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Broncos' Drew Lock makes history. Can he finish strong?

Melvin Gordon DUI trial pushed back to January
Broncos Panthers Football
Posted at 3:12 PM, Dec 14, 2020

DENVER -- The quarterback many hope will end the carousel sat in front of the camera with a grass-stained jersey and a smile.

There was nothing remarkable about Sunday's postgame press conference, which sat in contrast to his performance. According to Pro Football Reference, Lock became the youngest Broncos quarterback since 1963 to throw four touchdowns with no interceptions.

What the interview revealed was his growing maturity and humility. Sunday, Lock benefited from patience and poise. His statistics looked different -- 21 of 27, 280 yards -- because he and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur made adjustments. Shurmur added more called passing plays to the running backs -- who entered the game with the fewest receptions in the NFL -- and tight ends.

And Lock showed restraint, getting to his checkdowns. He completed 11 of 12 passes behind the line of scrimmage. He snapped his seven-game interception streak. Not surprisingly, he finished 3-for-3 for 117 yards on balls that traveled 21-plus yards in the air. Big deal? Prior to Sunday, Lock was 12-for-49 with four interceptions on those throws. By throttling down, it left him ready to step on the pedal when the straightaway opened for K.J. Hamler.

"It was just about me coming in and doing my job. Knowing that if I just play my game and let it come to me, then the big ones will come," Lock said. "^'Ryp' (backup quarterback Brett Rypien) tells it to me every single week. He goes, 'Hey, you're a special player. But do your job here these first couple quarters, maybe in the third quarter the big play needs to be there and you're good enough to make the big play. Make it when it's there. Check these balls down if it's not there. If it eats you up or you know it's going to be a close one, if you try to press something, get it down."

Don Breaux was 23 when he connected on four touchdowns with no picks on Nov. 3, 1963 against Buffalo. He finished his career with nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 4-8-2 record. Lock, 24, has a much brighter future. After connecting on a touchdown pass with Tim Patrick, he celebrated by securing the bag. If he plays with Sunday's efficiency over the final three games, he will go a long way toward securing the job.

Lock, who was nominated for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week award along with Aaron Rodgers and Mitchell Trubisky, finally leveled an upside season. He boasts 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He owns a career 8-7 record with 20 touchdowns and 16 picks. His first three months this season drew his status into question as posted the NFL's worst completion percentage and missed games due to a right rotator cuff strain and a breach of mask protocol.

Lock emerged from the debris against the Panthers, showing growth that was impressive and necessary as he moves forward. The key now is obvious. He need not make history. He just needs to show consistency.

"He's a young quarterback in a new system without any offseason work and shortened training camp. I do think he's progressing along those lines (of maturity and humility)," coach Vic Fangio said Monday. "And hopefully the feedback he's getting from watching the tape from yesterday will help him make another big step forward the next three weeks."

McManus goes on COVID-19 list
Brandon McManus tweeted out Monday that he has been added to the COVID-19/restricted list because of a close contact outside the Broncos' building. McManus believes he will be cleared to play Saturday. If not, the Broncos signed kicker Taylor Russolino to the practice squad and he would be available if McManus is not activated. Players who are identified as close contacts with those who have tested positive are removed for a required five days. So McManus, with no positive test, would be eligible to play Saturday.

Gordon trial pushed back
Melvin Gordon remains poised to finish out the season with the Broncos. Court records showed Monday's plea and seating hearing were continued by Gordon in his DUI case. A new plea and setting hearing were set for January 14, at 8:30 a.m. in Denver. He faces a potential three-game suspension from the NFL when the case is resolved.

Gordon has hit his stride the past two weeks, rushing for 199 yards on 28 carries and catching four passes for 34 yards. Gordon leads the Broncos with 753 yards and six rushing touchdowns. He has increased his yards per carry to 4.6. He needs to average 82 yards over the final three games to reach 1,000 for the first time since 2017.

Footnotes
Left tackle Garett Bolles, who string of 60 straight starts was snapped, and tight end Noah Fant arrived back in Denver around noon Monday. Bolles missed Sunday's game and Fant left in the first quarter with what is believed to be food poisoning. They tested negative for COVID-19 all weekend, and Fangio said Monday he expects them to play Saturday against the Bills. ...

Fangio said Von Miller started running outside last week as he recovers from September surgery on his dislocated ankle tendon. No update on his plans this week, but he is not expected to be cleared to play this week. He will need to practice before debuting in a game. ...

Cornerback Duke Dawson Jr. tore his ACL and MCL in Sunday's loss. He is facing a long recovery. Will Parks replaced Dawson and finished with six tackles and a sack. ...

Kevin Toliver also suffered a torn ACL Sunday. The Broncos added cornerback Nate Hairston last week, and he is eligible to play. ...

Starting right guard Graham Glasgow (foot) is expected to practice and be available to play this week. Rookie Netane Muti replaced him against the Panthers and was solid in his debut. ...

The broadcast team for Broncos-Bills game on Denver7 Saturday at 2:30 p.m. is set. It will be Adam Amin and @1043TheFan’s and former Broncos Pro Bowler Mark Schlereth, along with sideline reporter Lindsay Czarniak. ...

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, who coached Sunday after missing the previous six games because of a bout with COVID-19, received a game ball.