Maybe we should start taking the Denver Broncos' second-year quarterback Drew Lock at his word.
Leading up to Sunday’s road game against the Carolina Panthers, Lock spoke about some issues with rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy before he all but guaranteed an offensive explosion in Charlotte.
Lock fulfilled that promise, torching the Panthers’ defense for 280 passing yards and four touchdowns, adding in four explosive throws down the field of 20-plus yards. In total, six of Lock’s completions went down as explosive plays.
His performance on Sunday was something we’d seen at Missouri for three years, but nothing we’d quite seen in Denver, especially as of late. When Lock is able to open things up and be aggressive down the field, this offense can really fulfill it’s potential like it did Sunday.
Cherry-picking stats here, but there’s only one QB in the NFL this season to throw for four touchdowns, complete over 75% of his passes, and have a passer rating over 149. That guy? Drew Lock.
Let's take a look at those explosive plays.
Protecting his Guys
Jeudy was upset with a lack of usage — specifically targets — coming out of the Week 13 loss to the Chiefs. Fortunately for him, he and Lock connected right away, and we saw it all on display on the play.
Jeudy absolutely cooked Panthers’ cornerback Rasul Douglas on the 'sluggo' route, but look at where Lock places the football. Some viewers might have seen this as a misfire from Lock that required Jeudy to adjust and save him, but that’s not the case.
Look at the Panthers’ safety coming over the top to converge on Jeudy. Trace Jeudy’s route up the field and you’ll see a clear and obvious collision point that could lead to Jeudy taking a big shot, or the safety making a play on the football.
Lock sees this and throws Jeudy to the sideline over his back shoulder, forcing the No. 1 pick to adjust and make the catch out of harm's way, ensuring the Broncos picked up a sizeable chunk on the play.
Airing it Out
Lock has really struggled to hit the home run ball consistently, but on Sunday he dialed it up twice to KJ Hamler, who exploded onto the scene for Denver on the road.
Hamler shows off his legitimate home run ability here, flying past Douglas on the go route. He gets a clean release in press— Douglas doesn’t even attempt to get a hand on him — and stacks him quickly.
Yes, Douglas stumbles allowing Hamler to find himself wide open, but let’s be honest: Douglas was cooked regardless of the stumble.
The key with Lock here is that he has to see it right away and put just enough air under the football to get it to Hamler in a timely fashion to avoid the safety rotating over the top.
Lock does it perfectly, throwing the ball towards the sideline just enough to get Hamler the ball and protect him, leading to the score.
Lock’s first read here is the deep dig from Jeudy on the right side. As you can see, the Panthers bracketed Jeudy well in zone coverage, but their rotation on the left side of the Broncos’ offense leads to Hamler streaking down the middle of the field on the deep post against Douglas in trail.
With the Panthers not providing any over-the-top help here, this is a near-impossible coverage for Douglas to pull off, especially as the boundary corner trying to pick up the slot receiver down the field.
Lock does a nice job working off of Jeudy quickly and sees Hamler wide open. The ball is slightly underthrown because Lock doesn’t completely have his base underneath him, leading to an all-arm throw, but it does show off his arm strength just getting this one out there flat-footed.
Underthrown but Explosive
When Lock sees the All-22 of this throw to Tim Patrick, I’m sure he’ll be kicking himself.
This is just fantastic play design here from offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Sure, it’s a staple across the league, but play-action isn’t typically built into it.
There are five Panthers defenders that drop into the area Jeudy is occupying on the over route, while Patrick slips upfield on the wheel route unnoticed.
If Lock puts this ball out there more, Patrick is still running. Instead, it’s underthrown and a bit soft in the air, forcing Patrick to readjust and wait for the ball to arrive.
It’s still a 32-yard pickup, but it should have gone for more.
On a day in which he was nearly perfect, Lock may have left a big-time throw on the field.
Despite the poor throw to Patrick, there’s plenty to be encouraged by in Lock's 32-27 win over the Panthers. He looked confident and in control of the attack and really seemed willing to push the ball down the field.
For now, Lock passed one test as we move down the stretch of the season. He’ll have to pass a bunch more to convince John Elway and Co. that he’s the guy, but this was one heck of a step in the right direction for the gunslinger.