DENVER - The Legend of Swagger Lock launches.
“Hopefully (Broncos coach Vice Fangio) doesn’t have to talk about the starting quarterback for a long time here,’’ the Swaggermeister said Sunday evening.
Drew Lock “got swag,’’ wide receiver Courtland Sutton extolled the Broncos’ new quarterback.
The S&S Corroboration — Swag and Sutton — combined for two touchdowns, but their long-drawn-out-pass-and-no-catch in the diminishing seconds situated the Broncos in position to beat the Chargers.
Fangio was skipping off the field with his best syrupy smile of the season. Personal “relief’’ and "happiness for the player’’ was how he described the emotion. Lock searched out his father and mother to share the moment, and the Broncos and the smallest home crowd (55,554) since 1990 celebrated as if there is a tomorrow in the NFL franchise’s future.
It wasn’t the victory to end all victories, but a true Broncos’ fanatic asked me on the elevator: “Can we still make the playoffs?’’
“A speck in the sky,’’ I replied, "but you can believe in Santa and the Broncos.’’ If the Broncos won four more and four other teams collapsed, well, don’t even think about it.
Instead, consider that Broncos’ historian Jim Saccomano, who served with the team since dirt was fresh, told me prior to the game: “Maybe there’s new hope today.’’ New Hope was “Star Wars Episode IV.’’
Perhaps, Drew Lock is Baby Yoda. A special quarterback he could be. Believes he does.
A "swaggerer,’’ a word invented by Big Billy Shakespeare, acts in a bold, brash, self-confident, even arrogant, manner. Hence, Drew Lock.
John Elway had that swagger and John Wayne-style when he first played 36 years before Lock was unlocked Sunday. I called John The Duke of Denver. People might accept Lock as The Prince of Colorado.
The cold, hardy gathering wasn’t booing the Broncos. The people were shouting “Drew ... Drew ... Drew’’ after he overruled the coaching staff with 4½ minutes left in the first quarter and said to Sutton in the huddle. “Run a fade.’’ It wasn’t the designed route for one of the league’s premier catchers.
Fade Courtland did for 26 yards, and he made an implausible reach-around, one-armed, ground-grabbing reception. He is becoming known far and wide for these terrific things in his second season.
Lock acknowledged that he rejected the call in his earpiece and changed the play. “Amazing is not even a good word for how great a catch that was,’’ Lock said.
The second touchdown toss from Lock to Sutton with only 16 seconds remaining in the opening quarter was for 5 yards, and Lock locked in on the eyes of his father sitting in the stands.
This game was even more thrilling and satisfying than a game he won in college at Missouri. Really. He said it. “I thought beating Arkansas (48-45) my junior year was really cool.’’ He threw for five touchdowns and 448 yards. “But winning your first NFL start is definitely a little cooler. It was insane.’’
Lock’s stats weren’t gaudy — 18 of 28 for 134 yards, two touchdowns, one silly absurd interception and a passer rating of 84.5.
He looked like what an NFL starting quarterback should look like. And he’s undefeated, and he’s not a one-trick pony.
Fangio acted as if he had discovered an enchanting unicorn under the tree at Christmas. The coach had informed Lock on Friday that he would start. The Broncos, Fangio admitted, were playing “silly games’’ withholding the information. But, at the podium Sunday night, Vic was straight-on that Lock will be the starter until further notice.
Could that be until 2023? Elway and Peyton Manning were still at it that long.
And here we come to the moment of decision in Sunday’s game:
Because the Broncos’ coaching staff decided to play keep-away and tried to run out the entire clock in the second half, the Chargers rallied to tie at 20. Stop me if you’ve repeatedly read that story this ugly Christmas-sweater season.
With 9 seconds showing, the Broncos had their final possession at their 28. The verdict by the offensive staff was for Lock to kneel, and the Broncos would try to win in overtime. Fangio said into his headset: “Let’s take a shot.’’
Lock said: “We singled Courtland up by himself. (The Chargers) gave us a look where I had a chance to get it to him. When I put (the ball) up, it was kind of like an onion sandwich with a layer on it. It worked out, and they got the pass interference (penalty)."
Brandon McManus kicked the winning 53-yard field goal.
And the myth, the man, the Missourian possessed his swaggering, staggering first victory.