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Drew Lock set for first start of 2021 with Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater “highly unlikely” to play due to concussion

Bridgewater was carted off in the third quarter of the loss to the Bengals, and spent Sunday night in the hospital

Drew Lock (3) of the Denver Broncos celebrates throwing a touchdown pass to Tim Patrick (81) against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021.
Drew Lock (3) of the Denver Broncos celebrates throwing a touchdown pass to Tim Patrick (81) against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021.

This Sunday in Las Vegas, Drew Lock finally gets his chance to be the Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2021.

Lock is set to start against the Raiders with Teddy Bridgewater in concussion protocol after Bridgewater was carted off the field during Sunday’s 15-10 loss to the Bengals. Coach Vic Fangio said it’s “highly unlikely” Bridgewater plays Sunday.

Center Lloyd Cushenberry gave Lock a vote of confidence, saying the team believes in the quarterback who has seen spot action in three games this season in place of Bridgewater, who won the starting job in training camp.

“We know what (Lock) can do,” Cushenberry said. “He came in (Sunday) and made some big plays for us… We’ve got to protect him and give him time to make plays with the playmakers around him. He’s played a lot of football and I know he’s ready for the moment.”

With the Broncos at 7-7, Denver’s playoff odds currently stand at 5%, per FiveThirtyEight. To even give themselves a chance to remain in contention, the Broncos need to win their final three games against the Raiders, the Chargers and the Chiefs.

To do that, Lock must avoid the game-changing errors that he’s been prone to making throughout his young career.

After coming on for Bridgewater in the third quarter against the Bengals, Lock threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tim Patrick that gave the Broncos a 10-9 lead. But Lock also had a critical fumble in the fourth quarter in the red zone, where Denver was nine yards from re-taking the lead.

Fangio said Lock “probably should’ve gave (the handoff)” to running back Javonte Williams on the read-option play where Lock kept the ball, then was stripped by Cincinnati’s Khalid Kareem.

“My No. 1 thing is just taking care of the football,” Lock said. “I put the ball on the ground twice (with fumbles on Sunday), and it’s way too many for me personally.”

Lock was 6 of 12 for 88 yards in relief of Bridgewater, who was injured while scrambling for a first down. In a scary moment at Empower Field, Bridgewater was motionless on the turf after the side of his head hit the ground upon being hit by Bengals tackle B.J. Hill. Bridgewater was placed on a back-board and transported to a local hospital, where he was held overnight for observation.

Bridgewater was released Monday morning from the hospital before entering the NFL’s concussion protocol. It’s the second time Bridgewater has been in the league’s concussion protocol this year; he was also knocked out of the Week 4 loss to Baltimore, but returned to play seven days later at Pittsburgh.

“I just spoke to him and he’s home and resting comfortably,” coach Vic Fangio said late Monday morning. “He sounded a lot better this morning than he did (Sunday) night; Sunday night, he just sounded really tired. (Monday) morning, he sounded much better. I’m relieved that he’s doing well.”

Fangio believes Lock, who was 4-9 in 13 starts last year and 4-1 as a rookie in 2019, will benefit from an entire week of taking all the first-team reps in practice. Lock is 22 of 40 through the air in 2021, with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 5.7 yards/pass average.

“The throw to Tim Patrick for the touchdown was a nice throw (on Sunday), and a couple other ones were off target just a little bit,” Fangio said. “But hopefully with a week’s worth of practice, he’ll be much better prepared.”

Lock said he understands the Broncos are “Teddy’s team.” But he vowed after Sunday’s loss that “if they need me, I’m here,” and the odds are good No. 3 will be required to step up Sunday against a Raiders team that’s beaten Denver three straight times.

The 2019 second-round draft pick also noted that he feels more than prepared to step in as the starter this week, considering the extra time he’s put in on game-planning outside the facility.

“I think you’ve got to do double the amount (of work) that the starter ends up having to do,” Lock explained. “I walk through (our play script) after practice. I put a patch of turf in my basement, walk through it down there — I did that all summer, so that’s been there. I go over the play call sheet 100 times. I dot my plays that I want in case I do get to go into the game.”

Lock’s last start came in the final game of the 2020 season, when the Broncos lost 32-31 to the Raiders at home. Lock was 25 of 49 with 339 yards passing and two touchdowns in the defeat.