Drew Lock Offers Up a Resolved Message to Broncos Fans After Bad Chiefs Loss
The Denver Broncos had their ears boxed by the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7, getting blown out at home 43-16. The Broncos defense, while imperfect, played a solid game against Patrick Mahomes, limiting the Chiefs to just 286 total yards and 0-for-8 on third down.
The Broncos' offense — with a little help from the special teams unit — sabotaged the defense's body of work by shooting themselves in the foot multiple times. The offense turned the ball over four times while special teams allowed a 102-yard kick return in the first half after the Broncos had narrowed the Chiefs' lead with a Brandon McManus field goal.
Two of those turnovers came at the hand of quarterback Drew Lock. In another snow game vs. the Chiefs that opened with a temperature of 14 degrees — the fifth-coldest home game in Broncos' history — Lock turned in arguably his worst performance as a pro.
Lock threw a pick-6 in the first half and another interception that came off a bobbled pass to KJ Hamler that popped up into the air and into the waiting arms of Chiefs' safety Tyrann Mathieu. Lock was off-target for most of the game and too often missed open receivers.
Lock finished 24-of-40 for 254 yards and zero touchdown passes, with the two picks. He did have the first rushing touchdown of his young career, though he finished the day with a QB rating of 57.7 and a completion percentage of 60%. However, the offense's 411 total yards were the most the Broncos have produced in nearly two years.
With fans questioning whether Lock really is the long-term answer for the Broncos, the second-year quarterback had a message of resolution post-game.
"I can play a whole lot better," Lock said. "And I'm going to. That's the thing, I'm going to."
It might seem like a bold claim but taken in with the perspective of Lock's relative inexperience, we know that he can play a whole lot better. Fans have seen it, which provides the encouragement, despite the disappointment of Sunday's loss, that he can in fact improve.
One of the biggest criticisms I had of Lock's Week 7 performance was how often he missed the wide-open receiver in a route concept, picking odd times to push the ball downfield unsuccessfully while not taking what the defense gave him.
Lock recognizes that his discernment in this area, which he admits is a fine line, has to improve.
“There’s a fine line between taking what the defense gives you and then when they don’t give you what you want, trying to make a play," Lock said. "I can make the plays when they’re there, but I’ve just got to get a little better judgment on when it’s time to make that play or say, ‘You know what, they got us.’ Eventually, we’ll stop having this conversation, but it needs to happen faster than later, and it will.”
Lost in the abject disappointment of a 10th-straight loss to the Chiefs is the perspective that this was only Lock's ninth career start. In a perfect world, of course, fans should expect their quarterback to play better than Lock did against the Chiefs, but it's important to keep in mind that it's still very early in his developmental learning curve.
The two areas that Lock needs to improve heading into his 10th career start are his footwork and reading the field. Too often, if the first read in the progression isn't there, Lock spooks and a negative play ensues, whether that be a forced throw or him breaking the pocket early and opening himself up to unnecessary hits.
But with time on task (again, it was only his ninth NFL start and eighth full game), there's reason to believe he can get there. Lock and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur are still getting to know each other and figuring out how to gel on the fly, coming out of a truncated offseason with no OTAs, no preseason, and severely limited training camp.
Fans might wish for a miracle but there is no Unicorn QB coming to the rescue. There is no Patrick Mahomes-type QB waiting in the wings who can go straight from college to NFL MVP. A guy like that only comes around once every 50 years or so.
The truth is, the Broncos have to weather the traditional trial-and-error learning curve that comes with investing in a young quarterback. Lock has flashed the 'franchise-caliber' tools NFL teams covet, but whether due to his two injuries in as many seasons that cost him time or turnover in the offensive coaching staff, he's yet to put it all together consistently.
Suffice to say, it takes more than nine starts for most NFL QBs to fully reach their potential. Week 7 proved that Lock still has a long row left to hoe. But there's a lot of season left to be played and this young team can't let one bad day at the office completely eclipse their season.
“Just being a man about your business," Lock said in response to how the Broncos keep from allowing Week 7's loss to splinter the season. "You can have a bad week at your job but you’ve got to come in and bring the same energy and bring the same fire the next week... You just can’t let one week throw you off course.”
Mostly thanks to the inordinate sting of the injury bug, the Broncos dug themselves an 0-3 hole and climbed out of it with a 2-1 push. Now sitting at 2-4 on the season, the Broncos are as healthy as they're ever going to get and still have 10 games left to play.
A lot can happen over a 10-game span in the NFL. Most Broncos fans have lived long enough to know that well.