ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Drew Lock didn’t light up the scoreboard, stack the stat sheet or thrill many fantasy football owners during his NFL debut last weekend. He did, however, bring something to the Broncos that’s been missing at quarterback ever since Denver was salting away Super Bowl 50 and the offense was chanting a vulgar version of “Peyton Freakin’ Manning.”
“I knew Drew had a little swag in him,” receiver Courtland Sutton said after catching two touchdown passes and drawing a crucial last-second pass interference flag in Denver’s 23-20 win over the Chargers.
Lock’s saunter was on display even though he threw for just 134 yards, including 11 after halftime and 33 on a meaningless final throw before the half when the safeties were guarding the goal line and not Sutton’s crossing route.
The 23 points represented a virtual offensive explosion for a Broncos team that is averaging just 16.5 points a game, the sixth-lowest in the franchise’s 60-year history. Denver hasn’t scored more than 24 points in 21 consecutive games, the longest such stretch in the league.
And the Broncos were coming off a 3-point output at Buffalo that got Brandon Allen benched and Lock promoted. Lock started after just 10 full practices following his return from a right thumb injury that landed him on IR for the first three months of the season.
“Drew having that swag, it ultimately rubs off on everyone in the offense,” Sutton said. “It ultimately rubs off on the team. Like I said, it’s really good to be able to see him go out there and play with that confidence and swag.”
It’s still early in his career, but Lock brings hope to his teammates that the Broncos have their own mesmerizing, mobile QB in the mold of Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson or Lamar Jackson.
“When the quarterback is confident, it helps you out because now he’s supposed to be the man in the huddle, he has the ball 24/7 and if he has confidence it gives everybody else that confidence,” running back Phillip Lindsay said Wednesday. “And Drew can move us with his arm, he can move us with his legs. And that gives all of us confidence because when a play’s broken, he can create something.
“Actually, he created a couple this game that kept the drive alive. And that’s what makes someone like Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson so great,” Lindsay said. “They can make broken plays and they can score touchdowns or get first downs.”
Lock is the seventh QB to start for Denver since Manning retired, and he’s the first who’s really been praised for his pluck.
Whatever pizzazz Trevor Siemian had was wiped away after Melvin Ingram’s jaw-rattling hit his second season, when he split snaps with Brock Osweiler, who came the closest to having that elusive quality, and Paxton Lynch, who never won over his coaches or his teammates in Denver.
Case Keenum brought no momentum or magnetism from his “Minneapolis Miracle” to Denver and Joe Flacco brought Super Bowl credentials but no charisma to Colorado. Allen had the mobility but not the moxie.
The Houston Texans (8-4) will certainly try to knock that swagger out of Lock when the Broncos (4-8) visit NRG Stadium on Sunday.
“Well, I’ve played in that stadium in that bowl game,” Lock said of the 2017 Texas Bowl. “Half of it was Missouri and half of it was Texas, and it was extremely loud with only half the fans being opposing. So, having to deal with the noise a little bit, playing at Alabama, playing at LSU, all those factors aren’t that big but I think just dealing with the noise and dealing with some under-center stuff.”
Among the congratulatory texts Lock received after his successful debut was one from Archie Manning that read, “You can’t win them all if you don’t win your first.”
“That gave me a good giggle,” Lock said. “It was pretty cool to get a text from him and Peyton, as well. Being able to hear from those guys meant a lot.”
Now that he has that first start out of the way, Lock is promising to show even more of his personality and leadership.
“I can just start being the face of these guys around here, especially in the huddle,” he said. “Just being able to show them a little bit more of me as a leader. … Even out there on the field in the game they saw a little bit of my confidence last week.
“No, I wouldn’t say I’ve been holding back, but I had to get my feet wet a little bit and see what it was all about. … I think I’ll start showing more and more of myself.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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