In the regular-season finale, the Denver Broncos held on to beat the Oakland Raiders 16-15. In so doing, the Broncos finished 7-9 for the season, a one-game improvement over last year's win total.
Quarterback Drew Lock finished his rookie audition 4-1 as a starter, tying the man who drafted him, John Elway, for the most wins for a Broncos rookie signal-caller all-time. After the game, Lock doubled down on his belief that he's done enough to earn the privilege to be the Broncos' understood quarterback heading into 2020.
"Overall, the last five games, I think my audition went really well," Lock said post-game. "I think, in my mind, it was enough for me to establish being the guy going into next season with my teammates and hopefully, the front office as well."
Lock credited his teammates on both sides of the ball for his success as a rookie, which might sound like some sort of company line, but it's exactly what a prospective franchise quarterback should say in that situation. Lock finishes his five-game audition having completed 65.4 percent of his passes, while throwing for 1,020 yards with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7-to-3. His QB rating was a more-than-solid 89.7.
Lock plans to attack the 2020 offseason as 'the guy' in Denver and will ask his front-office boss, as well as former Bronco great Peyton Manning, for advice on how to best organize his offseason efforts. Speaking of Manning, Lock revealed how instrumental the 5-time NFL MVP was in him going 4-1 during his five-game audition as a starter.
From both a technical and emotional perspective, Lock dished on how Manning influenced him this season, emphasizing the conversation the two had ahead of Lock's first career road start in Week 13
"I'd say both [technical and emotional]," Lock said. "I think the biggest conversation we had was going into that Houston Texans game. Just how to manage things on the road. Being super-duper good on first and second down. It's stuff that you've heard as a quarterback before, but being able to hear it from a different voice, kind of a different twist, it was nice to be able to have that guy in your corner, being able to talk you through some scenarios that might pop up in that game. I reached out to him, hoping that we could talk and he was really quick to respond and we got on the phone."
Manning would be a phenomenal resource for any young quarterback trying to make their way in the NFL. Peyton has forgotten more about the game of football than most will ever know. And it's good to know Manning is still influencing the success of the Broncos.
The team will head into 2020 with real momentum, and with the biggest question that has plagued the team since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 50 answered. If what Von Miller said post-game is any indication of how the Broncos locker room feels about Lock, the team may finally have clarity at the most important position on the field.
“To infinity and beyond," Miller said post-game. "He’s a relentless competitor and I’m excited about where his game is about to go."
John Elway and Vic Fangio are expected to hold a joint press conference on Monday and suffice to say, Lock, along with all of Broncos Country, will be listening with bated breath for a whole-hearted anointing of Lock as the understood quarterback heading into 2020.
About the only person in the Rocky Mountains who would dread such an endorsement of Lock is Joe Flacco. But the proof was in the pudding of Flacco's 2-6 reign as the Broncos starter.