Five reasons the Lions lost to Broncos

Jamal Agnew returned a punt for a touchdown

The Lions extended their losing streak to eight games with a 27-17 loss at the Denver Broncos on Sunday. It was hardly a surprise. The Lions were big underdogs going in even though the Broncos (6-9) haven’t had a great season either.

The Lions fell to 3-11-1 and currently own the No. 3 draft pick.

Five reasons for the loss:

1. Detroit’s defense appeared to collapse in the fourth quarter. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. One key reason for the Lions’ sad-sack record is that they are unable to finish on defense or offense. The Lions held a 17-13 lead entering the fourth quarter and then the Broncos scored 14 unanswered points. The Lions forced several three-and-outs early in the game but apparently the Broncos’ offense made adjustments and the Lions couldn’t adjust.

2. Quarterback David Blough started out completing four-of-five passes on the opening possession that resulted in a Matt Prater field goal. The Lions’ only touchdown in the first half was courtesy of a 62-yard punt return by Jamal Agnew. The score was tied 10-10 at the half, but it felt like the Broncos had the momentum. Blough finished 12 of 24, 117 yards, 1 TD and a 78.0 rating. Kerryon Johnson made his return from injured reserve with 10 carries for 42 yards.

3. Blough was sacked twice in the loss to Bucs last week, but suffered double that in Denver. Part of that is on the injury-ridden offensive line, but also Blough can take some of the blame. He’s a rookie and it shows in his lack of pocket presence.

4. Kenny Golladay stretched out over the goal line for a third-quarter touchdown that gave the Lions a 17-13 lead. The wide receiver maintained control of the ball and the review confirmed the officials’ call on the field. He had six catches for 66 yards. Golladay set a new single-season career-high in receiving yards (1,118), passing his previous record of 1,063 set in 2018. 

5. If the Lions had a chance to win one of their final two games, this was it. They are at home against the Packers next Sunday. Could be an ugly Sunday at Ford Field but mercifully the season will be over. Merry Christmas.

(Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

 

 

Lions’ defense can’t contain Trubisky in loss to Bears; Driskel in for Stafford

The Lions had to win on Sunday to keep whatever weak chances they had of making the playoffs. Lousy play on both sides of the ball resulted in a 20-13 loss at the Chicago Bears.

Yes, the Lions were missing quarterback Matthew Stafford who was not cleared to play by doctors due to broken bones in his back. He had started 136 straight games. Jeff Driskel got the start. 

Here’s the thing, Stafford doesn’t play defense. 

The Lions dropped to 3-5-1 while the Bears (4-5) snapped their four-game losing streak. 

The Bears’ offense looked nearly Super Bowl worthy starting with their last possession in the second quarter and continuing through the third quarter – just long enough to do too much damage on the scoreboard. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who had been struggling this season, threw touchdown passes on three consecutive possessions. 

The Bears quarterback was nothing special in the first quarter, then he was transformed into more of what he looked like last season. It likely had something to do with going against the Lions’ defense, one of the worst in the NFL ((31st in yards allowed per game). Late in the third and into the fourth, the Bears were forced to punt four straight times. So give the Lions’ defense credit there.

After two Matt Prater field goals in the first half, Driskel connected with Kenny Golladay on a 47-yard touchdown play with 5:53 left in the fourth to cut the Bears’ lead to 20-13. Time was not on the Lions’ side. The Lions defense forced a punt on the Bears’ last possession and Detroit got the ball back with 1:48 left at their own 10-yard line but there just was not enough time to get to the end zone.

The Lions’ defense is missing key players (Tracy Walker, Da’Shawn Hand, Romeo Okwara). Sorry, no excuses. The Bears ranked 29th in the NFL in total offense (266.8 yards per game) before Sunday’s game. It was a game where the Lions’ defense should have stepped up and made a statement no matter who was playing

The Lions played the second half without running back Ty Johnson and right tackle Rick Wagner who were both tested for concussions. 

