Numbers don’t lie: Broncos are better with Drew Lock than without him

Drew Lock. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports.
Drew Lock. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports.

The Denver Broncos are a new team with Drew Lock at quarterback.

Make no mistakes, Denver is better with Lock than they were without him.

Yes, the sample size is small, but one-quarter of a season in the books and the numbers don’t lie for Lock.

Before Lock, the Broncos went 3-8 this season. Since Lock has taken the reins of the Broncos, the team has gone 3-1. OK, putting wins on the back of one player is wrong, sure.  Especially when considering Denver’s playoff hopes were already decided as the team was basically already eliminated from the playoffs. With less pressure, players play more loosely and are sometimes better than when the microscope zooms in on them.

And Lock said as much after the game when talking about offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s play calling.

“He’s not holding back,” Lock said. “I know he has supreme confidence in the guys he’s got out there and just the vibe of the game. What is there to hold back? Why hold back? These are our last two games. We can’t make it to the playoffs, let’s have some momentum going into the offseason. If we don’t go for it on the fourth-and-one, we walk off to a chorus of boos and whatnot. That’s not the feeling we wanted to have, and we left it all out there.”

Not only are the Broncos letting it all hang out a bit more in this half of the season, this much is true: Lock’s passer rating is better than Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen’s combined. Four games into his career and the rookie quarterback’s rating is 89.6, and in the 11 games before him, it was 81.5 for the other QBs. The Broncos were also awful on third downs for most of the season, converting a mere 27.7 percent, while they’ve been much better since lock (44.9 percent). And, Lock’s spreading the ball around, involving more players. To wit, he’s averaged 8.5 receivers per game in his four starts, which makes defending Denver even more difficult.

On Sunday, they scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Lions and assert their will. That was something new for the team who lost four games after leading in the fourth quarter this year. DaeSean Hamilton’s touchdown was the team’s first fourth quarter TD in 11 weeks, then Phillip Lindsay put a nail in the coffin with his electric 27-yard score.

These Broncos aren’t the same team who we watched earlier in the year. The team we’re seeing under Lock isn’t just having more fun and playing more loose, they’re also scoring more points. They’re nearly a touchdown per game better (22.75-15.9 points per game), and part of that has to do with Scangarello being willing to let the offense loose a bit more, but Lock has something to do with the offensive efficiency and explosiveness, too.

Lock’s got something Flacco didn’t; mobility. It’s a play-making, gunslinging ability we didn’t see from the veteran.

In his second start, Lock was spectacular. He went 22-27 for 309 yards with three touchdowns, his one interception being the big mistake of the day. In his three other starts, including today, the rookie has been a game manager, which was good enough to win two-thirds of those games.

Would it be great for the Broncos if Lock enjoyed 300-yard, 3-touchdown games week in and week out? Of course! But, the reality is, the way this team is built, they don’t need that from their quarterback and he’s not that guy.

With a game-manager quarterback, Denver’s defense carries the team to victories. We saw it in 2015 with the “No Fly Zone” and the best pass rush in the league carry the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Interestingly, these current Broncos are built with a similar veteran leadership mixed with young talent.

Von Miller, Kareem Jackson, Shelby Haris, Chris Harris, and Derek Wolfe are the veterans. One issue is that Denver needs to make decisions on re-signing the last three or not. But the Broncos also have guys like Alexander Johnson, Dre’Mont Jones (2 sacks on Sunday), Mike Purcell and Jeremiah Attaochu who are youthful surprises this season and should be bigger contributors next year.

Going into 2020, Lock will be the Broncos starter at quarterback. If Rich Scangarello wants to get the most out of him, he will do a few things.

First and foremost, he’ll need to use Lock as a game manager, making sure he protects the ball with short throws most of the time. But, “Scangs” must mix in the big plays, the deep balls which we’ve seen Lock hit on already this year. And, the Broncos will have to let Lock use his legs to break the pocket as well as running for first downs.

Mostly, Scangarello has to allow Lock to be the gunslinging kid — out there simply having fun — that he wants to be.

With Lock as the team’s quarterback, as well as a whole host of young players contributing, the short and long-term future of the Broncos is surely bright.

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