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Gutsy calls, heroic play seal Denver’s fourth win

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And what a win it was.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Instead of finding a way to lose, or barely holding on to escape with a win, fInally it was the Broncos who found a way to win.

And it was mainly because of a rookie QB, a rising star at wideout, a veteran kicker, one first-time head coach - and four sets of major cojones.

Consider the evidence:

McManus wants a record

Broncos’ kicker Brandon McManus, who has missed two field goals beyond 50 yards this season, was mad he was not allowed to try for a 65-yard field goal before halftime, and threw his helmet off in frustration on the sideline.

Then he went out during warmup before the third quarter and kicked ... a 65-yarder.

Was that a subtle message to his head coach?

“Of course it is,” said McManus, adding that he’s grown up wanting to make a kick that would be an NFL record. “I would love that. That’s why I would have loved to kick that attempt.”

—-

Lock/Sutton want a touchdown

Rookie quarterback Drew Lock in his NFL debut stepped into the huddle during his second-ever NFL drive and whispered to wide receiver Courtland Sutton to run a fade - a change-up from the play call.

“Yeah, in the huddle. He told me, ‘Hey, run a fade.,’” Sutton said, adding that his immediate response was ‘oooh, cool!’

“I wasn’t supposed to run that route. Drew told me to run it, which I was happy that he told me to do, because I’m not going to go off-schedule,” Sutton said. “But him telling me to do it, it was awesome, and it was cool to be able to get a touchdown from him and get us rolling, get his confidence going and get the momentum on our side.”

That touchdown play may have been a good call by Lock, but it was an amazing catch by Sutton.

“I haven’t seen it yet, but I always try to say, ‘If they can get it close to me, then I’ll try to make a play on it. I’ll definitely try to make a play on it,’” Sutton said. “Drew gave me a chance, and that’s all I can ask—a chance to go make a play.”

—-

The coach wants a win

WIth the Broncos and Chargers tied at 20, 14 seconds left on the clock for a game undoubtedly headed to overtime after Los Angeles marched down the field and kicked a game-tying field goal, the offensive coordinator planned to take a knee.

But the defensive-minded head coach had other ideas.

Vic Fangio chose to take his chances with a deep sideline play to get in field goal range - either with a catch or a DPI.

It turned out to be the latter, and a first down at the Chargers’ 35 with three seconds to go gave McManus his opportunity to be the savior.

All went according to plan.

“I was happy. I was really happy,” said Courtland Sutton, the second half of the duo responsible for getting McManus his chance. “We don’t ever know what the decision’s going to be because that’s above us. We just go out there and run the play that’s called. If they would’ve called a QB kneel, they’d have called a QB kneel, and we’d have went into overtime. But them giving us a chance to go make a play and giving the team a chance to win the game, it was awesome. ‘B-Mac’ (K Brandon McManus) going in there and nailing the kick—twice—was cool, and I’m really happy for him being able to go out there and finish the game for us. They tried to ice him, and he went out there and still made it again, which is awesome.”

Broncos found a way to a victory

After two consecutive road losses, fan confidence in the Broncos was riding low - but confidence from the head coach never waned.

And that’s why Fangio told his rookie QB and second-year wideout star try to make something happen with just seconds left in the game.

There would be no kneeling; there would be some fighting for a win.

They just needed to keep the faith and get it done.

“This team has fought pretty hard through thick and thin,” Fangio said after the game. “These guys have been fighting and playing their butts off all year. [I’m] really happy for them that they can get a W.”

That “W” will be added to rookie quarterback Drew Lock’s stat sheet for his NFL debut - always a good way to start a career.

The young quarterback admitted it was a little “cooler” than beating a college rival.

“I thought beating Arkansas my junior year was really cool and that was to get us to six wins - but winning your first NFL start is definitely a little cooler. It was insane,” Lock said. “I’m going to try to go back tonight and try to relive it, but you kind of black out when it’s all happening.”

In his debut, Lock had several good throws, one great play, some OK plays, no costly mistakes, and had the command of his huddle - which counts as a huge success on the day.

Going 18 of 28 for just 134 yards, Lock also ran for 15 yards, threw two touchdown passes, one interception and suffered zero sacks - giving him a QB rating of 84.5.

“I think he did fine,” Fangio said of Lock’s work in the game but seemed more impressed with how he managed it. “I think he handled himself well during the game—calling plays in the huddle, not looking like the situation was too big for him. I didn’t think he was nervous so that part was just as good. He should keep improving.”

Lock, who knew from the head coach early in the week if he had a good week he’d be the starter, felt a lot of support from his coach and teammates all week, not just in the game.

“It was really nice for me to come in and be relaxed coming into this game, not thinking I had to prove anything to the people around me,” he said. “They knew what I can do and hopefully they keep seeing what I can do.”

One thing he can definitely do is show excitement for big plays and a big finish.

No one was happier than Lock when McManus nailed his second attempt for the game-winning 53-yarder.

“That’s just who I am, that’s who I’m going to stay. I’m always going to be that guy,” Lock said. “I think, why not have a lot of fun with it while you’re in it? You’re not in it forever so you might as well give it all you’ve got and have some fun with it. I’ll probably always be that guy.”

That kind of attitude goes a long way with teammates - on both sides of the ball.

“He looked good. I liked the way he played,” said linebacker Todd Davis. “He had a good poise to him, and I felt like he had a good command of the game. I’m excited for the future.”

Fellow rookie Dre’Mont Jones, who had a big day himself with his first NFL interception, noticed Lock’s poise immediately.

“It was nice. Especially him being out for so long and having that hand injury and then coming in and coming in calm and just smooth, being a game manager,” Jones said. “That’s something you don’t see from a lot of rookies on their first start and being out for so long. I’m proud of Drew. I’m excited for the future.”

Although McManus didn’t get his opportunity for an NFL record, he did get to be the hero of the game and make a statement.

After kicking a winner under pressure off the upright, and having it called back because of an “icing the kicker” attempt by the Chargers, McManus and the o-line adjusted the cadence and kicked again - this time straight through the goal posts.

“This was as big for me personally as well. I had a good game leading up to Minnesota, and then I missed the kick that kind of, had I made it, we would have a chance to kick a game-winner later in the game to win,” McManus said. “I’m excited to bounce back from that. ... Like I said, I was just happy to be the one that helped us get us the win.”

If McManus was nervous, he didn’t show it. And his teammates were equally confident - even if still doing everything to bring the right mojo to the moment.

“That was amazing, I was sitting on the sideline praying,” admitted Davis. “He pulled through and had a great kick. He made it twice, so that’s impressive, but it was really great for us. I feel like we lost a lot of games like that at the beginning of the season. For us to win one like that just kind of shows how our season has come full circle.”

Veteran cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has won a Super Bowl with “B-Mac,” so he knew what to expect from his kicker.

“That was just huge, we always trust B-Mac,” Harris Jr. said. “I love B’s confidence and I’ve always had faith in him. We won a Super Bowl together. I’m always going to have faith in B-Mac.”

It was a team win, no doubt - carried by four sets of major cojones.

Poll

Who had the biggest ‘cojones’ on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Vic Fangio
    (194 votes)
  • 11%
    Brandon McManus
    (83 votes)
  • 24%
    Drew Lock
    (176 votes)
  • 11%
    Courtland Sutton
    (79 votes)
  • 13%
    Fans who braved the cold and a 3-8 record to watch the most exciting win in years.
    (93 votes)
  • 9%
    "Whorfin" (we don’t get this option too often, so you may want to take advantage of it!)
    (70 votes)
  • 1%
    "Shasta"
    (11 votes)
706 votes total Vote Now