After three weeks on the sideline, Drew lock reassumed control of the Broncos' offense on Sunday in an 18-12 win over the New England Patriots.
The second-year quarterback was ready to be back — and his teammates were glad to have him back, too.
"Drew is great," safety Justin Simmons said. "… Drew just has that swag factor and that 'it' factor where you can just believe in a guy like him when he's out there. He was playing great all day. I thought he made a lot of great throws."
Lock's stat line may not indicate the type of performance he enjoyed in his first career trip to Foxborough. He finished just 10-of-24 for 189 yards, two interceptions and a 34.9 quarterback rating. His completion percentage, interception total and quarterback rating were all career worsts.
But Lock also led the Broncos on six consecutive scoring drives, and he may well have had another hundred yards and two or three touchdown passes were it not for a few untimely drops by teammates.
"I thought Drew played well," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "He hadn't played since about the 10th play of the Pittsburgh game and didn't really practice until this week. I thought he looked good out there — and when I say that I mean I thought he looked comfortable. He didn't look like a guy who was coming back from injury. He wasn't tentative, he was out there playing football the way we want him to play."
After misfiring on deep passes in Week 1 against the Titans, Lock completed seven passes of at least 15 yards and found Tim Patrick for deep connections of 35 and 41 yards.
The 35-yarder, which came on third-and-21, may have been Lock's most impressive throw of the afternoon, as he dropped the pass in between two defenders where only Patrick could make the grab.
"We just felt like we could take those," Lock said of the deep passes. "That's the thing with our offense, that's the reason we drafted the guys that we did, that's the reason we kept the guys that we did — we feel like we can throw these shots, we feel like we can take these deep shots. Teams are going to have to be wary about that. They're going to have to have guys over the top to help and then if they do that, we'll run the ball. I think it's going to take two really, really good DBs on each side with good safety help to try to stop these guys from running by them. We're that confident in our athletes that we have here in Denver. I'm excited to keep progressing in the offense, keep learning, and keep figuring this thing out."
Lock was by no means perfect on Sunday.
His pair of fourth-quarter interceptions helped turn a sure Denver win into a nail-biter as the fourth quarter wound down.
The first came with just over five minutes to play as the Broncos were attempting to bleed time off the clock with a nine-point lead. He threw the pass as if he anticipated Tim Patrick to run a comeback route, while Patrick continued to head downfield. J.C. Jackson easily picked off the pass, and the Patriots added a field goal to cut the lead to six.
The worse play may have come on the next drive, when the Broncos led by six points with 3:23 to play and looked deep on the first play of the drive. Lock, again looking for Patrick, fired into double coverage down the field.
The ensuing few minutes were nerve-wracking for the young quarterback, who was hopeful his defense could come up with one more stop.
"[I was] very, very anxious," Lock said of how he felt as Cam Newton guided the Patriots down the field. "That's our offense, though — we're going to take shots when they're there. The first [interception] was 100 percent on me. From the look I saw, I felt I could have tried to squeeze it back shoulder and then of course the defender falls off. Tim and I will work on that this week. If I just throw it the way I've been throwing it the whole game, fit it in a hole in Cover 2, that was just man-to-man [coverage], just throw it like it did the first play of the game to Tim and it would have been fine. I wouldn't have been able to throw the pick. We would have held the ball, possibly score, kick another field goal and I would have been sipping Gatorade on the sideline, relaxing, instead of biting my nails."
He was able to relax, finally, when the defense forced an incompletion on fourth-and-10, and Lock was able to trot out to kneel out the clock.
"Obviously, the interceptions we don't want to have," Fangio said. "One I believe was a miscommunication, and I'll look at the other one on tape. I think it's a great learning experience for him and the entire team and hopefully we'll be better prepared to close out the next time we get a lead like that."
The Broncos did close out the game, no matter how it looked toward the end.
In the process, Lock improved to 6-2 in games in which he played the majority of the snaps. He also became the youngest quarterback in history to earn a win at Gillette Stadium.
While the completion percentage and passer rating could be better, that's certainly the stat Lock cares about most.
"As an offensive side of the ball and an offensive group, we have a lot to work on," Lock said. "We appreciate our defense and our special teams. It's a very bright future for us here, without a doubt, and I'm excited to keep working with these guys because we can be a special football team."