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Is this the game where Drew Lock gets humbled?

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Every starting NFL QB will have a bad game at some point in his first season as a starter, even those who begin their starting career by setting the league on fire.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Lock is only two games into his starting career and currently has a passer rating of 111.4. Drew Lock will have a bad game at some point. As sure as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow, it will happen.

Is there any way to know when? I turn to history to answer questions like this.

I only looked at starting QBs who began their starting careers this century. I then created a list to look at how every QB this century who has started at least 10 games played in their first five starts and in their next five starts (starts 6-10). This list was created for an article that will be team-written after the season is over. At that point Drew Lock most likely will have made five starts.

I looked at the QBs who have had a passer rating of 100 or greater in their first five starts. There are fifteen. I delved into each of the 15 to see when they had their first bad start and what were the specific situations around each.

I will cover 13 of the 15 after the table.

Rank Quarterback Rating in first 5 starts Humbling Start Rating in Humbling Start
1 Patrick Mahomes 116.3 6th 62.7
2 Tony Romo 115.8 6th 58.1
3 Ben Roethlisberger 108.8 7th 63.0
4 Kyle Allen 107.5 6th 28.9
5 Deshaun Watson 107.4 7th 62.9
6 Tyrod Taylor 106.7 17th 51.9
7 Marc Bulger 106.0 15th 29.3
8 Chad Pennington 104.7 18th 53.1
9 Colin Kaepernick 104.6 9th 20.1
10 Jimmy Garoppolo 103.0 8th 45.1
11 Dak Prescott 101.5 13th 45.4
12 Matt Flynn 101.5 4th 51.9
13 Robert Griffin 101.0 16th 66.9
14 Philip Rivers 100.6 11th 44.2
15 Kevin Kolb 100.0 3rd 56.2

It should not surprise you that with the exception of Kevin Kolb and Matt Flynn, all of these QBs did not get “humbled” until at least their sixth start. That’s almost a foregone conclusion since I looked at the best performers in their first five starts (by passer rating). I’m going to exclude Kolb and Flynn and focus on the other 13 since they all have at least two or more seasons as NFL starting quarterbacks (eight or more starts).

Philip Rivers was pretty consistent during his first year as a starter after he was “red-shirted” during his first and second NFL seasons (2004 and 2005). In his first 10 starts he had a passer rating of 99.7, completed 67.0% of his passes, threw for 2307 yards with 15 TDs and only 5 INTs in leading the Chargers to an 8-2 record. His 11th start came in San Diego against a 2-8 Oakland Raider team. The Chargers would win the game 21-14, but Rivers would be limited to 14/31 for 133 yards with zero TDs and one interception. Ladainian Tomlinson would essentially win the game for the Chargers by running for two TDs and 109 yards. The 2006 Raider defense, under head coach Art Shell, would finish the season as one of the best passing defenses in the league - allowing a league low 2413 yards passing for the entire season. Rivers had a bad game because he faced a great passing defense and the Chargers did not need him to win the game with his arm.

Robert Griffin’s first bad game came in his final regular season start as a rookie. Washington was fighting for a playoff spot against a Dallas team that was not. Dallas in 2012 had one of the worst passing defenses in the league, yet Griffin would only complete 9 of 18 passes for 100 yards against them. This was the game before he injured his knee (and continued to play on it) so injury was not a factor. This was a similar situation to Rivers’ first bad game. Washington did not need Griffin to throw the ball well because Alfred Morris was the offense. Morris carried the ball 32 times for 200 yards and Griffin added another 63 yards on the ground. Washington needed this victory to win the division as the Giants had split the season series with them and won their game earlier in the day to finish 9-7. Washington came into the game 9-6 and was playing the Sunday evening game against an 8-7 Dallas team that was out of the wildcard race at that point. The 11-5 Seahawks and the 10-6 Vikings got the two NFC wildcard spots that season.

