Drew Lock Puts NFL on Notice: Broncos' Deep, Vertical Passing Attack Here to Stay
The Denver Broncos rolled into Gillette Stadium and immediately put Bill Belichick's defense on its heels by connecting deep on a 41-yard Drew Lock-to-Tim Patrick strike on the second play from scrimmage. That shot set the tone for what would be a very aggressive offensive game-plan for Denver, even though it didn't result in touchdowns.
It did, however, allow the Broncos to control the entire game, leading to six scoring drives, all of which were field goals by kicker Brandon McManus. Through the first three quarters of play, Lock was not only aggressive, he was accurate.
Lock was dropping absolute dimes out there and despite his lackluster (upon first glance) box score stats from Week 6, he played very well and had at least three sure-fire touchdowns dropped by his receivers. And guess what? That aggressive philosophy being cultivated by Lock and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, which Broncos fans, and opponents, haven't really been able to see due to Lock's shoulder injury that caused him to miss 10 quarters of play, is here to stay.
At least, that appears to have been the message Lock had coming out of the Broncos' massive 18-12 upset win over the Patriots.
“We just felt like we could take those [deep shots]," Lock said post-game. "That’s the thing with our offense. That’s the reason we drafted the guys that we did. That’s the reason we kept the guys that we did, we feel like we can throw these shots, we feel like we can take these deep shots. Teams are going to have to be wary about that."
Lock seems to be putting the NFL on notice as if to say, 'We're going to test you deep and take our vertical shots. And if you play us soft upfront and roll with a two-deep safety shell, we'll pound the rock with Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon.'
I like that mentality.
"I think it’s going to take two really, really good DBs on each side with good safety help to try to stop these guys from running by them," Lock said. "We’re that confident in our athletes that we have here in Denver. I’m excited to keep progressing in the offense, keep learning and keep figuring this thing out.”
Although Lock finished Week 6 with a stat-line of 10-of-24 passing for 189 yards and two interceptions, anyone who watched that game with an objective eye could see that a.) his receivers left points on the board and b.) he graded out better than what the box score revealed.
That's how the league's leading advanced analytics site viewed Lock's performance. Here's what Pro Football Focus had to say about Lock's Week 6 game.
It wasn’t all good for Lock, but a stat line of 10-for-24 for 189 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 34.9 does not tell the true story. Lock hit on a career-high five big-time throws, three of which fell incomplete. As we do every week, let's look at the stat line as though those three catchable passes were completed — it changes Lock’s stats to 13-for-24 for 258 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 85.1 (a 50.2-point jump).
Woulda, shoulda, coulda, right? I get it. But those drops weren't on Lock. Those passes, again, were absolute dimes. Lock connected on seven passes of 15-plus-yards and as the PFF metric shows, if three of those dropped dimes were caught, it would have been 10 such passes completed for an additional 70 yards and three touchdowns.
What should be encouraging to Broncos Country is that the team still found a way to control the game, overcome a couple of ill-advised interceptions on Lock's part in the fourth quarter, and 'win ugly'. To win ugly against the Jets in Week 4 is one thing. To do it on the road against a quality opponent like New England vs. arguably the greatest defensive coach of the modern era is quite another.
The Broncos are slowly but surely forging an identity, which is possible now that this team has its dynamic quarterback in the fold once again. The Broncos have a tough opponent this week in the Kansas City Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High but all Lock and company can do is come out swinging with that same fire and energy they had in Week 6.
At 2-3, the Broncos have dug themselves out of their initial hole and have climbed back into AFC relevancy. It's too soon to start making January plans, obviously, but the Broncos believe they can beat anyone.
“I feel like the media might feel like there is a return to relevance, or people that aren’t in our building might think that, but we knew that we could be a really good team," Lock said. "We knew we could be a really good team; we just have to keep putting these pieces together and keep rolling. We are playing a really, really good team next week. It’s going to be a really good test for us to see who we are and see if we’re mentally and physically tough enough to come in there and try to get a win. I truly feel like we’re an extremely good team, we just have to put both sides of the ball together, all three actually; special teams, offense and defense.”
The Broncos played a complementary brand of football in Week 6. That's what good teams do. When the offense struggles or hits a bump in the road, the defense has to be able to step up and bridge the gap. Meanwhile, when the special teams are called upon to do their part, they have to be reliable and consistent, just like the Broncos were in Week 6.
That's a formula for success — a blueprint — this team can build upon.