David Montgomery was noticeably absent from the Detroit Lions’ game plan in their loss to the Bears last week. Monty would finish the day with just 10 carries, although he tallied three receptions as the Lions tried to claw back late in the game.
It’s no surprise, considering the flow of the game. The Lions love leaning on Montgomery to salt things away once they have a healthy lead in hand, and that simply never happened against the Bears. On the contrary, Montgomery’s three 100-yard rushing games this year have come against the Packers, Panthers, and Chargers. Not coincidentally, those games featured Lions leads of 24, 25, and 14 points, respectively.
Last week’s loss to the Bears was a clear reminder of how this offense functions best: from ahead. Opposing teams have noticed that, and that’s probably why we’re seeing more instances of opponents electing to receive when they win the coin toss, as the Bears did. Surely after the mess of an offense we witnessed, Ben Johnson has remembered that too, and it’ll be a focal point of Saturday night’s game against Denver.
Bold prediction of the week: David Montgomery rushes for 80+ yards, multiple TDs against Denver Broncos
The boon of running with David Montgomery in obvious running downs is that he’ll still find a way to get you 3-5 yards and keep you on track. The Lions opted to use their early downs to try for home runs instead in recent weeks, with handoffs to Sam LaPorta, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, and of course, plenty to Jahmyr Gibbs. While they were often fruitful, if they weren’t, the Lions found themselves off schedule for the rest of the downs, often ruining drives.
While Montgomery doesn’t give you the same home-run potential by running into three yards and a cloud of dust, he does give you three yards, and that keeps the offense on schedule. Keeping the offense on schedule is mandatory for the Lions keeping the game even early, especially against a Broncos offense that has been improving week by week under Russell Wilson and Sean Payton. As such, I’d expect the Lions to feed Montgomery early and often.
I don’t think the Lions will run away with a lead by any means. Vance Joseph’s defense has come a long way from giving up 70 points to the Dolphins. They’ve turned things around quite a bit, and no opponent has scored more than 22 points against them since Week 5 of the season.
That has largely been fueled by a turnaround in their pass defense, though. Their run defense remains porous, and has allowed the most rush yards in the league through 14 weeks. That’s great news for the Lions offense, especially if Ben Johnson continues to moderate the passing game this week.
Ultimately, it’s a good enough matchup that if the Lions keep the run game simple, they’ll stay on track and in the game. I don’t think the Lions passing game will have recovered enough to be notably better than last week, especially against a pass defense like the Broncos have. I think that lands David Montgomery in a sweet spot where he has a fruitful day on the ground but doesn’t receive the same volume of carries he would in a blowout. For that, I have him above the 80-yard rushing mark for what would be just the fourth time this season, and I’ll give him two rushing touchdowns for good measure.