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Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) celebrates a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston. Photo by David J. Phillip / AP Photo

The Broncos Are Fun Again: Does It Matter?

Is Drew Lock elite? Have the Broncos finally turned a corner? Is there still room for inevitable disappointment? Is the sky blue?

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With Denver sports, it’s important not to always get your hopes up. But if the Broncos’ unexpected victory this past weekend didn’t make you feel the slightest glimmer of hope, someone ought to check your pulse.

For the first time in far too long, the Broncos actually played an entertaining, successful game of football, defeating the Houston Texans 38–24—the Broncos’ first time breaking the 24-point threshold since October 2018 (!). The star of the show? Rookie quarterback Drew Lock.

The gunslinging godsend from Mizzou stepped into his first professional road start on Sunday and stomped all over any prior expectations for Denver to play it safe and rely on the run game, throwing for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns. And though I’ll try to spare the Toy Story puns, you toss an objectively delightful Buzz Lightyear-style touchdown celebration in the mix, and you can see why it’s hard not to gush about the kid.

As linebacker Von Miller put it eloquently on Sunday: “That fucking guy’s a rockstar.” And so far, there are few holes to be found in that statement. Besides his cannon of an arm, and—God bless—his ability to scramble, more than anything the kid seems to be having some pure, unadulterated fun out there and is bringing a refreshing burst of confidence the team so desperately needs. It’s looking more and more like Lock might be the answer to Denverites’ prayers—the promising end to the Broncos’ fruitless quarterback carousel and a new face to lead the future of this team to infinity and—well, you get the point.

With all that said, dare we really even bother to inch our expectations up once more? Should we really believe there’s reason to hope a better tomorrow—or at least a better next season? Or is this yet another futile bout of optimism for a young new quarterback, reminiscent of our emotional roller coaster rides for prior promised quarterbacks like Tim Tebow, Trevor Siemian, or Brock Osweiler? The answer to all of the above, as it almost always seems with the Broncos, is: I dunno, probably.

Even with a Lock-sized light at the end of the tunnel, the team has plenty of uphill ground to cover if we’re not to be the laughing stock of the AFC West (this season or next, for that matter). As it has been duly noted by most, it’s only Lock’s second game, and it’s still too early to tell whether the man is truly #elite. He’s proven enough of an antithesis to offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s geriatric play-calling for now, but the Broncos also desperately need to find a way to remind the offensive line how to do their jobs—or simply clear the stables and get some new life in there.

The defense has held its own fairly well through the mess of a year, but the team has been riddled with a slew of injuries to add to the damage. And while we (of course) didn’t tank hard enough to muster any incredible picks in the next draft, beefing up the receiving roster with more options for Lock besides rookie tight end Noah Fant and wide receiver Courtland Sutton is high on the to-do list—though the young quarterback’s first couple of touchdown connections with the two have been nothing shy of dimes (for the haters who questioned his accuracy). The future looks bright with this young pack, with Fant snagging 35 passes, 492 yards, and three touchdowns on the season, and Sutton making early arguments for a first Pro Bowl push with his 74-yard, two-touchdown game in week 13 that was integral to helping the team secure a win again the Chargers.

But the 23-year-old still has much to learn, evidenced by his two interceptions on the season so far and a few moments of shaky play-call memorization in Sunday’s game. But we’ve endured enough tiresome quarterback song and dance orchestrated by chief executive John Elway, and I’d say it’s time we quit with the “what ifs,” buckle down (dare I say, Lock n’ load?), and really invest in the future franchise quarterback we’ve got at our disposal. With Kansas City on the schedule on December 15 and most other divisions seemingly locked, it goes without saying: a miracle ending to the season is more than unlikely (but if the Steelers lost the next three, and so did the Texans … nevermind.) But gosh darn it, Broncos Country, I’m here to tell you: I think we’re allowed to get a little excited this time.

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