Five things to watch as Lions face Broncos

The Detroit Lions wide receivers

The Lions, absolutely decimated by injury, are out to break their seven-game losing streak at Denver today. It will be a tough assignment.

The Broncos (5-9) have won two of their last three, while the Lions’ roster features 16 players on injured reserve including Matthew Stafford, Jarrad Davis and Marvin Jones Jr.

It’s not anywhere close to the lineup that started the season, but it gives the younger, inexperienced players a chance to prove their worth.

Still, the Lions are out to win just like every week.

Running back Kerryon Johnson will return from injured reserve. Will be interesting to see how effective he can be along with Bo Scarbrough who is expected to return from his rib injury.

With Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia getting the vote of confidence for another season, it’s a different scenario than in recent weeks when there was speculation that the duo could be shipped out due to the mounting losses. 

Five things to watch:

1. David Blough will get his fourth start with the absences of Matthew Stafford and Jeff Driskel. In the first three, the rookie quarterback threw for three touchdowns and five interceptions. Last week in the loss to the Bucs, he threw two picks (one returned for a touchdown) and no touchdowns.

2. Wide receiver Danny Amendola appears to be the go-to receiver for David Blough. He needs 49 receiving yards in these final two games to surpass his season best of 689 (in 2010 with St. Louis). Amendola, who is not used to losing so many games, still gives it his all. “I think it’s pretty easy to see Danny on the football field on game day, how tough, how hard he plays. He just continually works all 60-minutes of the game. He is definitely one of those guys that maybe – he’s not necessarily sure when his number is going to be called or when the ball is going to come his way, but he’s going to run everything like it’s going to be his way every time,’’ Patricia said. “Certainly, he does a lot of dirty work in the run game too. He’ll go in there, and he’ll throw his body around and try to make some really difficult blocks in both the run and the pass game if we’re asking him to do that stuff. I think that’s just the mentality that you love to have as a coach.’’

3. With Davis out, more is on the plate of rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai. “His confidence in knowing what the calls are, knowing what the responsibilities are, getting that communicated to the rest of the defense, handling the adjustments and the changes,’’ Patricia said. “It’s certainly, through playing the course of a season, that kind of experience that goes along with that. I think he’s handled that really well. The biggest thing for me with him is just, he’s been consistent since Day 1.’’

4. Detroit’s defensive secondary, ranked 10th in the NFL, goes against the Broncos’ 30th best offense. Too bad “on paper” doesn’t count. Quarterback Drew Lock, who has started the last three games, completed just 45 percent of his passes last week against the Chiefs’ defense. “I think he’s a guy that has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s a competitive guy, which you love,’’ Patricia said. “I think he feels that he’s out there every single snap trying to prove something. I think he’s fearless in his play. He’ll really put the ball up and trust his guys to go make some plays for him, and he’ll throw his body around. From that aspect of it, you can see that, kind of maybe a little bit of that juice, that fire that he brings to that offense right now.”

5. It’s not so much the Xs and Os for the coaches, it’s finding a way to keep the Lions motivated when nothing is on the line — even Patricia’s job. “There is just a younger age bracket of guys that are playing in the NFL. Certainly, there are the highs and the lows that they can get trapped into, and understand they’re certainly more, I would say, accessible or aware of maybe the things that are going on outside of our world. Sometimes that stuff affects them, and I try to do the best I can to just keep it consistent, keep the message consistent, keep our environment consistent, so that there is some sort of just constant that they can always rely upon,’’ Patricia said.

PREDICTION: Broncos 31, Lions 17. 

Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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