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Beating the Raiders is about rivalry, finishing season on a high note

Whether it’s more of a hate for the Raiders or a love of winning, Broncos are focused on taking care of business at home in final game of 2019.

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Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

After last week’s big win over the Lions, rookie QB Drew Lock and superstar edge rusher Von Miller exchanged jerseys.

Lock had a big day, completing 25 passes for 192 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions - but playing in just his fourth NFL start, it might have seemed odd for Miller to suggest that swap.

But No. 58 certainly didn’t think so.

“I just wanted a Drew Lock jersey. I know how valuable it’s going to be in the future,” he laughed.

But Miller was serious when he said Lock will be the future of the Denver Broncos and he wants to put it with his other QB jerseys.

And that’s some pretty good company.

“I wanted to make sure that I had that jersey. I’ve got a Peyton Manning jersey. I’ve got Philip Rivers and Tom Brady,” he said. “I like Drew. I had to put him up there too.”

For Lock, the gesture was far more than an item for his collection.

It was a vote of confidence from the team’s best player.

“I think it’s hard to put into words how much Von’s [support] meant to me. Even him—like it said on the jersey—how much confidence he instilled in me. Whether or not he actually believes it or actually meant it, I felt that he meant it. That gave me the confidence to go out and do what we’ve been doing since I took over. If him doing a little fibbing or maybe telling me the truth was worth it, then I really, really appreciate him for doing that.”

But as Lock pointed out, Miller’s confidence - whether just spoken or truly believed - has meant a ton to him as well as all the young players.

“Those veterans in our locker room have been holding this team together, showing us young guys—out of playoff possibilities—how to keep pushing, how to keep playing,” Lock said. “Without those old guys, we wouldn’t be the team that we are right now.”

And that locker room full of guys wanting to compete until the end is fueling the desire to beat the Raiders Sunday, not just for the rivalry but also to give the Broncos a winning home record this season - a small milestone during a disappointing season.

“Yeah, that’d be huge ... Just to win in general, being able to have a little juice going into the offseason and finish this thing out strong is what we’re playing for right now. We’ve got to finish what we started and just keep plugging,” Lock said, adding that a “good aura around our home field” would be a big boost. “I think if we finish out with a win, that would be easy for us to feel good walking in there next year.”

Miller would like to beat the Raiders to avenge the Broncos’ Week 1 loss in Oakland.

“We lost to the Raiders at the beginning of the year—a divisional game. It’s a good game where we can gauge ourselves against another good team,” he said. “We want to go out there and we want to play well. It’s pro sports. We want to win them all.”

Ironically, it’s Courtland Sutton, a guy who didn’t realize the true hatred between the fanbases until this year, who really wants to beat the Raiders just because they’re the Raiders.

“Obviously, I knew that the division games were important, but I didn’t understand the true hatred that a lot of the Broncos fans have for our divisional rivals until this year,” the second-year receiver said. “You all know how I feel about the Chiefs. I really don’t like them. The Chargers are the Chargers. We are 0-2 in the last two games versus the Raiders, and we need to take care of that. In order for us to claim a place in the AFC side of the bracket, we need to take care of our division.”

Sutton added that that means the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders must lose on a consistent basis.

“We all see how important those games are,” Sutton said. “Like I said, playing against them twice, something might happen in the first game and you remember it and you put a mental note in your head and you say, ‘Alright, I’ll remember this and whenever we get a chance to go get them boys next time, I’m going to take care of that, for sure.’”

For this second match-up, “taking care of that” will mainly mean stopping Derek Carr, something the Broncos’ defense did not do 16 weeks ago.

The formula isn’t too tough, as Miller articulated - “You have to get a great rush and have tight coverage. That’s basically what you need for any great quarterback.”

It’s making it happen that isn’t so easy.

“No matter how fast they throw the ball, you’re going to have your opportunities to get to the quarterback,” Miller said, adding that defenders just have to make those opportunities happen. “That’s what we have to do. If we just get one or two opportunities to rush the passer, we have to get there on those one or two rushes.”

And with a different quarterback at the helm, the Raiders will have only a few games of film to go on.

That “different quarterback” is also showing he gets it when it comes to leading the team and is “getting it” when it comes to reading the defenses. The young QB has been showing more and more football IQ with each game.

Asked about how he chooses when to check down, he answered as if he had prepared for this quiz.

“Based on fronts, linebackers on the ball, safeties on the ball—anything you can imagine. If they’re in a loaded box, light box. Where’s the safety at? Where’s the corner at?” he said. “Really, it just depends on the defense we’re playing, what style of run it is and what we’re thinking that week.”

And though he has a gunslinger ability, Lock doesn’t believe he has only a gunslinger mentality.

“I’m a gunslinger, but I’m going to be a gunslinger if the defense allows me to be,” Lock said. “I don’t go into the game thinking, ‘Alright, I’m going to go chuck this thing around the yard and make big plays.’ If the defense allows me to be the gunslinger, it’s in me to bring it out. But if the defense wants me to be a guy that checks down the field and we drive it 80 yards and take seven or eight minutes off the clock, then I can be that.”

Jon Gruden is definitely nervous.

“Obviously, you see arm talent and you see a young quarterback that is gaining confidence in the system,” Gruden said. “He’s being asked to do more and more every week. He shows very good athleticism. His touch and his accuracy have been impressive. He’s got our attention, no doubt. He’s been impressive.”

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