It took four years, multiple bad draft picks and a questionable trade for Joe Flacco, but the Denver Broncos might have finally done it. Ladies and gentlemen, they might have finally found a franchise quarterback.
Although there's no guarantee that Drew Lock will be the future of the franchise, he definitely looked like he's headed that way with his performance against the Texans on Sunday. In the first road start of his career, Lock shredded the Texans for 309 yards and three touchdowns in stunning 38-24 win for Denver.
Lock's performance was so impressive that he actually made some NFL history, becoming the first rookie to throw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in the first road start of his career.
If the Broncos had any worry that Lock might be overwhelmed by going up against a first-place Texans team on the road, those worries probably disappeared after the rookie threw his first pass of the game.
Week 14 is almost in the books and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break everything down on the Pick Six Podcast. Listen below and be sure to subscribe right here for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
With the Broncos pinned inside of the their own 10-yard line, Lock dropped back to pass on Denver's first play from scrimmage and made a veteran throw that set the tone for the rest of the day: He hit fellow rookie Noah Fant for a 48-yard gain.
Sometimes, you'll see a rookie quarterback check down on a play like that because they don't want to make a mistake near their own end zone, but not Lock. He played with no-fear against the Texans in a game where he made big play after big play.
One of those big plays capped the Broncos opening drive when Lock hit Fant again. This time, the Broncos rookie made another highly impressive throw, hitting his tight end with a laser down the seam for a 14-yard touchdown. The most impressive thing about the play is that it came in a high-pressure situation, with the Broncos facing a third-and-12.
Fant finished the game with four catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.
The win over the Texans means that Lock is now 2-0 in his career, and fittingly, he's matched John Elway as one of just three rookies in Broncos history who have won their first two starts (Gary Kubiak is the other). Although Lock wasn't too flashy in his first win last week over the Chargers (18 for 28 for 134 yards and two touchdowns), he proved that he can carry the team if that's what the Broncos need going forward.
The law of averages said that John Elway had to find a quarterback at some point, and it looks like he might have finally done it.
Denver 38-24 over Houston
|Although Drew Lock stole the show, the Broncos defense also came to play on Sunday. Not only did the Broncos keep the Texans out of the red zone for the entire first half, but Denver's defense also tacked on its own touchdown in the first quarter when a Broncos defender recovered a fumble, then pitched it to Kareem Jackson, who returned it 70 yards for a score. Jeremiah Attaochu tallied two of the Broncos three sacks in the game as Denver had Deshaun Watson on the run for nearly all four quarters. Besides the sacks and the fumble return for a touchdown, the Broncos defense also came through with two interceptions.|
|In a performance that can only be described as embarrassing, the Texans defense got carved up for 309 yards and three touchdowns by a rookie quarterback making his first career NFL start on the road, which was especially shocking, considering Houston's defense had completely shut down Tom Brady just one week earlier. The only thing worse than the Texans defense was their offense. Although they did eventually put some points up on the scoreboard, it all came in garbage time. The Texans didn't start moving the ball until they were already trailing 38-3. It was a humiliating performance for a team that went into Sunday with sole possession of first place in the AFC South. |
San Francisco 48-46 over New Orleans
|Did Jimmy Garoppolo just march into the hostility of Mercedes-Benz Superdome and outduel the almighty Drew Brees? Why yes, he certainly did. As a matter of fact, not only did he go toe-to-toe with the future first ballot Hall of Famer, he out-Brees'd Brees -- mounting a game-winning drive with less than a minute to play after being forced into a fourth-and-2 in Saints territory. The 49ers offense tore the New Orleans defense to shreds for much of the game, and a key forced fumble in the third quarter against Alvin Kamara put Garoppolo in position to toss one of four touchdowns on the day, as the 49ers regain leverage in the chase for home field advantage in the playoffs.|
|I'm going to rage against the machine on this one and mark both teams as an A+, because they both deserve it. It's easy to downgrade the loser of this game to an even 'A', but it simply doesn't feel right to do so. The Saints battled through the loss of Jared Cook and still had the lead with two seconds remaining on the game clock, after Brees walked down the 49ers defense with the help of Michael Thomas to score his fifth -- yes, I said fifth -- touchdown of the day. It took a needle-thread to George Kittle and a shed tackle on a defender who was not out of position to force a loss onto the Saints, but they deserve the same ovation as the 49ers -- even if it doesn't come attached to a win|
49ers-Saints grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Baltimore 24-17 over Buffalo
