Denver Broncos Blowout Loss to Detroit Lions | Westword

Were the Real Broncos Revealed in Blowout Loss to Lions?

Those playoff dreams are getting further away.
Sean Payton had a lot of explaining to do after the Denver Broncos' loss to the Detroit Lions on December 16.
Sean Payton had a lot of explaining to do after the Denver Broncos' loss to the Detroit Lions on December 16. Denver Broncos via YouTube
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Even though the Denver Broncos had won six of their last seven games, many fans expected a loss against the Detroit Lions on December 16. After all, the game was in the Motor City, where attendees starved of national attention for ages were guaranteed to be hyped beyond belief, and the resurgent, division-leading Lions had something to prove after a desultory defeat to the woeful Chicago Bears the previous weekend.

Still, the Lions' 42-17 dominance of Denver was an absolutely brutal reality check.

Detroit didn't just beat the Broncos. The squad, led on the field by quarterback Jared Goff and on the sidelines by Dan Campbell, a former mentee of Denver head coach Sean Payton who specializes in biting kneecaps, embarrassed Russell Wilson and company in every way possible. Look no further than Campbell's late-game decision to go for a touchdown rather than kick a field goal even though his charges had built up an unassailable eighteen-point lead — a move that Payton, who loves to grind his heel into an opponent's groin whenever possible, more than deserved.

Granted, Payton's play-calling wasn't nearly as wrongheaded as it had been during Denver's clunker versus the Houston Texans, when he abandoned the run-heavy, grind-it-out blueprint that had been working for Russ and company in favor of a bombs-away approach for which the offense simply isn't built. This game plan was filled with handoffs to Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine, as well as quick passes designed to get the ball out of Wilson's mitt before he could be turned into roadkill — and an early forty-yard completion to the appropriately maligned Jerry Jeudy suggested that the mix would work. Too bad Wilson promptly fumbled (something he does far too often), squelching a custom-made scoring opportunity.

The Lions didn't capitalize on that gift, but by the time the second quarter rolled around, they were ready to humble. For pretty much the rest of the contest, Goff was allowed more than enough time to dissect the supposedly vaunted Denver secondary; the spectacular Aman-Ra St. Brown wound up with 112 receiving yards and a touchdown, and Sam LaPorta, a huge tight end (the Broncos' kryptonite), notched three TDs of his own. And on the ground, Detroit backs Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery regularly went untouched while sprinting over the scrimmage line. Gibbs wound up with 100 yards on just eleven attempts, and Montgomery added another 85 — two more than the entire Denver contingent combined.

With the running attack stymied, Wilson had to throw, and he did so effectively in the second half. Problem was, the game was already over by then, owing to the Denver D's inability to so much as slow down the Detroit juggernaut even after spotting them 21 points.

In short, the Broncos looked almost as outclassed as they did when giving up a mind-blowing seventy spot to the Miami Dolphins — the subtext of Payton's otherwise inexplicable explosion at Wilson after Denver's doom had already been sealed.

Denver's season isn't over. The final three contests are against eminently vulnerable foes: the New England Patriots, who are so terrible they'll probably get Super Bowl record-setter Bill Belichick fired, followed by the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders, both of which will be helmed by backup QBs and have already seen their head coaches sacked. The Broncos could still miss the playoffs even if they triple their pleasure, but accumulating ten wins after starting the year 1-5 would count as a genuine triumph.

Still, the most passionate Broncos loyalists using the Service Formerly Known as Twitter weren't ready to contextualize anything — not yet, anyhow. See what we mean below:

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