Similar to Robert Griffin, Dak Prescott also waited until late in his rookie campaign to have his first bad game in his thirteenth start. Ten of his first 12 starts saw him post passer ratings of 100 or better. Prescott came into this game with a passer rating of 108.2 having completed 67.8% of his passes for 2974 yards, 19 TDs and only two INTs. He was on his way to having one of the best rookie seasons for a QB in modern NFL history. He had also rushed for 217 yards and five TDs at that point in the season. On the road in the cold (32F) swamps of New Jersey, Prescott would finally have a truly bad game. The Giants defense would limit him to 17 completions of 37 attempts for 165 yards with one TD and two picks. They would also sack him three times. The 2016 Giant defense was second only to the 2016 Bronco defense in passer rating allowed. For the season the Broncos allowed a passer rating of 69.7 while the Giants only allowed a passer rating of 75.8. They were good against the pass and good overall, finishing the season with the second best scoring defense in the league (behind the P*ts). Only the Giants and Broncos defenses finished the season with more interceptions than passing TDs allowed. The Giants would win this game 10-7 in what would be the lowest scoring game of the season for both teams.

Jimmy Garoppolo was able to wait until his second season as the 49ers starting QB before he had his first humbling start. In his first five starts for the 49ers at the end of the 2017 season (sound familiar) he was good, but not great. He had a passer rating of 95.0 but only accounted for 7 TDs (six passing, one rushing) while throwing five picks. His first start in 2018 would be the first time that he would be the Game 1 starter for his team. This start would also be against a Viking defense that had led Minnesota to the NFC championship game the year before. Jimmy looked inept against that 2018 Viking D. He would add some yardage in garbage time to make his numbers look better, but he would still finish the game completing only 15/33 for 261 with one TD and three picks. The 49ers would trail 24-6 until very late in the third quarter when they would score their only touchdown of the day. The final score would be fairly close 16-24 and Jimmy G would have a chance late to tie the the game. The 49ers got the ball back with 1:49 to play and one timeout at their own 11. Jimmy G would throw an interception that would clinch the loss.

Next up we find another 49ers QB, Colin Kaepernick, who was first given the chance to start, over Alex Smith, during his second season. Kaepernick would play well enough during his first seven starts in the second half of the 2012 season, to be given the starting spot in the playoffs for the 49ers. He would lead them to a Super Bowl appearance where the Vic Fangio defense of the 49ers would be unable to stop the Joe Flacco-led offense of the Ravens. In 2013, Kaepernick picked up where he left off, torching the Packers defense for 434 total yards (412 passing) and three touchdowns, but pride came before the fall. In his next start, which would be the ninth of his career, Colin would get abused by the Legion of Boom. The Seahawks defense would limit him to 13/28 for 127 yards and pick him off three times in their first meeting of the year in Seattle. They would also sack him three times. Kaepernick would finish with a passer rating of 20.1 for game in the 29-3 thrashing at the hands of the Seahawks. The theme of QBs having their “humbling” game against elite defenses, or at least elite passing defenses, continues with Kaepernick, but doesn’t stop with him.

This brings us to Chad Pennington who became the starting QB for the Jets in Game 5 of the 2002 season after having hardly played during his first two years in the NFL. Pennington would make twelve starts in 2002, finishing the season with some amazing numbers. He completed 70.7% of his passes for 2,768 yards with 22 TDs and only 4 interceptions. This gave him a passer rating of 109.9. Oddly enough, he was not the starter for the Jets at the beginning of the 2003 season (injury, I think) and would not make his next actual start until week 9. He would play relatively poorly in Week 8 in a 24-17 to the Eagles in which Vinny Testaverde would start the game and get injured. He would play well until week 14 of the season in a game at Buffalo where it would be 30 degrees outside with a windchill that made it feel like 12. The wind would really hamper the noodle-armed Pennington and the Jets would lose 17-6 while generating only 215 yards of total offense. Pennington would finish the game 15/29 for 155 with one pick and a passer rating of 53.1. His counterpart for the Bills, Drew Bledsoe, would finish the game 9/15 for 72 yards with 1 TD and 1 pick, but Travis Henry would be the Bills offense in the game with 32 carries for 169 yards. The Bills defense was pretty good that season finishing second in passing yards allowed and fifth in points allowed.

