ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After Drew Lock threw at least 40 passes in each of his last four starts, the Broncos found success with a more balanced approach during Sunday's win over the Dolphins.
Lock threw the ball 30 times — completing 18 passes for 270 yards — while the Broncos ran the ball 33 times for 189 yards. The Broncos' rushing total was the team's highest since Week 5 of the 2019 season, and when paired with an attacking defense that recorded five three-and-outs and six sacks, it allowed Lock to lead the Broncos without strain.
"The one thing we did as a team yesterday was we ran the ball better," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "We played good defense for the most part, and to me, those are a quarterback's — especially young quarterback — two best friends, and he had them yesterday. The more we can do that as a team, the more he'll be able to develop in a more logical progression."
As Lock looks to build off his progress, Fangio hopes to see him continue to avoid negative plays, like the third-down interception he threw on the Broncos' first series.
"As it relates to him specifically, we just have to be able to eliminate the bad plays — the interceptions and make the right reads and make some easy completions," Fangio said. "I'd like to see him get off to a better start than we've been getting off to, particularly as it relates to the passing game over the last few weeks. Those are some points of emphasis I think we need to focus on this week."
Lock ended his 0-for-6 start to Sunday's game with a 15-yard pass to KJ Hamler on third down that kick-started a Denver scoring drive, but Fangio said Lock was not in danger of being benched if the pass fell incomplete.
"That thought never did cross my mind," Fangio said.
Lock completed 18 of his final 24 passes to finish 18-of-30 for 270 yards, one interception and a 75.7 rating.
Hamler wasn't the only player to contribute, as five Broncos had receptions of at least 15 yards and Melvin Gordon III and Phillip Lindsay each had runs of at least 20 yards.
"We showed some versatility in the offense — both in the number of guys that caught some balls and carried it," Fangio said. "It's a direct result of being able to run the ball better. Any time you can run it a little bit better, it opens up things for a lot of guys. If you throw it a little bit better, it'll open up the running game. We had that going yesterday. We can still throw it better on the early downs than we did.
"We had more balance and more successful balance. It's easy to have balance, but can you be successful with it? Yesterday we were."
AN INSTINCTUAL PLAY
On the Broncos' final defensive snap of the game, Justin Simmons lined up just a yard off the goal line and was positioned to A.J. Bouye's side of the field over Miami receiver Jakeem Grant Sr. On the other side of the formation, the Dolphins were positioned in a bunch formation with DeVante Parker as the outside receiver, Malcolm Perry as the middle receiver and tight end Adam Shaheen as the inside receiver. Essang Bassey lined up in press coverage over Perry, Bryce Callahan lined up about 5 yards from Parker and Kareem Jackson was 10 yards off Shaheen. At the snap, Perry and Shaheen ran out-breaking routes, which left Callahan one-on-one in the middle of the field with Parker, who had posted six catches for 61 yards. That's when Simmons slid over to undercut Ryan Fitzpatrick's throw to Parker and seal the win.
While his called-back interception earlier in the game was all about his athleticism, this play was about knowing where the ball was going and when to break on it.
"Justin's instincts are excellent," Fangio said Monday. "That's one of the first things I noticed about him when we got here back in 2019. He's just progressed beautifully along those lines as he has grasped more of a command of the coverages we play and our overall scheme. That's something that I think will continue to improve, although he's playing at a high level right now. I still think he'll continue to improve in that area, and it will result in more big plays for him."
HAMLER'S CONTINUED IMPROVEMENT
Although other players made contributions, the importance of Hamler's third-down catch wasn't lost on Fangio.
"Obviously, that was a big play," Fangio said Monday. "It's kind of similar to the play that [WR] DaeSean [Hamilton] made against the Chargers a few weeks ago that got us going on a third-and-8 conversion. Hamler is doing a great job of improving each and every week. He's a hard guy to stay with and he's tough to cover. That was illustrated a couple times yesterday. The one play that you're talking about, it was a very contested throw and the guy actually had good coverage on him. It was a good throw by Drew, and KJ had to fight for the ball, which was good to see.
"The other big one that he had — I don't remember if it was third down or not, but it was kind of near our sideline. He did a good job of getting away from coverage and he beat the guy cleanly. Those are the things we should and could see more and more of from him. You have to remember all the time he's missed, but he's one of those guys that I keep saying is improving daily and getting better and better."
Hamler has caught 25 passes for 275 yards and one touchdown in his eight games as a rookie.
While Fangio said Lock was not hindered by an injury to his ribs and didn't face any "residual effects" on Monday, starting right guard Graham Glasgow continues to battle a lower-leg injury.
"Glasgow didn't finish the game, as you know," Fangio said. "[He] just kind of felt his leg a little bit, but [it] really might not have been his calf that was bothering him. He … may have altered his gait or something, but he's got a little soreness in his lower leg. Don't think it's anything serious."
Austin Schlottmann played the final 10 snaps of the game for Glasgow.
Fangio, meanwhile, said it was a "possibility" that Shelby Harris could return from the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week but did not guarantee Harris would be activated.
Fangio was also uncertain whether Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell would be able to return to UCHealth Training Center this week.