Drew Lock takes lead in Broncos QB competition with near-perfect preseason performance

Drew Lock in the Broncos win over the Vikings on Saturday. Credit: Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports.
Drew Lock in the Broncos win over the Vikings on Saturday. Credit: Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports.

Now this is the Drew Lock we all wanted to see since Day 1.

And, it’s the Drew Lock we’ve seen twice before — against the Houston Texans in 2019, and the blowout win over the Panthers last year — as he was near-perfect in about a quarter and a half in Minnesota on Saturday afternoon. It should be noted that Lock played with starters Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant and a few offensive linemen against backup defenders for the Vikings.

But, it also has to be mentioned that Lock performed well under the pressure of this months-long QB competition.

To start the game, he helped push the team down into the red zone, although the highlight player of that drive was rookie running back Javonte Williams. Williams ran through a huge hole on one play and around the left side on another with a stiff-arm.

But Lock also found K.J. Hamler on a crossing route and led him well before throwing a little behind Jeudy in the end zone on 4th and 2. The Broncos’ young quarterback seemed “locked in” on Jeudy pre-snap and threw it to him even though he was blanketed. It would have been more ideal to see Lock process through his reads and make a better play, so Denver left the red zone without points.

But on his second drive, well, Lock was perfect. On a play-action pass — set up by the many runs in the first drive — the young gun-slinger unleashed his cannon as Hamler ran under the ball for an 80-yard touchdown.

It was one of the best balls Lock has thrown in his short NFL career. Even if the defense played it all poorly, as the safety bit on the fake and the corner failed to create any contact with Hamler to throw his timing off. Again, Lock did exactly what he was supposed to do.

On his third drive, Denver’s quarterback was again on fire. He smartly processed through reads and found no receivers open, tucked it and took a short gain. On a third down he stood tall in the pocket and hit an open Jeudy for a conversion. And Lock capped it off with another play-action, this time a roll-out, in which he put the ball on the money to Trinity Benson for six.

Last season, Lock was the most inaccurate quarterback in the NFL, with a 57.3 completion percentage. He also led the NFL with 15 interceptions. But, in the play-action passing game, he threw 7 TDs and 0 INTs.

Pat Shurmur, who called play action only 20.77% of the time in 2020, may have seen the telling stats saying Lock is much better in play action than not. 

In Saturday’s game, Lock finished with a flashy 5-for-7 passing (71.4%) for 151 yards and 2 TDs. That’s a 153.3 passer rating (158.3 is perfect). Again, it was against the Vikings’ backup defenders but also without his best receiver in Courtland Sutton and without most of the offensive line as well as Melvin Gordon.

So, it will be crucial for Lock to continue that great play into next week, when Bridgewater gets the start (if he still does, which was the plan before today).

As for Bridgewater, he did fine, but without any “wow” plays. His first drive saw him check down multiple times — along with a great pass on a slant to Benson for a first down — and the offense settled for a field goal. In the second half, he connected with Benson for a deep in and a first down, as well as a corner fade touchdown to the young receiver.

The veteran journeyman finished the game 7-for-8 (87.5%) for 74 yards and 1 TD, a 144.8 passer rating.

At halftime, head coach Vic Fangio held to his “even Steven” designation of the QB battle, but it was clear to any observer Lock was the best QB in the game for either team. Lock’s taken the lead and it’s now his job to lose.

But, a great game with a “wow” play or two from Bridgewater in Game 2 could tighten this competition back up.

For Broncos Country, the best-case scenario is if one of these guys is named the starter for the regular season sooner rather than later.