Justin Herbert is a freak. He also had Keenan Allen, a three-time Pro Bowler, lurking on one side. And 6-foot-4 Mike Williams on the other.
Drew Lock had two rookies. And DaeSean Hamilton.
“Maybe we’re just starting to click,” Lock, the Broncos’ second-year quarterback, said after rallying Denver from a 24-3 third-quarter deficit to a 31-30 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. “Maybe people had opinions of us based off of six games with three different quarterbacks, multiple offensive lines, guys on defense getting knocked out. People just love to make opinions and just jump into it quick. And I hope we can keep proving them wrong.”
Man, they needed this. He needed this.
Buzz Lightyear can say it doesn’t matter what the yokels outside the Broncos locker room think. But some of the guys on that home sideline were thinking the same thing a lot of the yokels were early in the second half.
Holy crap, the Chargers got a guy.
Do we have a guy?
“This is a really good milestone for Drew,” offered tailback Phillip Lindsay, whose 55-yard touchdown in the third quarter flipped the script. “Stepping up, being a leader and overcoming stuff.”
Stuff happens in this league. COVID. Snow. Rain. Boos. Blown leads. Frayed tempers. Patrick Mahomes.
When the building’s on fire, how do you react?
When a rookie’s making your defense look bad and making you look worse, how do you respond?
“I think Drew was very calm the whole time,” said rookie wideout KJ Hamler, who caught the game-winning touchdown as time expired from his keister. “I think that’s what you need in a quarterback.”
You know what the guys on the sideline are thinking now?
We’re not out of this.
We got a guy.
That’s huge in an NFL locker room. Massive. Especially a locker room as fraught and tense as this one was last week. If it ruined your month watching Kansas City roll into town for a sixth consecutive year and give the Broncos a wedgie, imagine how it made them feel.
“It was déjà vu coming into that locker room again,” Lock said of halftime, which saw the hosts booed as they headed off the field trailing 14-3, having produced just 60 yards of offense through two quarters. “All the yelling and screaming, ‘(The) offense isn’t playing well, blah, blah, blah.’
“And I just got up in front of the offense and said, ‘Listen, it’s so easy for us to come in here and scream and yell and get mad and talk about what we’re doing bad. But we just need to man up and (when) the plays come our way, we need to make them. Myself included.’”
Kid manned up.
Lock’s second half: 17-for-26 passing, 190 yards, three touchdowns — all in the fourth quarter — with one pick. His fourth quarter: 14-for-18, 155 yards. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, No. 3 was the first Broncos quarterback to throw for three fourth-quarter touchdowns since PFM did it against Houston in December 2013.
They got a guy.
“The mindset that I started taking after the Chiefs game was that I need to be so good at my job that I make others around me look better,” said Lock, who finished with 248 passing yards. “And not worry about everything else that’s going on around me. Worry about my job, worry about what I need to do, and I think that will help this team be great.”
Lest we forget: This season, already a roller-coaster of emotions and outcomes, is about evaluating Lock on the fly — in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, and riding the ups and downs along the way. Kid failed the Chiefs test. But he passed the Jamal Murray one: Can this locker room trust you to be that star when the game demands a star moment late?
If there’s a caveat, it’s that this Chargers crew is becoming conspicuous for switching off and blowing leads. Out of five losses, Sunday was the Bolts’ fourth in which they’d let a third-quarter cushion go up in smoke.
The quarterbacks on the other side of those gags?
Mahomes. Tom Brady. Drew Brees. Drew Lock.
Pretty good company.
Herbert trusts his pocket. He waits. If the rookie out of Oregon feels pressure, he slides with a veteran’s sixth sense, eyes always forward. It’s natural. It’s pretty.
Lock isn’t always pretty. He’s like a closer with a great fastball, but without that 100% certainty where the heck that heater’s going once it leaves his grip. The mentality is perfect — always confident, always competing, always assured — but the stuff sometimes lets him down.
“He definitely needed it,” coach Vic Fangio said of Lock. “That’s the only way you’re going to truly have confidence and feel good … and now you’ve got something to build on. It’s important that it happened on the field. It doesn’t happen anywhere else. All that other stuff, it’s just good talk by some people. It’s gotta all happen on the field. And it did for him. And hopefully it springs him forward through the rest of the season.”
They got a guy.