Denver Broncos second-year quarterback Drew Lock doesn't have to look over his shoulder following a four-interception game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, but coach Vic Fangio made it clear Lock doesn't have any place to hide either.
Six losses into a season that is now teetering on the edge of another double-digit-defeat slog, Lock's ability to sink or swim in the coming weeks will be watched closely.
"We're committed to Drew -- the more he can play, the better he'll be," Fangio said following a 37-12 loss to the Raiders. "... He's got to fight through this ... and we're going to continue to play him."
Lock made his 12th career NFL start Sunday. In the carousel that is the Broncos' quarterback situation over the past four seasons, that is already more than Paxton Lynch started but not quite as many as Case Keenum.
Deep down, Lock's struggles are not a shock to the Broncos or any talent evaluator in the league. He's facing very real, very legitimate items on his young quarterback to-do list that need repair or Lock will simply have more days like Sunday.
Against the Raiders, Lock completed 23 of 47 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown with the four interceptions, which played a rather enormous role in the outcome of the game.
"You're definitely frustrated after a day like that," Lock said. "Lot of stuff we need to work, lot of stuff we need to get better at. Just got to keep pushing, got to keep practicing, man."
Lock is completing just 55% of his passes -- last among the league's starters -- has 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 66.5, which puts him ahead of only Sam Darnold. All 10 of Lock's interceptions have come since his Week 6 return from a right (throwing) shoulder injury, and six of the interceptions have come in the past eight quarters. His confidence and his ability to navigate this part of the learning curve are a real concern.
"I have a very real mindset -- I realize that it was not very good [Sunday] and it hasn't been very good the past couple weeks," Lock said. "Doesn't get better if you dwell on it."
Lock has not shied away from the spotlight or ducked any part of the criticism. On Sunday, he admitted the Raiders' defensive plan was "pretty normal" and one "that we were expecting." He admitted to missing open receivers and even offered that some of the long list of hits he took were hits he should have seen coming and avoided.
At one point in the first half, Lock took two big hits, the kind that can threaten a season, one from Raiders' defensive end Arden Key and the other from defensive end Clelin Ferrell (who was flagged for a personal foul on the play). He was visibly affected as the first half drew to a close, enough so that Fangio said he told the team's offensive coaches to keep a "close eye" on how Lock physically looked in the second half.
"I'm fine -- I'll be good," Lock said after the game.
"This organization doesn't pay me, this fan base doesn't cheer us on, for me to quit on anything. They'll have to carry me off the field."
Fangio reaffirmed that Lock wasn't alone in delivering an offensive performance that resulted in fewer than 20 points for a fifth time this season. A rushing attack with 19 carries (only four by Phillip Lindsay) and another game plan from offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, certainly hindered by the turnovers, contributed to another slow start.
But Fangio was not protecting Lock or his confidence on Sunday night.
"Four interceptions, you can't win turning the ball over that much," Fangio said. "Everybody's fingerprints are on that performance -- coaches, players, we all have to take a good, hard look at it ... There's only one way to rebuild [Lock's confidence]: You've got to go back to work and he's got to start experiencing good play."