On a day where the Denver Broncos slumped out onto the field and punted on their first three possessions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, the team found themselves facing a 10-0 deficit before the midway point of the first quarter.
During those first three possessions, the drives were hindered by poor execution, three holding calls on Garrett Bolles, and two more on Elijah Wilkerson. Wilkerson would be injured on the third possession and wouldn’t play the rest of the game.
After giving up the punt return, the Broncos strung together a 75-yard, nearly five-minute drive that ended with a touchdown run by Royce Freeman to bring the score to 10-7.
The Lions then went three-and-out, giving the ball back to the Broncos with five minutes before halftime. The Broncos walked down the field methodically and kicked a field goal to tie the game with 25 seconds before the half.
The Broncos recovered from a slow start and calmly climbed out of the hole to get back into the game.
In the second half, the Broncos would score on three of their four possessions including two fourth-quarter touchdowns that would break an agonizing streak of 11 straight games without one.
The defense would surrender only seven second-half points, forcing two punts and a turnover on downs late in the game.
The Broncos pass defense was spectacular this game holding David Blough to 12-of-24 passing for 117 yards and a touchdown. He would be sacked four times, have four passes defended, and would be hit six times.
The Lions were consistently able to run the ball, however, to the tune of 21 carries for 96 yards with a 4.6 yards-per-carry average which again, isn’t good enough for the Broncos defense. The Lions offensive line was able to surge win the line of scrimmage. Luckily for the Broncos, the Lions didn’t run the ball often enough.
This victory for the Broncos was a complete team effort where the offense and defense played complementary football, turnover-free offense, and stout defense. The problem for the Broncos this game was the punt unit and the penalties.
The Broncos will play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday with a chance to both play spoiler to their playoff hopes, as well as finish the season 7-9, one game better than a year ago. The Broncos last played the Raiders on opening day in Oakland, so this game will be a good opportunity to show growth and player development.
Phillip Lindsay – Phillip is now 46 yards from his second consecutive 1000-yard rushing season. Against the Lions, he put up a 19-carry, 109-yard, one touchdown and two catches for nine yards performance. Lindsay had a 5.7 yards-per-carry average and finally broke some big runs.
Dre’Mont Jones – The rookie has quietly had a great season at defensive tackle, against the Lions he recorded two sacks and four tackles and was creating pressure throughout the day.
DaeSean Hamilton – Easily his best day as a Denver Bronco, where he was targeted six times, had six receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. He was Drew Locks go-to man over the middle and made some big-time catches. Super excited to finally see him have a good game.
Drew Lock – He didn’t throw for a ton of yards, only 192, but he rebounded nicely from the disappointment in KC last week, he played turnover-free football for the first time in his career, his completion percentage was great, he didn’t take a single sack, made plays with his feet and threw a touchdown pass.
Lock is 3-1 as a starter for the Broncos this year, he’s been quarterback when the Broncos scored the three highest amounts all season, and he’s just getting started. The future for Lock is bright.
Colby Wadman and the punt coverage unit – There have only been eight punt returns for touchdowns on the year in the entire NFL, and the Broncos have had two against them. Desmond King of the Chargers and Jamal Agnew both returned one on the Broncos. I have been against Colby Wadman all season, but this is just another attestation to his poor play. Rarely is there enough hang time on his punts to allow the coverage to converge, and his placement isn’t good enough. The announcers Sunday even said, Colby Wadman is in the bottom quarter of almost all punt statistics in the league.
Alexander Johnson – He’s had a relatively quiet month of December after bursting onto the scene in November. He hasn’t had a double-digit tackle game, which is strange for a guy that was just named PFF player of the month for November. He had three tackles, two of them solo, and the run defense wasn’t good enough.
Noah Fant – He was reportedly battling the flu all week and his productivity was going to be questionable, so he could get a pass on his two catches for 10 yards, but I was hoping he would rebound from a bad game against KC and build on his already Broncos record-breaking rookie campaign. Many have high expectations for Fant so quiet games are disappointing.
Courtland Sutton – Nothing really against Courtland, but Darius Slay had a field day defending against the Broncos number one receiver. Slay batted down two would-be touchdown passes to Sutton and was primed to pick off a third had the safety not batted the ball away. Courtland still had five catches for 42 yards and drew a couple of pass interference penalties for a productive day, but Slay definitely made more big plays. Perhaps the loss should fall more on Drew Lock who could have placed the passes better, but I wanted to shout out Slay for his big day.