Routed by Bills, Broncos' Drew Lock running out of time

DENVER -- In a season of glimpses for the Denver Broncos -- of youth, athleticism, glimpses of, maybe, hope down the road -- quarterback Drew Lock once again showed flashes of the really good and made other plays that simply can't be a part of the equation.

The Buffalo Bills flexed their playoff muscles Saturday in a 48-19 victory over the Broncos in Empower Field at Mile High. And in doing so Bills quarterback Josh Allen showed exactly what a young, hard-working, big-armed, make-a-play guy can do for a franchise.

Allen's four-touchdown day -- two rushing, two passing -- showed his array of talents. And all from a guy who was, last year, where Lock is now -- near the bottom of the league in completion percentage with many wondering if he could make the jump.

The bottom line now is Lock, who started his 16th career game Saturday, has two more weeks to make a lasting impression before the clock officially opens on the Broncos' offseason.

On one hand, his touchdown pass to Noah Fant in the final seconds of the first half was as good a throw as he's made this season, and the play cut the Bills' lead at the time to 21-13. The result was still undetermined.

On the other hand, his fumble in the third quarter was his 16th turnover this season. When Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes returned the fumble for a touchdown, the Bills' lead was suddenly 35-13. It was another log on the growing fire of things that have gone wrong when Lock has tried to run out of trouble, including his shoulder injury in Week 2 against Pittsburgh.

In the big picture, the Broncos' offense has flashed its youthful potential with Fant, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver KJ Hamler, wide receiver Tim Patrick and earlier this season with tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. But Lock, until president of football operations/general manager John Elway says otherwise, is where the jury is still out.

Is 16 starts enough to make a call? Probably not, especially if the model for patience was Allen, now in his third year, playing well beyond his first two. But Paxton Lynch started four games before the Broncos made a call there, and it was clear long before that.

That's why games against the Chargers and Raiders over the next two weeks don't just count double, as players often say, because they're division games. To Lock, they just might mean a little more.

Two words: Not. Special.

Again, the Broncos' special teams muted much of any good it did with bad timing. The group recovered a muffed punt in the first half but the 53-yard kickoff return the Broncos allowed to open the second half almost instantly turned a one-score game into a rout.

Not much went right after the Broncos' momentum disappeared after that play.

Troubling trend: Few statistical items weigh as heavy on the fortunes of an NFL team as turnovers, and the Broncos' season has been an extended, soul-crushing, dance mix of turnovers. Week after week, game after game.

They entered the game last in the league in turnover margin and their lone turnover Saturday formally swept away any crumbs of optimism.

Biggest hole in game plan: The Broncos' hopes of running the ball and controlling the clock were hindered by Phillip Lindsay's sore hip and Melvin Gordon's sore shoulder -- both were limited in practice this past week.

The Broncos had 14 carries, with limited success, in the first half, and after Andre Roberts' kickoff return and Lock's fumble in a grand, third-quarter meltdown that also included rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia's inexplicable personal foul, the only meaningful opportunity to run for the Broncos was to the locker room after the game.