Drew Lock was the least of the Broncos problems on Sunday
Dec 16, 2019, 6:25 AM | Updated: 9:29 am
(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
The bubble has burst. The clock has struck midnight. The rocket has come crashing back down to earth.
Pick a cliché and it will be uttered today in Broncos Country by someone wanting to rain on the Drew Lock parade. After back-to-back wins in the first two starts of his career, the rookie quarterback was served a hearty dose of reality on Sunday, as Denver lost 23-3 in Kansas City.
That’ll be enough for the told-you-so crowd to get boisterous, especially considering Lock’s unimpressive stat line in the game. After going 18-of-40 for 208 yards and an interception, they’ll cite this as evidence that the bloom is off the rose.
That assessment would be an extreme overreaction, however. It would fail to realize what actually happened against the Chiefs. In reality, the rookie QB was the least of the Broncos problems on Sunday.
The weather conditions make it difficult to accurately judge Lock’s play. From the opening kickoff until the final gun, the game was played in a blizzard, with the field blanketed in multiple inches of snow from start to finish.
Some quarterbacks thrive in the elements, while others don’t. Lock appeared to be in the latter category, as several of his passes were off target when they seemed to slip out of his hand. That’s less than ideal, but it’s also an anomaly; it’ll be a rare occurrence when the quarterback has to play in that kind of weather moving forward, so it’s silly to get too concerned about how he fared in that adversity.
The snow turned a tough environment into a nearly impossible one. Even if the sun had been shining and temperatures were in the 40s, playing in Arrowhead Stadium is a difficult task. In the month of December, it’s even more daunting, as the Broncos have only beaten the Chiefs on the home field three times in the final month of the season.
Given that Denver has boasted plenty of good teams over the years, certainly better than a squad that currently sits at 5-9, it should’ve come as no surprise that they were unable to reverse the trend. Plenty of excellent quarterbacks, with a lot more experience than Lock and playing on a more talented roster, also failed to get it done in Kansas City late in the season.
Of late, the time of year and location of the game haven’t even mattered. With their loss on Sunday, the Broncos have now lost nine straight times to the Chiefs. The last time Denver beat their division rivals was Week 2 of the 2015 season, with Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Right now, Kansas City is simply a better team. They’re the class of the AFC West, a perennial playoff team and a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They have the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player at quarterback, Pro Bowl-caliber weapons all around him and one of the best offensive minds in football calling the plays, as Andy Reid clearly has the Broncos number. Drew Lock isn’t going to tilt those scales, at least not in his third career start.
He’s definitely not going to do it if he doesn’t get any help. And on Sunday, the quarterback got very little assistance from his teammates.
Multiple passes slipped through the hands of would-be receivers, with running backs, tight ends and wideouts all having trouble hauling in passes from Lock. Time after time, drops put the Broncos behind the sticks, creating bad down-and-distance situations.
Of course, those blunders only happened when the quarterback had time to throw. For the most part, Lock was under siege by the Chiefs defense, who brought pressure early and often.
On the day, the Broncos quarterback was only sacked two times. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Officially, he was hit 10 times, but even that is an inaccurate picture of what happened. On almost every pass play, Lock was having to pick himself up off the ground and brush the snow off of his uniform. He got knocked around repeatedly.
Denver’s offensive line had no answers for Kansas City’s pass rush, which put the quarterback in harm’s way throughout the game. To his credit, however, Lock took the punishment, standing in the pocket and making throws despite constant pressure. And on several occasions, he showed great mobility, turning sure sacks into positive plays or innocent incompletions because of his ability to buy time.
But all of that ultimately didn’t matter, as the Broncos were never seriously in the game because their defense was unable to keep things in check. Simply put, they couldn’t stop the Chiefs; Kansas City scored on its first five possessions, a rate of success that Denver was unable to match.
All of this added up to a nearly impossible situation for Lock on Sunday. The rookie quarterback hardly had a chance, something his most-prominent teammate understood.
“Drew is definitely the future,” Von Miller told the media during an emotional postgame press conference. “It’s everybody around him. Guys gotta get open, (the) offensive line’s gotta block, gotta run the ball.”
But it wasn’t just the offense that the Super Bowl MVP was calling out.
“Defense, we gotta stop the run,” Miller added. “We gotta rush the passer. We gotta play tight coverage.”
The team’s highest-paid player knows the situation. And the linebacker was eager to make it crystal clear for everyone else.
“We found our quarterback; we’ve got a great quarterback,” Miller continued. “Everybody else has to come up. We can’t just lean on one guy to do it all and save us. It has to be a collective effort by the foundation of the team.”
On Sunday, that foundation didn’t answer the bell.
The Broncos offensive line didn’t block, their running backs couldn’t get anything going on the ground and their pass catchers couldn’t hold onto the football. In addition, Denver’s pass rush couldn’t get to Patrick Mahomes, their defensive backs didn’t make any plays and they couldn’t get the Chiefs off the field.
It was an ugly game on an ugly day in Kansas City. But it wasn’t the rookie quarterback who was most to blame.
Was Drew Lock great on Sunday? Absolutely not. But that shouldn’t squelch the enthusiasm in Broncos Country.
The rookie quarterback will be just fine. He simply needs a little help from his friends.