By all measures, rookie tight end Noah Fant had an outstanding game against the Texans - 4 of 4 catches for 113 yards, including a 48-yard play and one touchdown.
On the season, Fant has 492 yards and three TDs, and with Sunday’s performance against Houston, he is the sixth tight end in NFL history with two 100-plus yard games (first against Cleveland) and the second rookie tight end to do it since Jeremy Shockey in 2002.
Fant is also the first Broncos’ tight end since Julius Thomas six years ago to have more than one 100-plus yard games.
But as Fant told Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright Monday on Broncos Country Tonight, the biggest difference in this second half of the season is just being familiar with the offense. But having some good chemistry with Drew Lock hasn’t hurt.
“It’s a little bit of both. A big part of it is just becoming comfortable with the offense,” he said, noting that right out of training camp it took some time to process all of the plays. “As the year’s gone on I’ve gotten more comfortable. Drew has come in and we’ve just kind of connected.”
Fant pointed out that in just two starts, Lock did the same thing with Courtland Sutton in his first game against the Chargers two weeks ago, and then found 10 receivers in total on Sunday.
“It was a game where it all just started to click,” Fant said, adding that the offense is made up of a host of young guys, has had three different quarterbacks in 15 weeks, and has had injured players in an out.
Yet the offense was more aggressive - and it paid off.
“Definitely [more aggressive], and I feel like our offense feeds off that,” Fant agreed. “We aren’t used to a lot of celebrations; we’re just happy to get in the end zone. It’s pretty new to a lot of us, so it’s a great thing for the coaches to come out aggressive and for us to be able to execute it.”
Although the offense hasn’t had a ton to celebrate all season until recently, its rookie quarterback - nicknamed Buzz Lightyear for the way he’s always looking at his wristbands - has embraced the teasing from his teammates and it has become a great celebration for the offense.
“It’s a big joke on the offense that every time he looks at his armbands he’s calling the Star Command,” Fant laughed. “You look back at the film and he’s always checking out his armband. We give Drew a hard time, he’s a great dude. And we’re just trying to have fun out there.”
And although they’re having fun, they’re also playing some great football.
Consider the first play of the Broncos’ first drive on Sunday - from his own end zone, Lock throws a 20-yard pass to Fant on the sidelines as the corner falls off and Fant turns up to run another 30 yards, creating a 48-yard play.
On @KOAColorado with @redwardsradio and @AllbrightNFL, @nrfant gave a ton of credit to his OC for designing so many aggressive plays:— Doctor of Words (and tights and kicking ass) (@docllv) December 10, 2019
"Coach Scangarello was fearless. He came out and called anything he wanted to. And our guys did a great job and executed those plays." https://t.co/L7jSztrVn0
Lock described the play after the game as seeing that the corner was going to ”shoot in front of Noah” so he had to throw it behind and “use Noah’s body for leverage,” which he did, “and Noah made the awesome catch.”
Fant initially thought he’d get hit out of bounds, but Lock put the ball just inside enough that he could make a play on it.
“It was just a great-placed ball by him, and a great job by Courtland pulling off the coverage,” Fant said. “It’s a big tribute to Drew. I just try to catch anything he throws out there. He did a great job whole game standing in the pocket and delivering great balls. He’s developing great cohesion and timing with everybody and that’s great to see.”
In another great play from the rookie duo in the second quarter, the Broncos were in 12 personnel with tight ends on both sides. Andrew Beck ran to the flat on the left side, Royce Freeman released to the right from the backfield, while Fant curled around in the middle of the field with nobody there and made a short pass a huge gain.
I found this play design by the @Broncos to be really cool and creative in attacking Houston’s quarters defense! Also Drew Lock balled yesterday!! @MileHighReport #NFLGamepass pic.twitter.com/Vr1EpEOJq2— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) December 9, 2019
Fant told Edwards and Allbright that play - which Scangarello added in mid-week - might be his favorite so far.
“That 100 percent goes to Coach Scangarello,” Fant said of the play in which he gained 28 yards and a first down. “He brought that play in on Tuesday or Wednesday. We were like, ‘OK, we’ll see if it works.’ Then we looked at the film and were like, “ok, yeah, that’s going to be a big play for sure.’”
Fant said the offense planned it earlier in the game and didn’t get the right look so they didn’t do it. The second try was a charm.
“Great, great play call by Coach Scangs,” Fant said. “It’s a perfect play. A perfect setup. That was the most space I’ve been in. When you’re running, and no one is within 10-12 yards, that’s a great feeling.”
Although 5-8 is nowhere near where the team hoped it would be heading into Week 15, Fant and the rest of the offense - especially the rookie group - are looking forward to what they’re going to accomplish together. And Fant credits Dalton Risner for being a great rookie class leader and developing a bond between them and Lock.
“We have very big goals and plans for our offense,” Fant said. “We have such young guys producing, playing well. We can definitely build on that. Just little things to build on. Definitely a bright future.”
And like every other player has said on the BCT show, Fant loves his coaches. He believes the offensive coaching staff did it right in training camp and early on by throwing him out there but “not throwing him to the wolves.”
“Our coaches let me grow. They threw me out there, and I got burnt a couple times, but they’re big learning experience guys,” Fant said. “They had a set plan and gave it to me in doses. I really appreciate Coach [Wade] Harman and Coach Scangarello for how they go about things.”
And also like every other player on BCT, Fant admitted he’s just trying to get that one compliment from head coach Vic Fangio.
“Coach Fangio is an old school guy for sure. Everybody loves him, though,” Fant said. “He’s just a super good dude. He always wants you to get better.”
Fant told a funny story about Fangio showing the team film of his 75-yard TD play against Cleveland.
“He showed it in team meetings and was like, ‘What’s the one thing that’s wrong?’ And then he said, ‘the ball security is terrible,’” Fant laughed. “Everybody loves it, but he’s definitely slow to give credit.”
And that drive to get a compliment from Fangio is real.
“It’s a motivation. We hear that stuff and we want to do so much better so he has to give us that credit,” Fant said. “He’s a mastermind. He knows what he’s doing.”
Noah Fant!— NFL (@NFL) November 3, 2019
75-yard touchdown for the @Broncos rookie TE! #CLEvsDEN @nrfant
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With three games left, how many can Fant get more than 100 yards?
This poll is closed
ALL 3, why not?
Probably none, but that doesn’t take away from having two his rookie season.