|Lamar Jackson wasn't perfect in Buffalo, but the Ravens didn't need him to be, due to a dominating performance from their defense. Practicing against Jackson must have come in handy, because the Ravens defense looked fully comfortable going up against a mobile quarterback in Josh Allen. Led by Matthew Judon, the Ravens defense sacked Josh Allen six times, leaving him battered and bruised on the field (Allen had to briefly leave the game with an ankle injury). Judon had 1.5 sacks, with one of those coming on a strip-sack in the first quarter that eventually set up a Ravens touchdown. As for Jackson, he took what the Bills gave him. Although he didn't do much damage with his legs (rushing for "just" 40 yards), he threw three touchdown passes.|
|Josh Allen came into the game as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL, but he definitely cooled off a little big against the Ravens. Allen got off to any ugly start, completing just one of his first seven passes for 10 yards. The problem for the Bills offense was that not only was Allen overthrowing receivers, but when he did manage to make a good throw, the passes were being dropped (Allen finished 17 of 39 for 146 yards). The Bills were able to keep this game close thanks to a defense that only surrendered 257 yards to Baltimore, which was the Ravens' lowest total of the season.|
Atlanta 40-20 over Carolina
|If Panthers owner David Tepper was hoping that the firing of Ron Rivera might spark his team this week, that plan definitely didn't work. With interim coach Perry Fewell running the show, the Panthers looked like an absolute disaster. Their defense couldn't stop anything, their offensive line couldn't protect Kyle Allen (sacked five times) and Christian McCaffrey couldn't find any room to run. After watching his team lose four straight games, it won't be surprising if Tepper decides to blow things up and start over during the offseason.|
|If the Falcons proved one thing in this game, it's that they definitely haven't quit on Dan Quinn. Quinn's specialty is defense and the Falcons defense absolutely came through for him with five sacks on Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen. The Panthers offensive line got beat up by Takkarist McKinley and Vic Beasley, who both tallied two sacks. Matt Ryan also had a huge day for Atlanta (313 yards, two touchdowns), which included him throwing the longest TD pass of the NFL season (93 yards to Olamide Zaccheaus). Thanks to Devonta Freeman (84 yards) and Brian Hill (62 yards) Falcons ground game also came alive, totaling 159 yards, which is the Falcons' highest total of the season.|
Cleveland 27-19 over Cincinnati
|If the Bengals had anything resembling a red zone offense, they might have been able to sneak out of Cleveland with a win. The Bengals got inside of Cleveland's 16-yard line a total of five times in this game, but they were only to get one touchdown out of it. One of their biggest failures came in the third quarter when they had third-and-goal from Cleveland's seven, but ended up coming away with zero points after they turned the ball over on downs. The Bengals offense had not problem moving the ball, they just couldn't finish. The team also got hurt by an Andy Dalton pick-six that gave the Browns their first touchdown of the game.|
|Freddie Kitchens' play-calling has come under fire this season, and this game is a good example of why that's happening. With two minutes to play in the second quarter, the Browns had called only four rushing plays, even though they were going up against a Bengals defense that went Sunday ranked dead last against the run. Someone must have let Kitchens in on that fact, because the Browns looked like a completely different offense in the second half. Behind their ground game, the Browns scored on their first three possessions. Nick Chubb averaged 7.1 yards per carry against the Bengals in a game where he rushed 15 times for 106 yards and a touchdown. Although the offense sputtered in the first half, it did get some scoring help from Denzel Ward, who returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown. |
N.Y. Jets 22-21 over Miami
|The Dolphins offense went up and down the field on the Jets, but one thing they couldn't do was punch the ball in the end zone. The Dolphins reached the red zone a total of six times in New York, but they did come away with a single touchdown. Instead, the Dolphins had to rely on kicker Jason Sanders for every single one of their points. Sanders set a franchise record with seven field goals with those makes coming from 22, 25, 28, 31, 53, 47 and 37. However, Sanders did miss one kick from 34 yards, which ended up being the difference in the game. If Sanders had made the kick, he would have tied the NFL record for most field goals in a game.|
|This was an ugly win for the Jets, which is almost fitting, because almost everything about Adam Gase's first year in New York has been ugly. Although the Jets offense sputtered for most of the second half, Sam Darnold finally brought them to life late in the fourth quarter. On New York's final two possessions, which both led to field goals, Darnold went 5 of 7 for 90 yards. Overall, the Jets QB threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns with most of that success coming on throws to Robby Anderson, who caught seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Kicker Sam Ficken came up big for the Jets with three field goals, including a 44-yarder to win it as time expired.|
Tampa Bay 38-35 over Indianapolis
|It's not easy to blow a 35-21 lead in the third quarter, but the Colts managed to do that as the entire team seemed to completely fall apart in the second half. After taking the two-touchdown lead, the Colts next four offensive possessions couldn't have gone worse than they went: Punt, lost fumble, missed field goal, turnover on downs. In between those offensive possessions, the Colts defense couldn't stop anything Tampa did as the Bucs put together three possessions of more than 50 yards during their comeback. The Colts loss overshadowed the play of Darius Leonard, who picked off Jameis Winston twice, including an 80-yard pick-six. The 542 yards surrendered by the Colts defense was their most since October 2014.|
