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Playing in KC is no gift this time of year for the Broncos

Decembers not to remember for Denver in Arrowhead
Posted: 1:47 PM, Dec 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-12 16:23:36-05

ENGLEWOOD — Drew Lock looks like a quarterback out of central casting. Spike in his hair, big smile, doses of confidence and an arm that throws a football so hard it whistles in flight. This is a kid who is not daunted by playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos. He embraces the spotlight even as confronts an ominous history this Sunday. Lock aims to become the first Broncos rookie to win his first three starts. He is also attempting to join an exclusive club as only the fourth Broncos signal-caller to win in Kansas City in December.

The Broncos own a 3-17 record at Arrowhead Stadium this month. Maybe it's time to ask their Secret Santa for some Lady Luck or just another breathtaking performance from Lock. The former Missouri star's confidence has given the team a shot of espresso.

"Quarterbacks, and I have been around a lot of them. The good ones have that glow about them and Drew definitely has that," Von Miller told me when I asked about Lock's impact. "He gets along with everybody in the locker room. He's just a cool guy. The moment is never too big for him. He's confident enough. All quarterbacks who make it to the NFL were The Man somewhere. He has that. But he's just a beast, a rockstar in the making."

Through two games, Lock has completed 40 of 55 passes for 443 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He averages 8.1 yards per attempt compared to 7.0 for Joe Flacco and 6.1 for Brandon Allen. Fans see him as providing hope. A longtime season ticket holder told me at the grocery store on Tuesday, "Drew is making it fun to watch the games again." Two wins, one nickname -- Buzz Lightyear -- and a gaggle of jerseys in the team store, his No. 3 in orange arriving this week with more on the way.

"He really worked hard during his time while he wasn't playing," offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello said. "He's improved his footwork and his throwing mechanics."

It has turned an acoustic team playing out the string into an electric club with eyes on creating momentum for next season. As impressive as Lock's win at Houston was -- he is the first rookie ever to throw for at least 300 yards and three touchdown passes in his first road start -- the challenge Sunday remains daunting. Not only is he going home, trying to slay the team he rooted for until he was drafted by Denver last spring, but he's doing it in an environment that is loud and cold.

The only quarterbacks to triumph in December in Kansas City are Peyton Manning (2013), Kyle Orton (2009) and John Elway (1994) (It's like a Sesame Street skit, "One of these things is not like the others).

Manning, not surprisingly, posted the best performance. He silenced the Chiefs 35-28, completing 22 of 35 passes for 403 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also represents the last Broncos QB to win in Kansas City, rallying Denver to a 31-24 win on Sept. 17, 2015.

Kyle Orton, remembered in Broncos' history for his Eeyore personality and as the guy who stood in Tim Tebow's way of starting, connected on 15 of 25 passes for 180 yards, two touchdowns and one pick in a 44-13 win. And John Elway eclipsed Kansas City in 1994 by completing 18 of 22 passes for 256 yards, one score and no interceptions.

Lock knows his way around Arrowhead Stadium. He lives roughly 10 minutes away in Lee's Summit, has been to countless games and played against Brigham Young there in 2015, helping snap a four-game losing streak one day after Tigers coach Gary Pinkel announced he had non-Hodgkin lymphoma and would resign after the season. Lock threw for 244 yards, then a career-high, and a score.

This time will be different. He will have 50 or so family and friends in the stands. He needs them on his side given the thankless task.

"I hope that if they walk in there with a Broncos jersey that’s got a ‘3’ on it that they only cheer for the Broncos because I would appreciate that a lot," Lock said. "It’s already going to be loud enough as is, so maybe if we can turn over 50 of the Chiefs fans that would have been in there, it’ll help us out in the long run.”

Simmons named Man of Year
Safety Justin Simmons never misses a teammates' community event. He was raised, he told me, to give back and help others, empowered by his faith. Thursday, he was rewarded as the Broncos Walter Payton Man of the Year.

"It is humbling. I was in complete shock. I had no idea I would be even close to getting it," Simmons said. "There are so many guys who are deserving on this team. To be recognized, it's truly a humbling experience."

Von Miller was presented with the Community Impact Award while Chris Harris Jr., Joe Jones, Brandon McManus and Will Parks received Community Ambassador Awards. Dalton Risner was selected as the Community Rookie of the Year.

Footnotes
Defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones (ankle) is pushing to play this week. He worked on the side with trainers on Thursday. Noah Fant, dealing with a foot injury, did limited work in practice and remains hopeful of starting. ... Right tackle Ja'Wuan James did not practice Thursday, casting into question how much he will play the rest of the season. He logged 31 snaps on Sunday, leaving him with 63 on the season, but he has not been able to practice since.