He was less Buzz Lightyear than Missouri mule, stubborn to the last. But Drew Lock wasn’t going to let a sore rib get in the way of a Week 11 start against the Miami Dolphins at home.
“I was extremely determined (to play),” Lock said after throwing for 270 yards and rushing for 23 more in a 20-13 win Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High. “There was a lot of playing-this-week or not-playing-this-week (speculation). There was going to be nothing, pain-wise, that was going to stop me playing.”
Lock appeared to suffer a rib strain during the second quarter of a Week 10 shellacking against the Raiders in Las Vegas, leaving his status for the Dolphins tussle in the air for much of the prep time leading up to Sunday. The second-year quarterback admitted after the game that the pain meant “it wasn’t an easy week of practice,” or all that comfortable in the heat of battle.
But the former University of Missouri standout gutted through his 13th NFL appearance — the win pushed his career mark as a starter back over .500, to 7-6 — against a Dolphins defense that came into the afternoon ranked fifth in the NFL in fewest points allowed per game (20.2) and No. 6 in turnovers forced per opponent possession (15.5%).
“For him to come out here and be resilient and do what he needed to do to help his team, and lead after he took so much heat last week,” said tailback Melvin Gordon, who paced a salty Broncos running attack with 84 yards, “it just shows the type of player he is.”
Especially given that the hosts’ first drive had ended on a Lock pick, making it the sixth consecutive game in which the signal-caller had thrown an interception. Trailing 7-0 versus a young Miami team that came in riding a five-game winning streak that included road wins at San Francisco and Arizona, Lock set the tone for the rest of the game during the Broncos’ third drive.
Facing a third-and-10 at his own 27 after two incompletions to open the series, Lock hit rookie KJ Hamler for a 15-yard gain. On third-and-13 at the Miami 39, Lock scrambled to his right and rambled, sore rib and all, for a 14-yard gain and another first down. Three plays later, the Broncos scored their first touchdown of the day on a 1-yard Gordon dive.
“Those are plays that we’ve got to have in these games,” Lock said of his third-down toss. “And they’re there for us to make.
“And that was one of the plays that maybe last week or the week before, we don’t make, and we’re coming off the field. It’s a different vibe going to the sidelines. So I’m proud of us for always progressing.”
Speaking of progressing: Sunday’s second half, in which the Broncos outscored Miami 7-3, was Lock’s first half of football without a turnover since the opening half of a Week 9 loss at Atlanta.
“I think Drew comes back from bad plays,” said coach Vic Fangio. “That’s one of his good qualities. I don’t think he lets it linger and has a hangover from it.”
It also helped that the Broncos built a lead at the half — their first cushion at the break since Week 6 at New England — and could therefore lean on the running game behind Gordon and backfield mate Phillip Lindsay (82 rushing yards). Miami crowding the box also opened up good looks for Lock on bootlegs and roll-outs, especially to his right.
“We let (Lock) know he doesn’t have to take the world on by himself,” Lindsay said after the game. “There’s 10 more of us (on offense), doing it as a unit.”