|If you're looking for one game that perfectly epitomizes Jameis Winston's entire career in Tampa Bay, this is probably it. The full Jameis experience was on display on this game as he threw multiple mind-boggling interceptions, including an ugly pick-six, only to follow those up with possibly the best showing of his career. Not only did Winston throw for a career-high 456 yards, but he also threw four touchdown passes, and he did all of that even though he lost Mike Evans to an injury in the first half. Winston also rushed for a TD, meaning that he accounted for all five Buccaneers' scores in the game.|
Green Bay 20-15 over Washington
|Give the Redskins credit here, they didn't go down without a fight. After allowing 14 first quarter points to the Packers and going three-and-out on their first three possessions, the Redskins defense held the Packers to six points and stayed in the game until late in the fourth quarter. They just couldn't generate enough offense to pull off the upset and stay in the race for the NFC East title, especially with Derrius Guice leaving in the second quarter with a knee injury and Dwayne Haskins hobbled the entire second half. Adrian Peterson did become the sixth running back to 14,000 rushing yards and finished with 20 carries for 76 yards, but Guice had five carries for 43 yards when he exited the game. For a team that likes to run the ball as much as Washington, the Redskins have to ponder how the outcome would have been if Guice played the whole second half. Washington is eliminated from the playoff race with the loss. |
|The Packers win wasn't pretty by any stretch, but they proved how to win a football game in January. Aaron Jones carried the Packers offense with 16 carries for a season-high 134 yards and a touchdown, also having six catches for 58 yards in the win. Jones was responsible for a Packers offense which Aaron Rodgers wasn't at his best, but he didn't have to be as Jones finished with 8.4 yards per carry. Green Bay had 174 rushing yards and 167 passing yards, a balanced attack against a Redskins defense that held them to just six points after the first quarter. The Packers defense sacked Dwayne Haskins five times and allowed just 4.4 yards per play and 261 yards on the afternoon. Green Bay remains in first place in the NFC North with the win, a game they needed to make sure they had with the Bears and Vikings coming up.|
Redskins-Packers grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Minnesota 20-7 over Detroit
|The Lions can't be given a failing grade for staying within 13 points of the Vikings and, for a while, looking as if they might keep it a one-score game. But pretty much everything else was uninspiring. David Blough doesn't deserve blame for this season, but his confidence was outmatched by his inexperience Sunday, while Detroit's unreliable ground game -- and dependence on it -- did him no favors. This team is hapless.|
|Against the Lions, they should've been able to do a whole lot more. Penalties and play-calling allowed Detroit, even if superficially, to hang around for a while. Still, they flashed exactly what makes them a contender -- ultra-efficient QB play, a solid ground game, a balanced receiving corps and a pass rush capable of big plays. It wasn't pretty, but Sunday's game was enough of a success to boost their confidence moving forward.|
Lions-Vikings grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Chargers 45-10 over Jacksonville
|On his 38th birthday, Philip Rivers played like a quarterback who doesn't plan on retiring anytime soon. The Chargers quarterback didn't throw many passes, but he definitely made the most of them. Rivers threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns while throwing just 22 passes. All three of Rivers' scoring throws came from at least 30 yards away, including an 84-yard pass to Austin Ekeler in the third quarter that L.A. up 31-3. The Chargers also steamrolled the Jags on the ground with Ekeler (eight carries, 101 yards) and Melvin Gordon (12 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD) leading L.A. to 195 yards rushing. This game was such a blowout that Tyrod Taylor actually got to play the entire fourth quarter, and even he got in on the offensive action with a TD pass to Virgil Green.|
|Not even the return of Gardner Minshew could spark the Jaguars offense. For the fifth straight week, the Jaguars played like they've given up on the season, and not surprisingly, for the fifth straight week, they got absolutely blown out. With the loss, the Jags are now the first team since 1987 to lose at least five straight games by 17 or more points. The once vaunted Jaguars defense surrendered 525 total yards, marking the most yardage Jacksonville has given up since December 2014.|
Pittsburgh 23-17 over Arizona
|After giving the Steelers an A- last week, I'm giving them an even better grade this week after coming up with a gritty win over a Cardinals team that was desperate to end their losing streak. On offense, the Steelers received a stellar performance from Devlin "Duck" Hodges, who completed all but three of his 19 attempts that included two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. He also rushed for 35 of Pittsburgh's 140 rushing yards, as the Steelers controlled the line of scrimmage while winning the time of possession battle. Defensively, the Steelers' defense put forth another masterful performance, recording three second half interceptions and five sacks of Kyler Murray while holding him to just two rushing yards on six carries. Pittsburgh's special teams, with the exception of Jordan Berry's bizarre "fake" punt gaffe, was above the line once again. Rookie Diontae Johnson's 85-yard kick return for a score in the second quarter was Pittsburgh's first punt return for a touchdown since 2015, while Chris Boswell made all three of his field goal attempts.|
