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Talent-laden Lions on verge of lost season heading to Seattle

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The Sports Xchange

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Despite having a top wide receiver tandem in the NFL, a field-stretching tight end and two agile big-play running backs, the Detroit Lions’ offense continued to struggle on Sunday night as the team fell to 0-3 with a 24-12 loss to the Denver Broncos at Ford Field.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford took four sacks and five other hits, but had few big plays as he finished 31 of 45 for 282 yards and one touchdown. He said the play-calling wasn’t predictable, but the recipient of one of his two interceptions said otherwise.

“We pretty much knew what they were going to do, and they did it,” Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby said.

The Lions gained just 225 yards before a desperation drive that stalled at the Denver 15. They ran for just 28 yards as the offensive line continued to struggle. With a Monday night game against the Seattle Seahawks – who rank fifth in total defense – up next, the Lions have to find a way to fix the offense.

On defense, the Lions were on the losing end of some big plays, particularly two jump balls against cornerback Darius Slay – who goes by the moniker “Big Play.” One of those was a 45-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peyton Manning to receiver Demaryius Thomas with five seconds left in the first half, which gave the Broncos a 14-6 lead.

One highlight for the Lions was holding the Broncos to 41 rushing yards on 19 carries, especially after allowed 134 rushing yards to Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson last week.

With nine penalties and a blocked extra point allowed, the Lions had little go right in the game and now must find a way to salvage the season.

The best way for the Lions to turn things around is to shift an offensive philosophy that was also problematic last year, but having the No. 2-ranked defense helped mask some of the issues. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is still one of the best deep threats in the league and needs more than the one 20-plus-yard pass thrown his way Sunday. If Johnson can become anything close to the unstoppable player he was from 2011-13, the Lions offense should be able to blossom again, though a matchup with Seattle’s secondary won’t be easy.

INJURY NOTES: LB DeAndre Levy (hip) missed his third straight game and said he’s unsure if he’ll be available for Week 4. … DE Ezekiel Ansah (groin) and RG Larry Warford (ankle) left Sunday’s game and their statuses for this week is uncertain. … TE Brandon Pettigrew (hamstring) missed his second straight game and has yet to practice since suffering the injury in Week 1.

REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS:

–PASSING OFFENSE: D. The Lions allowed four sacks and nine quarterback hits on Matthew Stafford as the offensive line continued to struggle. Stafford also rushed some plays and finished the game with two interceptions and a lost fumble. Wide receivers Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson still have not had 90 receiving yards in a game.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: F. With just 28 yards on 19 carries, the Lions showed nothing good in the run game. Running back Joique Bell had just 6 yards on 10 carries while Ameer Abdullah led the team with 23 yards on eight carries. The blocking was poor, the backs struggled to make defenders miss and now the Lions rank 32nd in rushing.

–PASS DEFENSE: C. For much of the game, the Lions defense bent but didn’t break. However, cornerback Darius Slay gave up two long passes on jump balls, including a 45-yard touchdown to receiver Demaryius Thomas that gave the Broncos a 14-6 lead at halftime. Also, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning consistently exploited mismatches. The highlight was an interception by free safety Glover Quin.

–RUN DEFENSE: B. The Lions had their best performance in this area so far this season, allowing just 41 yards on 19 carries. They also knocked Broncos running backs C.J. Anderson, who returned, and Juwan Thompson out of the game.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: D-plus. Wide receiver TJ Jones had a 28-yard punt return, but that was the lone highlight. The Lions received an illegal formation penalty on a 53-yard field goal try Denver’s Brandon McManus missed, but he made the 48-yarder that followed. They also allowed an extra point to be blocked.

–COACHING: F. Once again, the Lions did not look prepared for the game as they allowed Denver’s best players on both sides of the ball to control the contest. Plus, Jim Caldwell called a timeout in the first quarter that prevented a delay of game against the Broncos. The Lions also had some ill-timed penalties for which Caldwell took the blame. And the play-calling remained predictable.


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