'Tough game': Fourth-quarter lead wilts vs. Broncos, Lions drop eighth straight
Denver — The Detroit Lions are a broken record and the team's last, best chance to change the tune before the end of the season slipped through their fingers, as it's done over and over this year.
The Lions quickly jumped ahead 10-0, but couldn't hold a pair of leads, conceding yet another fourth-quarter advantage in a 27-17 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.
It marked the Lions' eighth consecutive loss, and in the draft order, moved them up two spots to No. 3.
Even coach Matt Patricia could offer little more than repetitions at the podium following the loss.
"It was a tough game," Patricia said. "I thought our guys played hard and I thought they battled. We just didn't make enough plays when we needed to."
Detroit opened the game with points for the first time since Thanksgiving, taking the opening possession 68 yards on 11 plays before stalling out in Denver territory and settling for a 26-yard Matt Prater field goal.
The teams traded punts through the remainder of the opening quarter before return man Jamal Agnew extended Detroit's lead in the second quarter, bringing a punt back 64 yards. Agnew made the first man miss, picked up key blocks from C.J. Moore and Jason Cabinda and outran punter Colby Wadman to the far sideline for the score.
"Everybody blocked really well," Agnew said. "He was doing the end-over-end Aussie kick. I think he was trying to force a fair catch, but the jammers on the right side held up really well. I knew I had room, so I caught it and just let my feet do the rest."
Despite the spark from the special teams, the Lions' offense continued to sputter, while the Broncos finally started to find a rhythm.
Following Agnew's return, Denver methodically drove 75 yards in nine plays, never facing a third down and taking advantage of a pair of Detroit penalties. Running back Royce Freeman plunged into the end zone from a yard out to cap the series, cutting the lead to 10-7 with 6:04 left in the second quarter.
After another three-and-out for the Lions offense, the Broncos knotted it up before the half with a 34-yard Brandon McManus field goal.
The Lions finished the opening half with 97 yards, while the Broncos were able to maintain their momentum coming out of the break, scoring on a third consecutive possession.
Detroit's defense limited the damage to a short McManus field goal following a 47-yard kickoff return to begin the third quarter. Cornerback Darius Slay and safety Tavon Wilson had back-to-back pass breakups in the end zone, preventing a touchdown.
Down three, Detroit's offense finally found a spark behind its ground game. Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson combined to carry the ball eight times for 48 yards, setting up quarterback David Blough to find Kenny Golladay on a short screen pass where the receiver was able to extend the ball across the goal line for a 3-yard score on third down, putting the Lions back on top, 17-13, with 3:51 left in the third.
It was Golladay's league-leading 11th touchdown reception.
But Detroit's lead was short-lived.
Facing a fourth-and-1 near midfield, the Broncos make a bold call, converting with a fullback option pitch to running back Phillip Lindsay.
"I knew it was our plan because we worked on it during the week," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "Whoever said I was conservative?"
Five plays later, quarterback Drew Lock connected with receiver DaeSean Hamilton from 3 yards out for the 20-17 lead with a little more than 13 minutes remaining.
"The guy is super-duper intelligent," Lock said about Hamilton. "Just being able to have the spatial awareness that he does, it helps us out, especially in our type of offense. Him being able to sit up in zones, feel the guys running with him and break off and separate, it makes my life a lot easier as a quarterback."
The Lions' offense proved unable to respond, punting the ball back to the Broncos, who extended their scoring streak to five possessions. Five consecutive completions by Lock moved the Broncos in Lions territory before Lindsay burst through the line for a 27-yard touchdown to salt away the victory.
"He seemed to be running with a good resolve, trying to get the extra yards, trying to break tackles," Fangio said.
Blough finished the day 12 of 24 for 117 yards and the touchdown to Golladay. Lock completed 25 of his 33 passes for 192 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Lindsay paced the Broncos on the ground with 19 carries for 109 yards and the long score. Johnson had 42 yards on 10 carries for the Lions in his return from injury.
The Lions fall to 3-11-1 with the loss. The Broncos won for the third time in the past four games, moving to 6-9 on the season.