ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the aftermath of the Broncos' 19-17 win over the Green Bay Packers, All-Pro safety Justin Simmons shared a few words in the locker room with the defense's unlikely hero, backup safety P.J. Locke. At the end of the fourth quarter, Locke bolted across the field to intercept a deep pass from Packers quarterback Jordan Love to secure the win, and Simmons made sure to express his admiration for the play to the longtime special teamer.
"I told him after the play when we got back in the locker room and we were celebrating, I was like, 'I like to pride myself on a little bit of my range at times, but I don't even know if I would have made that play, man — you had some real gas,'" Simmons said after Wednesday's practice. "That was just a heck of a play, and I'm so proud of him."
Simmons also said that Locke's spectacular play was no fluke, but rather the byproduct of a tireless work ethic and preparation.
"It's just meticulous attention to detail and execution, and that's what will happen for him," Simmons said. "More plays like that are coming for him, for sure."
Head Coach Sean Payton also attested to Locke's work ethic and said Locke will be involved in the Broncos' defensive packages.
"He's smart, he's got good ball skills," Payton said. "I was pleased that he had his first NFL interception. I gave him a hard time — I wanted to make sure there was one prior at Texas and he reassured me there was. He's someone that grinds on it, works at it, but … there will be a handful of packages that I think you have to have when you play [the Chiefs]."
Locke has his focus directed ahead toward the Broncos' test on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Though Denver's defense fared well in the teams' first matchup in Week 6, Locke said the matchup will require the Broncos to hone their attention to detail and sharpen their execution to earn a victory at Empower Field at Mile High.
"It's a prestigious offense, man," Locke said. "Andy Reid, that's a Hall of Fame coach, [the Chiefs have] got a Hall of Fame tight end and a Hall of Fame quarterback. Those guys [have] chemistry, and they know how to work the ins and outs of a defense and just get open. We just have got to [have] attention to detail. … We just [have] to focus on ourselves and our attention to detail and what we do."
Locke also said the Broncos are working to correct the execution errors they made in their first game against Kansas City, and he believes that cleaner execution will help Denver contend with the defending Super Bowl champions.
"There's plays that we left out there that we need to get corrected," Locke said. "I'm just huge on attention to detail. At the end of the day, if everyone [does their job] one to 11, we'll be all right."
Simmons said the attention to detail has become one of Locke's strengths — even when he missed time due to injury — and compared the diligence of Locke's preparation to that of a backup quarterback who is attuned to the nuances of an offense.
He also added that Locke's ability to communicate well in the defensive backfield has made the fourth-year safety an invaluable contributor in the secondary.
"P.J. has done everything he can, week in and week out, even when he was on [injured reserve]," Simmons said. "He stayed late, came early, writing down notes. And I love his communication. … That's the number one thing I talk about. As long as we can communicate well, everything will take care of itself. I have no concerns with P.J.; P.J. is going to do a great job for us if he's called upon. I'm very excited about P.J. and his opportunity."