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The Good, The Bad, and the Elway: Drew Lock’s career day

Denver needed an A-game from their QB1 and he delivered in the Broncos’ victory.

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Going into the Panthers game without three cornerbacks meant the Broncos’ offense would need to bring their A-game against an overmatched defense to have a chance. Drew Lock did his part and got some help from Diontae Spencer.

What follows are some thoughts as I broke down the Broncos’ All-22.

Special Teams

  • What really stood out to me as I went back over Diontae Spencer’s touchdown is how the Panthers had their right gunner Myles Hartfield slide in before the punt. This left space outside that Spencer surely saw. From there, it came down to him taking a step back and left to beat the right gunner, using P.J. Locke as a shield between him and Hartfield. As I write it, it sounds simple. Obviously that isn’t the case. Awesome play.

Defense

  • So I’ve written a time or two about how Kareem Jackson could be a cap cut in the spring. A game like this is a perfect chance to say that while I believe it may happen, I don’t want it to. His instincts and range are still playmakers for the Broncos’ defense. If the plan at quarterback is Lock, the Broncos should consider having both Jackson and Simmons together again in 2021, cost be damned.
  • Teddy Bridgewater was happy to take quick outs against the Broncos. Started early and he leaned on them often. I suspect this is one reason why Ojemudia’s coverage numbers per PFF look shaky.
  • The way Brady isolated Mike Davis on the Broncos’ backers made me pretty grateful Christian McCaffrey didn’t play.
  • Right after the Panthers recover Drew Lock’s fumble, Brady responds by calling an end zone fade. I love the way Ojemudia battled on it. Far too often when a rookie is struggling we get caught up in where he’s failing. With his frame and physicality, these are the kinds of things Fangio wanted O.J. for.
  • The next play, Carolina brings out a run design that I believe Buffalo will take note of, as they have the personnel to replicate the idea: use the threat of a receiver to occupy a defender while the possibility of a run from the quarterback forces hesitation.
  • There’s no way around the fact Fangio’s going to have to find ways to pressure Josh Allen. As has been the case all year, he’ll blitz or simulate the blitz. Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, and Will Parks on the second level gives Fangio flexibility with where he brings extra heat from too. It is worth remembering that blitzes don’t always work, as it often leaves a player chasing in an effort to replace in coverage.
  • It’s probably obvious, but the stylistic differences between Bridgewater and Allen make the Bills a much tougher test for this Broncos defense. Bridgewater has an okay arm and his game looks like Drew Brees: he’s going to try to dink and dunk all day with a couple shots mixed in. Allen’s capable of the short stuff and has drastically improved here this year, but what’s integral to his game is his ability to make something happen as the play breaks down. He has the arm talent, mobility, and size to hang in for deep shots and chuck bombs. This means the Bills’ offense can stress every corner of the field Saturday.

Offense

  • I could watch Jerry Jeudy’s sluggo route all day. It plays off Shurmur’s affinity for slant/flat, a staple around the NFL that Lock has had some success on this year. Sluggo is a slant/go, a double move that looks like a slant until it isn’t. It kills against single high coverage.
  • There’s a lot to love about the audible bomb touchdown. Tim Patrick and the tight ends create enough eye candy to hold the deep safety in the middle of the field. The line holds up even as Risner takes a one-on-one with Derrick Brown. Royce Freeman does a really nice job taking out Brian Burns, which gives Hamler enough time to set up and fly by Rasul Douglas. Lock stands tall in the pocket and delivers a strike.
  • Blame my orange-tinted glasses, but I chalk Lock’s strip sack fumble up to the defense making a really great play. Lock’s fumbled snap in the third quarter is what it is, and while I think he could have found K.J. Hamler on the Broncos’ last meaningful third down, it doesn’t surprise me that Brown getting pressure ruined the play. All three plays are situations you hope the Broncos’ young offense improves at in time.
  • My least favorite play of the day from Lock came on 2nd and 8 in the third quarter. The Broncos were in a 2X2 and kept Phillip Lindsay in the backfield. The Panthers are playing out of a 3-3-5 and Jermaine Carter threatens to blitz, only to fall off. Lindsay picks up the blitzing Tre Boston off the left edge and Lock bails left. All of this is fine, but Donte Jackson falls off Patrick’s vertical route as the safety crawls over. It creates a situation where Lock tries to throw the ball over a cornerback, daring him to try it, and it almost ends in ruin.
  • It takes a lot of things going right for an offense to have their best game of the year, and the Broncos did it without their best tackles and their starting right guard. Keep in mind that five rookies played 30 or more snaps for a Panthers’ defense that’s among the worst against the pass this year. They’ve been especially horrific defending passes to the right and middle, and teams have ripped them with deep balls. Carolina’s line also clearly missed Zach Kerr, who was moved from the Broncos’ game to the Covid list.

With all that in mind, this is definitely the most complete game Drew Lock has put together in his NFL career. For the most part, he played within himself and helped to keep the offense on track while avoiding turnover-worthy plays. That was critical. We know Lock has the arm talent to drop bombs to Hamler when he has the time to set up and launch them. In recent weeks, he’s shown incremental steps in the right direction at playing point guard, which is mandatory for success in today’s NFL.

If you take a look at Lock’s passing chart compared to what he’s done all year, the area where he showed the most progress is his short accuracy, specifically to the left behind the line of scrimmage and up to 10 yards on passes to the right. He still rarely tested the middle of the field, and while his deep shots were awesome, he took so few bombs that it’s hard to draw any meaningful conclusion from his completion percentage there.

Lock’s passing chart from Sunday, per Next Gen Stats.

Your Broncos’ News

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NFL News

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