Marc Bulger took over the greatest show on turf after Kurt Warner left. In his humbling start, he faced that elite Ravens defense of the early 2000s that had Ray Lewis and Ed Reed still in their prime. He actually led the Rams to 26 offensive points which came via two rushing touchdowns from Marshall Faulk and four Jeff Wilkins field goals. The Rams would win 33-22 (the other score came on a fumble return by their defense). In his previous 14 starts, Bulger had a passer rating of 95.4. He was only able to complete 13/26 for 110 yards with two picks against the Ravens while being sacked four times. He had a passer rating of 29.3 in this game. That 2003 Ravens defense would finish fourth in passing yards allowed, second in passer rating allowed and sixth in points allowed. Bulger is another QB who had his first humbling game against an elite defense.

This brings us to Tyrod Taylor, who was not given the chance to be his team’s starting QB until his fifth season in the league. He would be surprisingly effective for every start he made in 2015 with a passer rating of 99.4 for the season and a game-low of 75.3. His first two starts of 2016 were good, but the Bills lost both. The Bills actually won easily in his 17th career start, 33-18, but that was more a function of the Bills defense taking advantage of Carson Palmer at the end of his career, than it was a function of the play of Taylor. Tyrod Taylor completed 14/25 for 119 and one pick in this game for a passer rating of 51.9. That, of course, was better than the passer rating of 36.0 posted by Palmer, who was picked off four times and sacked five times. Taylor would account of 76 yards rushing and one touchdown, so while his passer rating was poor, he was fairly effective at doing what the coaches asked of him. The Cardinals had a decent passing defense that season finishing the year 10th in QB rating allowed, 4th in passing yards allowed and 1st in sacks.

Deshaun Watson was given the starting QB job in the second game of the season as rookie and he immediately starting setting the league on fire. Then he tore his ACL. During his first six starts (in 2017), he had a passer rating of 108.4 and threw for 18 TD with only 7 INTs, while rushing for another two touchdowns. He didn’t have his humbling game until his second season as a starting QB, but it happened in his first game back from the injury in game one of 2018. Facing the Patriots in Houston, he was held to 17/34 for 176 yards with one TD and one pick. He also ran the ball eight times for 40 yards. Watson finished the day with a passer rating of 62.9 for the game. This is one of the worse starts of his young career and very similar to what the Bronco defense did to him last Sunday (in terms of passer rating). The 2018 Patriots defense was good, but not elite (8th in points allowed, 7th in passer rating allowed, 22nd in passing yards allowed).

Kyle Allen got his humbling this season. He played really well in his first five starts completing 64.4% of his passes for 1129 yards with 9 TDs and zero interceptions. He also rushed for one touchdown. His passer rating in his first five starts was 107.5. He crashed hard in his sixth start. Facing a really good 49ers defense, Allen completed 19 of 37 passes for 158 yards and was picked off three times while being sacked seven times in the blowout loss to the 49ers (51-13). His passer rating for the game was 28.9. The 49ers defense is really good this season, though. They are currently third in points allowed, first in passing yards allowed, fourth in passer rating allowed and third in sacks. They are getting sacks on 10.3% of all dropbacks against them. They get pressure 28.9% of the time (4th best in the league) while only having to blitz 20.4% of the time (fourth lowest blitz % in the league). Kyle Allen is another QB who was humbled by a really good defense.

Now for the top three

Ben Roethlisberger did not have his first truly bad game until his seventh NFL start. He was given the starting spot in game three of the 2004 season as a rookie and was tasked with leading a run-oriented offense that was backed by an elite Steeler defense. In other words, he was asked to be a game-manager and he did that very well in his first six starts where he didn’t throw the ball that often (23 throws per game), but completed 70.4% of his throws with 9 TDs and only 3 INTs for a passer rating of 108.9. His seventh start was in Pittsburgh against a not-terrible 3-5 Browns team. The Steelers ran the ball 47 times on route to a 24-10 victory. Ben only had to throw the ball 16 times, but one of those was picked off and he only threw for 134 yards on the day which led to a passer rating of 63.0. The 2004 Browns passing defense was decent, finishing the season 24th in points allowed, 16th in passer rating allowed, 5th in passing yards allowed. Their rushing defense was poor though as they finished 32nd in rushing yards allowed and 20th in ypc allowed.

