I’m not going to temper your excitement.
Quite the contrary. I’m actually going to do my best to make that sentiment grow.
For three years, the Denver Broncos have meandered aimlessly through the NFL with no direction or intent, like a zombie.
Enter Drew Lock.
As I told Adam Malnati on the MHR Radio Podcast, I get the cautious strategy in wanting to see more; especially when it comes to Broncos Country and quarterbacks. Heck, when it comes to any fanbase and quarterbacks, you (typically) need to see more than two games. What Lock has shown is more than enough to truly buy-in to his play.
It’s where and when he is making plays that should make his coaches, teammates and fans stoked about what they have. That’s namely on third down and in the red zone. Those are the situations that make or break quarterbacks and lead to wins in the NFL. On Sunday’s CBS broadcast, former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon said what has impressed him most about Deshaun Watson is his play on third down this season. Keep in mind, this is Watson’s third season.
Chew on this: On Sunday against the Houston Texans, Lock was 5-for-5 passing on third down for 48 yards with four conversions and two touchdowns. He also ran for five yards and converted. As a team, Denver was 5-for-8 on third down and had the highest conversion rate (62.5 percent) since 2014. In his first two games on that key down, Lock is 15-of-18 passing for 182 yards and four touchdowns. Again, in his first two starts.
In the red zone in those two games, where the Broncos have been atrocious since Peyton Manning retired, Lock is 11-for-13 passing for 63 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Denver was 4-of-5 in the red zone against the Texans.
So, to recap, in his first two starts, Lock is money where quarterbacks have to deliver and tend to need time to do so at a high level like this. Of all the stats you can throw out about his play — passer rating, yards, and touchdowns — it’s when and where Lock is making plays that allows you to buy-in. There’s also the eye test. The rookie once again looked and played as if he belongs.
Yet Lock’s attitude and confidence is the most impressive. He loves football and he wants to be great, but he knows he has to put in the work to make it happen.
“I’d like to think that my confidence is contagious,” Lock told the media after the game. “I never want it to come off as arrogant. I want it to come off as fire. I’m having fun with the game we’ve all dreamed about playing since we were little kids. And now that we’re here, why not have the most fun we can with the game we love? I don’t want it to ever come off as arrogance.”
Added Broncos coach Vic Fangio: “Ah, it was just OK (laughter). No, he played, obviously, very well. Made a great jump from Week One to Week Two, which is what you’re hoping for. Thought he threw the ball much, much better than he did (against the Los Angeles Chargers). Thought last week he missed at least four or five throws that he could have made. I don’t think he missed many today. And to do that on his first road start against a team that’s going to be in the playoffs, probably win their division, makes it even better.”
I get the need to temper your excitement, but it’s safe to start pondering whether Denver has finally unlocked a quarterback who has “it.”
It’s not just the Drew Train that fans should feel excited about, it’s the play of the Broncos defense. When you combine the two ingredients, you get a recipe for fun that has been missing the last three years.
It’s clear the guys have figured out Fangio’s system and they know what to do now. Plus, Denver is getting production from all three levels of the defense from starters to depth guys, which is huge since that’s what every team craves. I still can’t get believe the Broncos seemed to have found their answer at middle linebacker in Alexander Johnson. That’s the biggest development on that side of the ball this season and sets everything up going forward.
I also love how physical Denver’s defense is. From the “Dino” to safety Kareem Jackson, this unit will punch opponents in the mouth.
“I think it was important,” Jackson told the media after the game about setting the tone. “For me every week, I feel like it’s important. Me being physical is one of the things that I do best. And for me, if I can kind of get involved early and kind of set the tone for us as a team, I feel like we can kind of light a spark in some of the guys, and we can kind of get going. Gain some momentum as a team. Anytime I can do that I’m all for it.”
When you take into account the injuries on that side of the ball and how they’re playing, that is a testament to the players as well as Fangio and his staff. When you consider who Denver will get back from injury next season, then who could be added in free agency and the NFL Draft, you can see how this team becomes a serious contender next season.
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