The Detroit Lions didn’t have much of a chance going in to beat the Denver Broncos given all the illness and injuries, and while that could have been used as an excuse, the team certainly didn’t apply it as one.
Early on in the game, the Lions looked a bit overmatched in Denver, but managed to play a solid two quarters to go into the locker room. As they managed to do that, the team was led by plenty of young players who gained great experience along the way.
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Though the box score showed another ugly Lions loss, there were plenty of positives, and all of them involved young players. Alim McNeill collected his first career sack, Amon-Ra St. Brown Followed up a big week with another solid day with 73 yards receiving. Running back Craig Reynolds rushed for 83 yards. Underrated linebacker Josh Woods put up 13 total tackles.
Perhaps the best play, though, was McNeill’s sack:
While the Lions would have likely preferred a better stacked roster, there is no doubt getting a look at practice squad and other players on the roster is a bonus for the team. Down the stretch, the Lions will have plenty of key decisions to make this offseason. They will have futures deals to settle after the season, and a practice squad to fill for 2022. They will also get to decide who cracks the roster and who has to be replaced. Such a game could be invaluable to getting these evaluations done.
In spite of another loss, Detroit’s young players got a chance to prove themselves and give some tape to the staff. That could end up being huge as it relates to the 2022 season.
What else was learned in the game? Here’s a look.
Jerry Jacobs’ Injury Represents a Tough Break All Around
The Lions had a great player developing in Jacobs at cornerback, and they might still. Sadly, though, that development is going to get a major roadblock in the form of injury. Jacobs was lost early in the game to an ugly looking knee injury, and it sure sounds as if it’s going to be a bad one for the rookie based on what former NFL doctor David J. Chao tweeted:
Without Jacobs, the Lions secondary is going to be stretched even more thin, and it was bad news for both the player and for the Lions to see a potential season-ending injury play out. It wasn’t what either side wanted at this point in time.
Dan Campbell Might Become NFL’s Most Aggressive Coach
It’s probably due to the fact that the Lions trailed most of the day and are heading nowhere in what has been a miserable season, but the coach continues to throw caution to the wind and go for multiple fourth downs every game. Some went well while others fell completely flat, but it’s obvious that Campbell hasn’t lost his flair for the dramatic. The 2021 Lions aren’t a team that is going to have anything decided by fourth down calls, but following how Campbell can do with this dynamic will be important moving forward. It’s probably not a recipe for success to go on every single fourth down a team is presented with in a game like Campbell seems to do.
Lion? Craig Reynolds, Running Back
It’s not hard to see how deep the Lions are at running back, and Reynolds proved once again that the team has depth from the top of the roster to the bottom. Without many healthy players at the spot, Reynolds showed up and showed out at running back and was a stud on the day with gritty runs such as this:
Reynolds is trying to work his way into a role for 2022 or at least a shot to stay in Detroit. This performance should give him a good chance at doing just that.
Lamb? Jared Goff, Quarterback
A week after winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, it wasn’t a great day for Goff. The Detroit quarterback was erratic outside of an early first quarter touchdown and had numerous passes get batted down. Goff didn’t look comfortable most of the day and was a big reason the Lions struggled to move the ball and put up points as this ugly play shows:
None of the Lions’ struggles have been Goff’s fault himself, but he didn’t help the team this week as much as he did in Week 14 which became very obvious as the day went on.
Lions’ Stat of the Game: 27:53
That was Detroit’s time of possession on the day. The Lions were far from dominated even though they were playing with a different lineup, and the team actually managed to hang in the game most of the day in spite all of their troubles and limitations. Numbers like this show how the Lions truthfully aren’t that far off whatsoever. They need a roster overhaul and players who can execute with more consistency, but at the very least, they stayed in the game.
Lions’ Quote to Note: “I though Craig ran hard. I thought he did some things. I don’t think anybody on the staff is surprised. We like Craig. We thought he would do a good job and certainly he did.” -Dan Campbell. After the game, Campbell was asked about what Reynolds was able to do and admitted to being impressed with what the runner was able to do.
No doubt, it was a frustrating day for the Lions, but even the coach would likely admit that it was a positive for several players on the roster all of whom are young.