Remember last week? Good times.
The Detroit Lions couldn’t write a sequel to their storybook ending against the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, the Denver Broncos thrashed the Lions in a game that never felt close. While injuries and illnesses were the storylines entering the game, the Lions still have to face the fact that they are 1-11-1 and at the bottom of the league.
Here are three takeaways from that blowout.
Welcome to the show, Craig Reynolds
Without D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and Jamaal Williams (reserve/COVID-19), it seemed like the rushing attack would fall on the shoulders of Jermar Jefferson and Godwin Igwebuike. Instead, the star of the Lions’ loss was Craig Reynolds, and it wasn’t particularly close.
Igwebuike got the start, but it was the player dubbed “Netflix” by teammates that ran away with things. Reynolds went from training camp body to preseason star, but it wasn’t enough to secure a spot on the active roster. He’s been sitting on the practice squad ever since, but this game, he showed that he is an NFL-caliber player.
Reynolds had just 11 carries, but he turned it into 83 yards. Adding two catches for 16 yards, and Reynolds fell just shy of the 100 total yards mark. Had the Lions not fallen behind so early, he could have been a bigger factor. He was the most consistent weapon on offense, providing a dynamic spark whenever he touched the ball. Igwebuike, meanwhile, had two fumbles but just one lost, since he was barely out of bounds on the second. In contrast, he ran for just 25 yards on 8 carries.
Igwebuike has a nice story as well, but Reynolds might have played himself onto the roster today. It is worth noting that Jefferson had zero snaps on offense, a sign that he likely wasn’t fully healthy. Jefferson may return to his regular role in the coming weeks, but Reynolds has shown that he deserves a portion of those snaps too.
A week after a feel-good victory, the fortunes of the Detroit Lions turned very quickly. Entering the week, the Lions had a COVID-19 outbreak, sending many starters—including Jamaal Williams, Tracy Walker, Evan Brown, and Ifeatu Melifonwu—to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Add in a completely different sickness spreading throughout the roster, and the Lions hardly got a practice in as a team. Things were looking grim heading into their game against the Broncos.
It only got worse.
Jerry Jacobs, the shining undrafted rookie, suffered a potentially serious injury early in the game. Jacobs was immediately ruled out of the game, a bad sign for anyone. To add to the injury woes, Alex Anzalone got hurt in the first half. A captain of the defense, Anzalone led the team in snaps entering this game, and relays the play calls to the defense. Without him, the Broncos ran down the Lions' throat to the tune of 184 yards. The loss of Anzalone was a key factor, as the likes of Derrick Barnes, Josh Woods, and Anthony Pittman were left to fill the void. The Lions lost two significant contributors on defense and things fell apart suffered.
It’s tough to have many negative takeaways about this game because the Lions were in such a bad situation. When you’re missing that many players throughout the week, how can you expect a well-organized performance? The Lions we saw today were a shadow of the usual lineup. That being said, it doesn’t excuse every facet of this team.
Another second quarter mirage
The Lions emerged with a victory last week against the Minnesota Vikings, but if it weren’t for a second-quarter outburst, it’s unlikely Detroit wins that game. Against the Broncos today, the second quarter mirage took centerstage again. This time, however, it wasn’t enough to secure a win.
The Lions only managed 10 points in the second quarter, but that’s a positive given their track record. A seven-play, 75-yard drive resulted in a stylish touchdown play to Kalif Raymond. The ensuing drive, an eleven-play, 57-yarder, only yielded a field goal, but the Lions were moving the ball efficiently despite multiple injuries and illnesses. Reynolds was rumbling and Goff was making some good throws. After a poor start to the game, the Lions entered halftime down by just seven points.
The problem is that the second-quarter offense is a flash in the pan. Yet again, the Lions' offense fell flat, allowing their opponent to run away with things. The Broncos scored 21 points in the second half. Detroit managed zero. They had a 16-play, 71-yard drive—eating up a whopping eight minutes of clock—that resulted in nothing.
I feel like a broken record, but until the Lions can play a full 60-minute game, wins will be hard to come by. The Broncos are far from a good team, yet they were able to bulldoze the Lions. You can’t be too critical of the Lions given the number of missing players, but this is becoming a concerning trend.