Why Broncos' Drew Lock needs to learn to play it safe sometimes

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos like courage in the pocket, big throws up the sideline and confidence when things get tight. They like swag. They have all those things in quarterback Drew Lock.

"Drew's great, man," said Broncos safety Justin Simmons after Sunday's 18-12 victory over the New England Patriots. "... I've said it a lot ... I don't know how else to explain it, but he has like that swag, that it factor. You can just, like, believe in a guy like him when he's out there."

The Broncos are 6-3 in games Lock has started, including Sunday's win at New England. They push the ball down the field a little more when he's in the lineup; they show a little more big-play pop. But for Lock to keep developing, they also need him to know the bold choice is not always the right choice.

Lock needs to play it safe sometimes. He has been injured twice in his two NFL seasons. In both instances he was chased down from behind by faster defenders while trying to keep a failing play alive. His two interceptions Sunday, on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter when the Broncos were protecting a lead, were both in Denver territory. Those interceptions nearly led to a loss.

Lock completed 10 of 24 passes for 189 yards with a passer rating of 34.9 against the Patriots. He was quick to point the finger at himself Sunday, especially on the first of the two interceptions, when he tried a back-shoulder throw to Tim Patrick and Patrick was unaware it was going to be a back-shoulder throw -- "100% on me," Lock said.

When Lock was asked to describe his feelings as the defense tried to stop the Patriots in the final minutes after each of the interceptions, Lock said, "Very, very anxious. That's our offense, though, we're going to take shots when they're there ... me and Tim, we'll work on it this week. If I just throw it the way I've been throwing it the whole game, fit it in the whole shot ... we're fine, I'm not able to throw the second pick, we hold the ball, possibly score, kick a field goal and I'm sipping Gatorade on the sideline, relaxing, instead of biting my nails."

That's the side of Lock coach Vic Fangio and Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway have talked about: the ability to maintain confidence through mistakes and the desire to go make another play.

About that quality, Elway has said, "You don't want to make those mistakes over and over again as a quarterback -- that doesn't help your football team -- but you can't be afraid to make the throws that will win you the game, either. There's a line there and it takes some time, and you're going to take some lumps while you try to find it."

For his part, Lock has to stay on the field to find that line. He lost eight weeks of his rookie season after he tried to run out of the pocket in the preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, was chased down from behind and suffered a thumb injury on this throwing (right) hand.

And this season, before Sunday's start, he missed two games and most of a third, when he was chased down from behind by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree in Week 2 and suffered a right shoulder injury.

"We just make him aware of it," Fangio said last week. "I think a better word than art is instinct. Hopefully that is something that will come through playing and playing more snaps and being put in that position. Both times he's been hurt have been very similar where he is outside the pocket and going down. I think it becomes instinct, and I think it's good that he studies other players that have been able to avoid it."

Lock says he's taken time over the past three weeks to "self-scout." On Monday, Fangio said Lock looked "normal" in his return to the field and the coach did not have health concerns. But mentally, it's important moving forward that Lock get better at picking the plays he can't save, for his own health as well as his team's fortunes.

"Being able to watch myself and watch guys other than myself, I got to learn a lot about how to be better," Lock said. "That's something that I took from this injury and being able to be better going forward is just watching myself a little bit closer. Whether that's technique or subtle habits that I have, just being able to critique myself a little bit better after games. And now I can go into games with a better mindset than what I had the previous week as far as how this offense goes, how we're going to roll and how I need to play as a quarterback."