He played loose and in control, the kind of performance the Broncos have been looking for out of their quarterback all season.
Which is why we went back to watch Brock’s 20 snaps—17 passes and three runs—to see what this can mean going forward in an uncertain Broncos quarterback room. A room that needs to be sorted through regardless of who starts in the final two regular-season games, as everything will be in play come the 2018 offseason.
Given all that, we couldn’t hold back, analyzing Osweiler this week was a must as he made his case.
Having seen all his snaps as a Bronco and lots of tape from his college days and in his one season as a Houston Texan, I’d say this was the best Osweiler’s footwork’s ever looked. That’s where the lanky veteran quarterback’s success started. His feet were connected to his arm, and he moved around well in the pocket working his way up the latter to get his feet under him on deep throws. His lower-body mechanics allowed him to throw the ball with more power and better accuracy, and it all showed.
He was cool in the pocket, processed information rapidly and was decisive, almost always making the right read.
That’s just what the Broncos needed, but what took Brock’s game to the next level, giving him the highest passer rating of any quarterback on the week, was his ability to attack the field vertically early and often. Brock picked his spots and was smart, going after one-on-one matchups and picking apart man coverage in the process.
Osweiler completed six-of-eight passes that traveled deeper than 15 yards in the air. The narrative on the former Broncos second-round pick out of Arizona State has always been his big arm and frame, but in reality, Osweiler’s never been an aggressive deep-ball thrower. Against Indianapolis, he was, and that’s really where his game was built. In the second quarter, he got things going with a deep pass to Demaryius Thomas to the sideline.
Where he really got going though was on a 2nd-and-16 pass that showed how much he’s matured as a quarterback. The play starts with Thomas communicating to Osweiler that the slot cornerback lined up in front of him is blitzing. Brock calmly executes the play-action fake, trusts C.J. Anderson to make the block on the blitzing slot corner, and navigates the pocket to deliver a perfect ball to Emmanuel Sanders on a crossing route. The ball placement on the pass was fantastic.
Brock’s ability to make pre-snap reads and stay cool under pressureis one of the biggest things that separates him from Lynch right now. He also played with more confidence than we’ve seen from any Broncos signal-caller just about all year.
His other big plays were the two touchdowns that really helped clinch things for Denver, as Brock took no prisoners and executed like a killer. The most impressive of the two was the second touchdown to Jeff Heuerman. Brock starts the play looking to the right of the field, looks off the deep safety and then comes back to lay a ball perfectly over the defenders' hands and into the basket allowing the tight end to run in space.
Brock’s eye manipulation was fun to watch. Even though he mostly worked off his primary read in this game, he did seem to read the deep safety to perfection most of the time, except for maybe one play which we cover here below.
Some of his throws weren’t always perfect, but Osweiler made proper reads and put the ball in spots for his playmakers to make plays.
Denver’s offense and more specifically the line played their best game of the year, or at least the last 10 weeks, and they were much better because of Brock. The quarterback’s quick decision making and alert pre-snap reads were key, as he was only sacked once on what looked like a busted run in which the QB only lost two yards. With Siemian in, the line struggled to the point that he was knocked out of the game, with Brock, they played their best game of the season.
His presence made a difference and lit a spark in this group, that was unexpected but very nice to see.
A fluke, or a sign of more to come?
Having a close to perfect game in relief, on a struggling offense, with a new offensive coordinator and few reps with the first team is pretty impressive. No one can take that away from Osweiler. However, putting things into context is paramount, especially as we consider Brock’s prospects in Denver going forward—he’s signed to a one-year contract and will be a free agent in the upcoming offseason.
First off, the defense the Broncos faced was far from exceptional as the Colts are second last in passing yards allowed in the NFL. On tape, you can see why, as Indianapolis just wasn't sticking with receivers or getting their heads turned around to contest passes in the back-seven. So take it all with a grain of salt.
Brock was also not perfect. With less than a minute left in the first half, he forced a pass that was behind down the sideline to Sanders. The Colts high-safety over the top was quick to react as the pass had too much air under it and if not for a collision with the corner could’ve come up with a costly interception.
To boot, in the first half, No. 17 only completed one of three third-down attempts and his one conversion came on his 3rd-and-9 touchdown scramble. While he did convert a fourth down. he did much more damage on 2nd-and-long instead. In the second half, he was a bit better converting two-of-five third-down opportunities. However, the lack of success in a limited sample size of passing third downs should be an indicator that all wasn't perfect.
In essence, Osweiler put together three drives. The first was a gutsy drive in the second quarter closed out by his touchdown run. The next two were defined by his big touchdown passes. After that, he was able to let the ground game take over from there. In drives outside of those three, his ball placement was behind receivers on several passes and his wideouts made good grabs to bail him out. He also worked off of his primary reads a lot.
Look, Brock played the kind of game that the Broncos have needed out of their quarterback all season; a game manager who could play clean football and take his shots when they came. And he didn’t just pick his spots, he made them count with big-time touchdown throws that got Denver over the top.
The offensive playmakers played great games, as did the line, and they fed off of Osweiler’s decisiveness. Brock certainly made his case and it would be nice to see more of him.
More importantly for Denver, while Osweiler might not be the answer as the franchise's quarterback of the future he did make his case as the backup going forward. Trevor Siemian is still locked in through the 2018 season, Brock isn’t. However, if the big man is going to play this well as the backup, and he’s this happy to be in Denver, trying to keep him at a low market value could make a lot of sense.
Denver will have plenty of decisions to make behind center this offseason, Osweiler’s Thursday night game only makes the debate that much more interesting.