|While the Cardinals put forth a gamely effort, turnovers and their inability to protect Murray were two of the main reasons why Arizona saw its losing streak stretch to six games. The Cardinals could not establish the run while also failing to stop the Steelers' rushing attack. Credit should be given to Murray, who did throw two touchdown passes to keep the Cardinals in the game. Arizona's defense also deserves credit for coming up with a big forced fumble off running back Benny Snell that set up the Cardinals' first points. Yes, the Cardinals made some plays that nearly allowed them to pull off the upset, but their self-inflicted wounds led to yet another one-possession loss|
Cardinals-Steelers grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tennessee 42-21 over Oakland
|Yeah, the Ravens are pretty good, but how about the Titans? They are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. Ryan Tannehill is 6-1 as a starter, and he threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns. Derrick Henry was dealing with an injury, but powered through to rush for 103 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday as well. Someone to keep an eye on moving forward will be rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown, who caught five passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders. The Titans appear to have a dynamic trio on offense, and their defense played well too -- shutting out the Raiders in the second half.|
|The Raiders traded blows with the Titans in the first half, but fell flat in the second act. A couple of three and outs and a fumble which turned into a defensive touchdown took Oakland out of this one. The teams combined for 550 yards of total offense in the first half, so you knew they would have to continue to score points if they wanted to keep up with the Titans. The Raiders certainly missed rookie running back Josh Jacobs, who was inactive due to a shoulder injury. Without him, Oakland rushed for just 97 total yards. This loss was a big one for the Raiders, as it basically takes them out of the playoff race.|
Titans-Raiders grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Kansas City 23-16 over New England
|The Chiefs showed some great resolve after a rough start to the game that featured a flea-flicker touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman. After that, they went on a 23-0 run that really separated themselves in the game. The real reason why their grade isn't higher is due to a number of critical penalties and allowing the Patriots to make what should have been a blowout into a one score game late. The Chiefs simply need to close better. |
|The only reason this grade isn't lower is due to the Patriots clawing back in a game they had no business being in at times. The offense is still an issue for this club going forward and their defense had a really tough time getting off the field on third down. All that is a recipe for a loss against a team as talented as Kansas City. The Patriots also didn't get any help from an officiating crew that blew the play dead on two potential touchdowns in the fourth quarter. |
Chiefs-Patriots grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Rams 28-12 over Seattle
|This game was a disaster from start to finish for the Seahawks. They couldn't move the ball of offense, they couldn't stop the Rams and they couldn't protect Russell Wilson. The most concerning part for the Seahawks is that Wilson has now been sacked at least five times in three of the Seahawks' past four games, including this loss. The one bright spot in this game for Seattle was the play of Quandre Diggs, who recorded two interceptions, including a 55-yard pick-six in the third quarter.|
|Whatever was wrong with the Rams offense, Sean McVay has apparently fixed it, because for the second straight week, the Rams looked nearly unstoppable. The Rams offense was running on all cylinders thanks in large part to Tyler Higbee and Robert Woods, who combined to catch 14 passes for 214 yards. The Rams also weren't afraid to give Todd Gurley a full workload, as he carried the ball 23 times for 79 yards. Except for two interceptions by Jared Goff, including one pick-six, the Rams played a nearly perfect game. As impressive as the Rams were on offense, their defense might have actually been better. The D limited the Seahawks to just two field goals and sacked Russell Wilson five times.|
Philadelphia 23-17 over N.Y. Giants (OT)
|After sitting on the bench for 12 weeks, Eli Manning definitely looked a little rusty on Monday night, but he also made some highlight reel plays in a game where he was seeing his first action since Week 2. The Giants jumped out to a 17-3 lead thanks in large part to Manning, who threw two long second quarter touchdown passes to Darius Slayton. However, things completely fell apart in the second half for the Giants, who only totaled 29 yards over the game's final two quarters. Manning finished with 202 passing yards, although 179 of those came in the first half.|
|This game almost turned into a disaster for the Eagles, but it was saved by Zach Ertz, who came up big in the clutch. The Eagles tight end caught two touchdown passes, including one that tied the game with 1:53 left to play in the fourth quarter and one that eventually won the game in overtime. Ertz was one of the few healthy weapons that Carson Wentz had in this game, and the Eagles quarterback definitely took advantage of that, hitting Ertz nine times for 91 yards. Running back Boston Scott also came up big, totaling 128 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles won despite an ugly first half from both their offense and their defense. The Eagles offense simply couldn't move the ball and their defense gave up multiple big plays to Eli Manning.|