The Detroit Lions came out of halftime with a late score, securing the ball with a chance to make it a game against the Denver Broncos in Week 14.
Detroit fell in a 14-0 first hole, then recovered and entered the break 17-10 behind. It was an impressive turnaround from a roster comprising seven players on the COVID roster, missing its two best running backs and best wide receiver. Andre Swift (shoulder) missed his second straight start, while Jamaal Williams landing on the COVID roster pushed security convert Godwin Igwebuike and Craig Reynolds, fresh off the practice squad, into meaningful action.
Reynolds took the first snap of the third quarter, running 5 yards. The man known as “Netflix” had eight carries for 64 yards at that time. Igwebuike hit the second and 5, running for 4 yards before fumbling with the Broncos taking over at the Detroit 36-yard line. The Broncos scored six games later, taking a 24-10 lead on their way to 24 unanswered points and a 38-10 victory.
It wasn’t just the fumble, with Lions quarterback Jared Goff throwing an interception and offense having scored just once on three trips to the red zone. In the second half, the Lions lost a fumble, returned the ball twice, threw an interception, and then the game ended in their final series. The Detroit defense allowed five touchdowns in five trips into the red zone, so things were going wrong.
“I don’t. You know. See. Here’s what, you know what I’m honestly thinking,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said when asked about the challenges of the week before. “We’re out. half time and we got some momentum and we just played two games in a row and we did really well, and we fumbled the ball. And I’m like ‘we can take it all that way and score a hit, so what? ‘ So what’s going on? You know? So it’s hard for me to say, “Well, it all turned on us.” I’m like, man, it is. It’s just that – – I can’t think of it that way. So listen, it wasn’t ideal and we made too many mistakes … It was just, you know, it wasn’t good enough.
Rookie Jermar Jefferson was active for that game but didn’t see the ball. Reynolds ran 11 times for 83 yards. Igwebuike ran eight times for 25 yards, losing one fumble and almost losing another. Campbell said Jefferson’s ankle and flu issues earlier in the week led to the role of Reynolds.
“He was in training. He’s been good, ”Campbell said of Reynolds. “I mean, Jermar had an ankle and everything. He started the week. It was another child who had the flu. So he wasn’t even there and we just trusted Craig.
The Lions were forced to split their roster in the week before their trip to Denver to contain a flu outbreak, with 21 players missing Thursday’s practice. Next, Williams landed on the COVID list, with starting security Tracy Walker doing the same to end the week. TJ Hockenson’s hand injury forced him out of the roster for the first time this season. Cornerback Jerry Jacobs and linebacker Alex Anzalone were eliminated from the game early, with two of the team’s remaining defensive starters suddenly missing.
Center Evan Brown, defensive back Ifetu Melifonwu, linebacker Tavante Beckett, cornerback Mark Gilbert and special-teams ace Bobby Price also missed the game on the COVID roster. Defenseman Julian Okwara (ankle) and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder) were inactive due to injuries.
“I just said the same thing to the team – it’s going to be hard for me to say that’s the problem,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t ideal what we needed to do, but we were ready to go into this game with the guys we had. We had a game plan ready to go. We knew what we had to do and we didn’t. Just too many mistakes or just there to make a game, and we don’t make the game. We weren’t good enough.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not a normal week. But we made the most of it and we went through it all and hiked it all. You just cook them the best you can and, in the end, watch. They did things there offensively – ran the ball pretty well. We couldn’t stop them. But then, offensively, man. We need to be able to step up, and we haven’t. We returned the ball. Look, we were in this game now. We were in the game. We go out after half-time. We return the ball in the third quarter. Talk about going down and scoring and taking the – we had a little momentum and we picked up the momentum and we did the exact opposite. So now we flip it over and they score.
See below for more on the inside of the locker room:
Lions RB Godwin Igwebuike on today’s release: “Today is definitely difficult. One thing I can admit and just learned is that football is a microcosm of life in many ways. You have your good and bad days, your good and bad seasons, your successes and your failures. I wouldn’t consider a failure today, but even that being said, I love this team, I love my teammates and to think that I was part of our downfall, obviously, is difficult for me personally. I love them to death. They continue to support me. I’ll keep my head up. I will continue to climb. Tomorrow is another opportunity to keep improving.
Campbell on his confidence in the team’s COVID protocols: “I would like to think that. I mean, damn it, we split the building up and, you know. Some of them entered by elevator on Tuesday. We didn’t even have the whole team there. And then Wednesday, we, you know, so I felt like we had already gone beyond that. It was for the flu, let alone COVID. So, yeah, I feel like we’re doing all we can do with what it is. I don’t know what else to do.
“I don’t know. I mean, the good thing is we all tested negative on the flight. The same group that played today, we were all negative and I hope it stays that way. We’ll be safe and tomorrow we’ll probably bring back the guys who are injured and need to be there. Everyone, I guess we’ll probably keep them at home. And then certainly we’ll hear the league. they say. They might not let anyone in the building. That is, I understand.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio on the tribute to Demaryius Thomas: “Obviously, they answered well, and it was obvious to me. I didn’t have the honor of knowing ‘DT’ (former Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas), but the people in our building, the 10 players and several coaches and workers in our building – and then you could just feel the outpouring of love and sorrow within the Denver community. We wanted to honor him in every way possible. I’d like to take credit for this 10-man idea, but it wasn’t me. But when they came to me with it, I said, “OK. Speaking to Dan Campbell, he agreed not to accept the penalty, which was a smart move on his part and the Detroit Lions. They are a classy organization. And John Hussey, the referee, was in on it, he knew it. But really, I think the credit goes to Patrick (Smyth), the Broncos’ communications director, I think he thought about the idea of doing it.
Lions QB Jared Goff on tough week leading up to: ” It does not matter. No one feels bad for us. No one feels sorry for us, including ourselves. We came out here with the intention of winning and failed. It didn’t matter who was in the field. We had the guys we believe in to win and made too many mistakes.
Goff on the feeling at the end of half-time: “I really had the momentum. It was 10-14 and we had that two minute drive where we couldn’t get any points on the board or anything. Then they were able to sort of get past the momentum, get three and then come out of the half – we still felt like we were in a good position. And then I couldn’t do anything.
“Yes, we went down there in tight red. I fall. We get drunk. I have trouble on the keeper on the left, then on the fourth down we can’t find a completion. So that’s, yes, a handful of things. All errors that can be cleaned up.
Lions RB Craig Reynolds on Hall Support: “Yeah, like I said, these guys are great leaders in the room. We all support each other. I took part in it, it’s my fourth team now, and it’s the most tight-knit running hall I’ve really been a part of. We are rooting for each other. We prepare ourselves every day. We work hard every day in training, we hold each other to a high standard. Like I said, I just wanted to go out there and just play hard for them, not be there, not be on the sidelines with us. I really felt like we missed them a bit, but I just tried to run hard for them. These are my guys.
Goff comparing this difficult season to his rookie year: “Yeah, I think you guys are learning a lot about it. You learn who you want in your corner and who wants in your foxhole. Like I said, I don’t think we would find anyone in that dressing room who wasn’t like that. But I’ve been on teams where you find a lot of guys in certain adversity situations and situations where it’s easier not to play and it’s easier to miss a game and it’s easier to tell. that you don’t want to play in a game because you have something going on. You learn a lot about guys.