DENVER – Villain isn’t a role that seems to suit Drew Lock’s sunny personality.
Yet it’s one he’s enthusiastically embracing as his Denver Broncos prepare to host his hometown Kansas City Chiefs, likely in the snow this weekend.
“It is cool to be able to put the Darth Vader mask on and steer away from the Jedi and come to the dark side, so to say, over here in Denver,” said Lock, the second-year quarterback from the University of Missouri. “I kind of like playing that guy. Hopefully, I can be that guy and get a win this Sunday and jumpstart the rivalry a little bit.”
“Toy Story” might better fit Lock’s disposition than “Star Wars.”
When he won his first start last year, his teammates razzed the rookie by nicknaming him “Buzz Lightyear” because the large white wristband he wore to help him remember the play calls resembled the Disney icon’s forearm laser beam.
Lock played along, pressing the wristband after touchdown throws the rest of the way. He never got the chance to do that at Kansas City in his only loss in five starts, however, because the Broncos fell 23-3 at snowy Arrowhead Stadium in mid-December.
Sunday’s game marks the first time Lock will see a team for the second time, although the Chiefs have long been the team that he knows all about.
“Of course, you automatically become the bad guy if you’re from Kansas City and you go play for Denver,” Lock said. “It just amplifies it even more that I went to the University of Missouri. ... It’s one of those things that’s like, ‘Do I put on my Broncos jersey to walk around Kansas City?’ Without a doubt I do.”
It would be easier for him to strut around the trendy Power & Light District next offseason if Lock can end Kansas City’s stranglehold on the series.
The Chiefs (5-1) have beaten the Broncos (2-3) nine consecutive times.
“It’d be nice to snap that streak,” said Lock, who returned last week from a strained rotator cuff that sidelined him for a month, and became the youngest quarterback ever to win at Gillette Stadium.
“We want to take that next step, this is a team you have to take that next step against,” Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb said.
The Broncos are double-digit underdogs, and in keeping with the theme, Broncos coach Vic Fangio said the Chiefs are the NFL’s best because coach Andy Reid has “such a Star Wars offense over there” led by Patrick Mahomes.
“A lot of weapons, a lot of speed, and a great quarterback who is operating this offense at a very, very high level,” Fangio marveled. “He’s very hard to sack, he doesn’t throw interceptions, or very rarely does. The guy is at the top of his game.”
Like their AFC West brethren, the Broncos focused on adding speed last offseason in hopes of catching up to Kansas City’s high-powered offense. General manager John Elway ended his long search for a QB and instead built around Lock, selecting wide receivers with his first two draft picks and adding tight end Albert Okuwuegbunam, Lock’s teammate at Missouri, in the fourth round.
The Broncos, however, are still waiting to hit that boost button because first-round pick Jerry Jeudy is facing premier cornerbacks with Courtland Sutton (knee) out for the year, and second-rounder KJ Hamler is spending more time rehabbing hamstring strains than pulling in passes.
Other subplots Sunday when the Chiefs seek their sixth straight win in Denver:
Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for a career-best 161 yards when the Chiefs ran 45 times for 245 yards Monday at Buffalo, the most since Andy Reid took over prior to the 2013 season.
“Believe it or not, they’re a better offense than they were last year because of the addition of Edwards-Helaire,” Fangio suggested.
Le’Veon Bell, who was released by the New York Jets, is expected to play his first game with the Chiefs on Sunday. Bell had to go through a week’s worth of COVID-19 testing before he was allowed to practice on Wednesday, but coach Andy Reid said he will likely have a small package of plays that are designed with Bell in mind.
“Having an opportunity to play with coach Reid is going to be magnificent,” Bell said.
The Chiefs-Broncos rivalry pits one of the game’s most innovative offensive minds in Reid with one of the league’s most creative defensive schemers in Fangio. And they have mutual admiration.
Fangio said he was happy to see Reid finally win a Super Bowl in his 366th game as head coach. Reid said it’s a good thing Mahomes is more patient this season, “which becomes a huge thing if you’re facing Vic’s defense because he does everything. He’s going to throw the kitchen sink at you with different looks, so you better be on your game that day.”