With the clock having just ticked past 10 minutes remaining in Sunday's game and visions of yet another improbable Denver Broncos comeback still dancing in his head, quarterback Drew Lock's back-foot, sidearm throw intended for wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was intercepted.
Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ricardo Allen returned the pick to the Broncos' 15, and the Falcons converted the mistake into a touchdown, taking a 34-13 lead. It took the wind out of the sails of another Broncos comeback, like the 21-point fourth-quarter turnaround they had last week against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Broncos, again, scored 21 points in the final quarter Sunday, but this time they came up a score short, 34-27.
Given another chance, or nine more chances even, Lock said he'd do it all again and that it is "embarrassing" he didn't make the play.
"I will throw that ball 10 times out of 10 to Jerry, that pick," Lock said. "I saw it, knew it was coming. The only guy that was going to look Jerry up on that route was either the safety if I overthrew it, [or] the guy underneath, and there's no chance that he had a chance to guard Jerry on that -- zero, none. I tried to backpedal, and that's a throw ... you're going to have guys get beat in front of you. You're going to have seven guys come when you only have six blockers.
"Jerry was open. It was a throw I can make -- I should make. It's embarrassing that I didn't."
Lock had his first 300-yard passing day of the season against the Falcons. Jeudy, with 125 yards on seven catches, had the first 100-yard day of his career. But the interception was a poorly timed decision on a day chock full of bad timing.
The Broncos, and Lock in particular, have made slow starts a habit. The Broncos trailed by at least 10 points at the half for the fifth time in the past seven games. Lock struggled in the first half, completing just seven of 14 passes for 98 yards. The Broncos' offense didn't have a possession longer than 2 minutes, 57 seconds in the first half on a day when its battered defense -- which started backups at both cornerback spots and all across the defensive line -- needed some protection.
"Well, we definitely have to get it remedied, that's for sure," said Broncos coach Vic Fangio. "When one side of the ball is struggling, the other side has to pick it up. And we weren't able to do that this week. We definitely have to start better on offense, start better on defense. ... I just thought our whole offense, not just Drew, was out of sorts in the first half in particular. We were struggling to move the ball, not making first downs, not scoring, and we've got to get that fixed."
"I'll never admit to it not being our day on offense because it should be our day every day with the guys we have and how confident I am with what I can do with the football," Lock said. "... We've got to figure out a way to get that done."
The Broncos can look forward to better days. Their two leading receivers on Sunday -- Jeudy and KJ Hamler -- are rookies and tight end Noah Fant, in his second year like Lock, was third in receiving yards. Jeudy, Hamler and Fant also accounted for all three of the Broncos' plays of over 30 yards in the game.
But Lock is losing his patience with youth, even his own, being part of the narrative as the losses mount.
"We did it again this week," Lock said. "... There's no magical potion for that to happen. It's going to come with work, and I think we're all ready to stop with the 'it's a part of the process' hoopla ... young guys, whatever. ... Everybody wants to be known for something and we need to stop being known as the team being down three scores in the fourth quarter and almost coming back to win. We need to be known as the team that comes out that they've been playing already for four quarters and do that in the first quarter."