Broncos offense regressed to Drew Lock era Sunday, then Lock played, too

Drew Lock on Sunday. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.
Drew Lock on Sunday. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.

The honeymoon is over for the Denver Broncos and Teddy Bridgewater.

Through three games, Bridgewater was near-perfect as the Broncos quarterback, as the second-most accurate quarterback in the NFL. He also had yet to turn the ball over a single time and the offense was producing five points per game more than they did in 2020.

Part of what made Bridgewater’s Broncos offense so deadly was his ability to spread the ball to eight receivers per game. Defenses couldn’t key into one or two receivers as Teddy brilliantly progressed through his reads to find the open guy.

Simply, Bridgewater took what the defense gave him and the offense enjoyed a better flow than we’d seen in years.

But that was against three terrible teams. The New York Giants and New York Jets each got their first wins of the season this weekend while the Jacksonville Jaguars remain winless.

A win is a win, sure. But everyone knew Baltimore was the first true test of the year for the Broncos.

And the Ravens’ hard-hitting defense was relentless in their attack against Bridgewater. He was hit over and over again in the first half, being sacked twice and even knocked out of the game when he was hit in the head (which wasn’t called).

Bridgewater had no time to throw, partially because his two starting guards weren’t healthy enough to play. And during that first half, the Broncos offense regressed to the same level we saw in 2019 and 2020 with Drew Lock at quarterback.

And then, to the surprise of basically everyone, Bridgewater didn’t come out of the locker room after halftime due to a concussion. It was again Drew Lock time in the Mile High City.

And at that point, the offense continued to be awful, with a mere 65 yards in the third quarter. Lock was sacked twice in his first three plays and he was erratic when he had time to throw, too.

He and Courtland Sutton missed on multiple passes as communication was off on one, with Lock yelling at Sutton after the incompletion. Even when he did complete one pass, it wasn’t good enough to allow running back Javonte Williams to gain positive yardage.

Later in the game, Lock was sacked again, showing he’s still slow to progress through reads quickly enough. Finally, he threw a ball up towards Sutton in the end zone, but it was underthrown and picked off.

It wasn’t Lock’s fault he was so bad in the second half, it was mostly the offensive line’s fault. And play-calling wasn’t great either.

However, the bottom line was: Denver was bullied by Baltimore up front, and everywhere.

Diontae Spencer was also knocked out of the game with a concussion, a second helmet-to-helmet hit which wasn’t called. And Patrick Surtain II was pulled late due to a chest injury. The Broncos went 3-of-14 on third downs and were also forced to punt the ball 10 times on the afternoon, which was a first in 2021 and only the third time it’s happened since the 2020 season began.

Defensively, the Broncos played well overall, with a few blown coverages here and there. But they couldn’t carry the team the entire game long.

That’s the big difference from the last five years compared to the beginning of this season; the offense was playing well enough to compliment the defense and win games.

Now we’re seeing the all too familiar without Bridgewater; an awful offense, seriously-bad special teams and a great defense which can’t overcome the other two weaknesses.

The good news is, Bridgewater could end up passing concussion protocol next week. And if not, Lock will have more time to prepare for his next game. If things go really poorly, the Broncos could end up looking at a 3-4 record after that 3-0 start.

So getting Bridgewater back immediately, and having him play at that great level again, is crucial for Denver’s future success.