I thought I would, but his footwork is much improved from where it was during training camp. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined for 20 carries, which is a healthy dose of the running game. Courtland Sutton had 4 catches on 5 targets for 74 yards with 2 touchdowns. Not a ton of targets, but he was very impactful with those two touchdowns. He also drew the came clinching DPI that got the team in field goal range. He had a ton of quick throws and small screens as well, which was a smart and helpful part of the game plan to help keep some of the pass rush off Lock and keep him in rhythm during the game.
Yes, it’s only one game. No, his stats were not earth-shattering. It was the little things. When it comes to evaluating players on progression, it’s very much about the eye test and listening to what others are saying. There was not a single negative thing being mentioned. Dalton Risner talked about his work ethic in getting plays from coach into the huddle. Changing routes in the huddle to take a shot to the endzone. Lock has four games left to continue to progress and get better. That being said, this was a really good first game for Drew Lock. The Houston Texans will provide a tough test for the rookie, especially on the road.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images