If Drew Lock gets the start on Sunday, Pat Shurmur needs to help his QB
Drew Lock couldn’t remember truly being a backup before this season. Not for the Denver Broncos, not for the Missouri Tigers, not for the Tigers of Lee’s Summit High School.
“It’s kind of my first time ever,” Lock said, after he played in the second half of the Broncos’ 23-7 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. “You kind of pick up what it is that you have to do throughout the week differently than what you thought you needed to do as a backup.”
Lock was needed on Sunday after Teddy Bridgewater was unable to return after halftime following a wicked hit on his chin by Ravens linebacker Odafe Oweh.
“Drew knew that it was a strong possibility, obviously, as soon as Teddy came out,” Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said after the game.
“They said to kind of be ready just in case, but I guess that’s kind of my job after every play,” Lock explained. “I got (the news) pretty much right before I came out on the field. I got in as many throws as I could, and tried to get ready to get out there.”
Entering the game with the Broncos trailing 17-7, Lock looked flustered and lost at times behind a makeshift offensive line that couldn’t deter an aggressive, blitzing Ravens defense that sacked him three times. That same defense had also held Bridgewater to an ugly, 7-for-16 day with only 65 yards passing and a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Noah Fant that ended up as the Broncos’ only score.
Lock had an even worse go of it, completing 12-of-21 passes for 113 yards — the vast majority of it in garbage time — and an interception at the end of the game.
“When we were watching film, we obviously saw their style. What they do is bring pressure, and that’s exactly what they did. They try to confuse you a little bit, get you in some weird fronts, make you slide one way, bring it the other. That’s just what they are, it’s what they do; they’re a good defense,” Lock explained. “They played well, but we could have played a lot better, too.”
It appears as if Lock may have that opportunity in Pittsburgh on this upcoming Sunday against a wobbly, 1-3 Steelers team that doesn’t look nearly as dangerous as most thought prior to the season. Of course, after facing their first playoff-caliber opponent in the Ravens and coming up more than a bit short themselves, the Broncos don’t look as fearsome as they did starting 3-0 against the moribund Giants, Jets and Jaguars, either.
The Broncos are reeling from injuries they’ve suffered each week of the season; nine starters have already been knocked out over the first four weeks, making it difficult to evaluate Denver’s decisive loss in full. Against Pittsburgh, they may get a few of them back.
Against the Ravens, rookie left guard Quinn Meinerz was wholly overmatched, and right guard Netani Muti fared only slightly better. While Pittsburgh’s offense has sputtered under an aging Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, their robust, attacking defense matches up rather well in comparison to Baltimore’s — and that’s bad news for whoever starts at quarterback for the Broncos. A healthy return from either Dalton Risner or Graham Glasgow could do wonders for Denver’s chances.
A commitment to the running game wouldn’t hurt, either. After a first half in which Melvin Gordon III and rookie Javonte Williams ran with power and purpose against a stalwart Baltimore front, Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, as he is wont to do, all but abandoned the running game; calling only four running plays in the entire second half, abandoning a clearly harried Lock to suffer relentless blitzes, despite the game being only being separated by 10 points for most of the second half.
“You know, run game in the NFL is No. 1. It’s undefeated. If you’ve got a good run game, you can do a lot of things,” Lock offered as both an explanation, and as a possible reminder to Shurmur. “Being able to feed Melvin, being able to feed Javonte, keep them in the game, keep them rolling, keep them warm — I think that will always help us out. Whenever you get into a game — especially like this one — where both defenses are playing well, it’s about controlling the ball, staying on the field, converting third downs. If you get in third-and-shorts, rather than third-and-longs, that’s when it gets tough for you, and the run game helps with that.”
Lock described Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, but he could have just as easily been previewing Denver’s Week 5 matchup in Pittsburgh; a game in which points are expected to be at a premium. It’s incumbent on Shurmur to adjust, adapt and give his starting quarterback — whoever it is — a better chance to win with a more-balanced offensive approach; one that also keeps him out of harm’s way in the forms of T.J. Watt, Melvin Ingram III, Devin Bush and Cameron Heyward.
The Broncos visited Pittsburgh last season in a Week 2 loss that saw Lock suffer a shoulder injury that kept him out for a month. As fate would have it, it’s now possible that he’ll have an opportunity to take a measure of revenge.
“I’m going to go about it like I’m going to start this weekend,” Lock said. “It will be a good chance to go back to Pittsburgh and kind of put some of that to bed from last year. It would be exciting for me to take reps, get with these guys, get in the swing of things and see what we can do to a good Pittsburgh Steelers team.”
Shawn Drotar (@sdrotar) is the on-air host of “Sandy and Shawn;” weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight on 104.3 The Fan.