Public clamors for rookie quarterback, Drew Lock

The Broncos, nine weeks into the 2019 season, had compiled a record of 3-6. Remarkably, and regrettably, that is the same record they had in each of the previous two seasons after nine games.

Making the situation even more agonizing is the fact that the Broncos have been in every contest they have lost with the exception of their game against the Kansas City Chiefs, which they lost 30-6.

They lost by eight points to the Raiders, 11 points to the Packers, two points to the Bears, two points to the Jaguars, two points to the Colts and, most recently, four points to the Vikings.

They led the Vikings 20-0 before seeing their lead vanish in the second half last Sunday.

Much like a slow-motion train wreck that you can’t help but watch, the Vikings did not take the lead in the game until late in the fourth quarter as the Broncos’ offense began to sputter and the defense began to tire.

So despite their current record of 3-7, are the Broncos actually closer to being a contending team than their record indicates? Is there actually somewhat of a moral victory embedded within their woeful season record? Are they simply missing a couple of key pieces that, if resolved, would quickly transform them  into legitimate contenders again? Is it fair to say that they could have just as easily won four or five of the games they lost, had it not been for bad breaks?

Absolutely not. As I have said before on these same pages, good teams always seem to find innovative ways to win, and bad teams always manage to find innovative ways to lose. The painful truth is that the Denver Broncos are what their record says they are – a bad team that consistently finds new ways to spit the bit late in games whenever the proverbial chips are on the table.

Sometimes it has been penalties that have killed the Broncos. At other times, turnovers have been the culprit. Mostly, though, 2019 has offered the same sad story line we fans have endured for the last four seasons: not enough offensive firepower to compete in a league full of high-octane scoring machines.

The Broncos, playing with aging quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm for the first eight weeks, have started rookie Brandon Allen the last two weeks due to a season-ending injury to Flacco suffered against the Colts.

The Broncos’ offense currently ranks 28th among the 32-team NFL field, scoring 17 points per contest. But that’s not the most damning statistic, even though it does paint a woefully grim and telling picture. The most significant offensive statistic is that the last time the Broncos scored a fourth-quarter touchdown was in September. That’s right, September.

That also explains how they lost four games in which they led during the fourth quarter.

I heard some fans blaming the defense for the loss against the Vikings, which I believe is a wholly uneducated assertion. Yes, after four quarters the Broncos’ defense finally wore down against a Minnesota offense that averages 29 points per game at home. But that was after spending the vast majority of the second half on the field after watching the offense come up empty late in the game just as it has for about the last five weeks.

The Broncos’ defense is not dominant, like it was in 2015, but it is extremely solid and fits squarely among the league’s top 10. It entered the Vikings game ranked sixth overall, and holds opponents to only 19 points per game. If the offense were average, or even in the lower-middle tier rather than the lower-lower tier, who knows how the season would have shaken out thus far?

In Minnesota, had the offense generated a single touchdown in the second half, it would have sealed the deal. Through three quarters the Broncos led 23-7. When the defense does a job like that, the offense has got to close the door on opponents rather than clamming up and going into a shell.

In a complementary sport in which offenses must maintain possession of the ball by moving the chains, thus allowing the defense to catch its collective breath, the Broncos’ offense has consistently failed the test in moments that really matter. And in the fourth quarter, as I have mentioned, it has failed in epic fashion.

Drew Lock, selected early in the second round of last year’s draft, is finally off the injured reserve list and back on the practice field. Nobody really knows how Lock will perform once he finally hits the field, but it is of utmost importance that the Broncos find out as soon as possible. If Lock is not the answer, like the half-dozen or so Broncos signal callers who have come before him, then snagging yet another quarterback in the 2020 draft would be almost mandatory.

The Broncos, because of their record, are poised to pick in the top 10 again, and there are at least five college quarterback prospects that look very likely to be eventual starters, if not stars, at the next level.

In a perfect world, Lock would come in, probably two weeks from now, and demonstrate that his remarkable college career at the University of Missouri was no fluke and that he is in fact ready for the rigors of the NFL. That would allow the organization to fill holes along the offensive and defensive lines, which could both use upgrades, rather than quarterback-shopping again in the draft.

Meanwhile, the Broncos’ fan base is beginning to sour on John Elway due to the team’s dramatic fall from grace after winning the Super Bowl just four short years ago. Broncos Nation is beginning to lose faith, and attendance numbers have dropped significantly as the 2019 campaign has deteriorated just as it has in the previous three years.

Stay tuned, sports fans, because this is going to get very interesting, depending upon how Lock performs when he finally hits the field in the coming weeks.

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