After Driskel completed his first five passes in the first quarter, he struggled which was expected. He started five games for the Cincinnati Bengals last year (going 1-4) but other than that the 26-year-old quarterback just doesn’t have the knowledge, the experience and feel for the game. He finished 27 of 46 for 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was also Detroit’s leading rusher with five carries for 37 yards. That also speaks volumes about the offense.

Several reports say that Stafford is week to week. He was on the sidelines, giving advice to Driskel. 

Up next: Dallas Cowboys at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17. (Dallas hosts the Vikings on Sunday night.)

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Lions QB Matthew Stafford among the best halfway through the season

Unlike the Lions, Matthew Stafford is having quite a season.

The Lions quarterback has thrived in the new offense created by coordinator Darrell Bevell. Of course, he’s got a tandem of wide receivers in Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay who have combined for 13 touchdown catches. And newcomer Danny Amendola has stepped in and been a good fit, averaging 12.1 yards per catch.

Stafford’s numbers are starting to draw attention across the league even as the Lions have faded, losing four of their last five.

He leads the NFL in passing yards per game (312.4) and yards per pass (8.6). Stafford’s 19 touchdowns are second only to Russell Wilson (22) who has played one more game. He’s fourth (2,499) in total passing yards. He has the most completions of 20-plus yards wit 41 and is the NFL leader with at least 3 touchdown passes in 5 games.

Whenever he’s asked about his game day accomplishments, the always humble Stafford says he would trade them in for a win. 

Next test for the Lions (3-4-1) is Sunday at the Chicago Bears (3-5). 

“I’ve always had the ultimate respect for Matt Stafford. Some of the throws that he’s made over his career are just ridiculous. I mean there are not many players in the NFL that can make the side-arm throws that he does on the run, running left throwing right, just putting it where no one else can get it,’’ Bears coach Matt Nagy said in a conference call this week. 

“He’s tough, he’s a competitor, and when he’s back there at the quarterback position, he’s scary because he can make any throw and you always have a chance with him,’’ Nagy added.

The Bears’ defense is its strength this season just like the Lions’ offense which has carried the team this season (although not quite enough).

Historically, Stafford has played well against Chicago.

He ranks fifth in career passing touchdowns against the Bears with 28 TDs in 18 games. He’s in good company in this category behind three Hall of Famers, and one future HOFer. First is Brett Favre with 60 in 36 games, second is Aaron Rodgers with 46 in 22 games, third is Fran Tarkenton with 40 in 28 games, fourth is Johnny Unitas with 33 in 23 games. Also, Stafford is fourth in most passing yards (4,741 in 18 games) behind Favre Tarkenton, and Rodgers.

Last season, he threw 21 touchdown passes in 16 games and now he stands at 19 at the halfway point. The difference? 

“I think we’ve done a nice job in the play-action game, making some big plays – those guys are making great plays down the field,’’ Stafford said. “The guys up front are giving me time to get it down there. I think we’ve done a nice job on third down staying on the field, which helps. We’re getting more plays and those guys on the outside are making great plays.”

Stafford’s no-look throws have been studied, tweeted and retweeted. He has two in the loss at the Raiders. It’s not something he has worked on.

“No, that’s full feel. I’m not like working on that in the offseason or anything. It’s more just feeling it in the game, trying to see as much as I can possibly see, and then obviously trying to get to the ball to our guys with space and let them go work,’’ Stafford said.

In his 11th season, he has plenty of trust in himself to make the unorthodox throws. “I think it’s a lot of trust, obviously – trust in what I’m seeing, trust in what they’re going to do when I put it out there,’’ Stafford said. “Those guys are doing a great job of catching it and coming down with it. They always know to be on their toes and be ready for the ball.”

He’s nearly on pace for a second 5,000-yard season. His first was in 2011. He’s one of just five NFL quarterbacks who have passed for more than 5,000 yards. The list includes Drew Brees who has done it five times, along with Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. Again, Stafford keeps good company.

Now if the Lions defense, which is ranked 31st in the NFL, would step up.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)