Tony Romo had set the standard for first five or ten starts (until it was reset last year). In 2006 in his third season in the league, Tony Romo was inserted as the starter in the seventh game of the year for the Cowboys leading them to an easy 35-14 victory over the Panthers. Romo would go on to play exceptionally well in his first five starts, including a game in Dallas on Thanksgiving against the Bucs where he would throw five touchdown passes. He must have read too many of his press clippings, because he was terrible in his next start (his sixth) which came against the Giants in the cold and stinky swamps of New Jersey. The Cowboys were able to pull out a 23-20 victory, but Romo was limited to 20/34 for 257 with two picks. That Giant defense was not very good in 2006. finishing the season 24th in points allowed, 14th in passer rating allowed, 28th in passing yards allowed and 24th in sacks. Romo just had a bad game even though, he was not facing a very good defense - similar to Roethlisberger.

Of course, the wunderkind who plays QB for the Chiefs is the one who set the new standard for QB excellence at the beginning of his career. He made one start against our JV at the end of the 2017 season and was decent in that game (22/35, 284 yds, 1 INT, rating of 76.4), but then he absolutely destroyed defenses in his next four starts. Over the course of his first five starts he complete 64.7% of his passes for 1484 yards with 14 TDs and one INT (which came in his first start). He also ran the ball 25 times for 63 yards and 1 TD. His sixth start would be a different story. At home facing a still proud Jaguar defense (that led the team to the AFC title game in 2017), Mahomes was only able to complete 22/38 for 313 with two picks. He would recover and win the MVP last season. That game would be his only 2018 game where he did not throw for a TD. KC would win the game 30-14, based largely on the poor play of Blake Bortles, who would throw for 430 yards, but throw only 1 TD with 4 INTs and lose a fumble. Bortles would account for the other Jaguars TD with a run. He would finish the day with 433 yards of total offense (which was and is a career day for him) yet only lead his team to 14 points because of the five times he turned the ball over.

Back to Mahomes, though, he was facing a pretty good Jags defense in that game. The Jags would finish 2018 fifth in scoring defense, second in passing yards allowed, sixth in passer rating allowed and ninth in pressure percentage (27.2%). So Mahomes is another of these QBs who had their first bad start against a good or great defense.

So What?

What, if anything, does this tell us about Drew Lock making his third career start against the Chiefs in December in KC?

Well, there’s this history, to start with. Only three Broncos QBs have beaten KC in Arrowhead in December - John Elway (1987), Kyle Orton (2009) and Peyton Manning (2013). But how has the KC defense been playing this season? Well they are currently 14th in points allowed, 12th in passing yards allowed, sixth in passer rating allowed and 15th in pressure percentage.

Based upon what we saw earlier, this is not an elite defense and is not really even a good defense. I would classify them as average. But this is the best defense that Drew Lock will have faced in his young career and he will be facing them in a very loud and hostile environment. Additionally, he will be facing them while KC is fighting to get the No. 2 seed and the bye that comes with it.

Currently New England holds that spot at 10-3. With the crazy easy schedule remaining for Darth Belicheck and his storm troopers Patriots, KC is facing a touch challenge. New England has the 1-12 Bengals in Cincy and both the 9-4 Bills and the 3-10 Dolphins in Foxboro to close out the season. KC has DEN and LAC in KC with a trip to 7-6 Chicago in between. The Bears are still very much alive for a wildcard in the NFC. The Chargers and Broncos still have a tiny chance of making the playoffs.

For Drew Lock there is the added pressure of playing against the team that he grew up rooting for and also doing so in front of a large group of family and friends. However, if history is any indication, this will not be the game when Drew Lock finally gets humbled by an NFL defense. The KC defense has already faced two relatively inexperienced QBs this season in Gardner Minshew and Lamar Jackson. Minshew shredded the KC passing defense (22/25 275 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT) while Jackson was held relatively in check (22/43 267 yds, 8 car 46 yds, 1 rushing TD). Steve Spagnuolo is sure to try and confuse Lock, but Romeo Crennel tried that as well, to no avail.

Poll

When will Drew Lock has his first bad game?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Sunday @ KC
    (390 votes)
  • 1%
    at home vs DET in game 15
    (12 votes)
  • 2%
    at home vs OAK in game 16
    (31 votes)
  • 33%
    in the first few games on 2020
    (360 votes)
  • 10%
    not until he’s made 10-15 starts
    (118 votes)
  • 15%
    He never will have a bad game!
    (168 votes)
1079 votes total Vote Now