Denver Broncos vs. Detroit Lions: three keys to victory
After the Denver Broncos’ 22-9 prime-time loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, many fans are wondering where the team is going from here. Mathematically speaking, the Broncos are still alive in the AFC playoff hunt with a 6-6 record, currently tied with the Las Vegas Raiders, and are one game away from the Los Angeles Chargers 7-5 and two games withdrawn from 8-4. Chiefs.
If we’re being honest, however, Broncos Country is already anxiously awaiting the likely sacking of head coach Vic Fangio, as well as the possibility of a quarterback addition via trade, free agency or the draft. NFL. The fan base is tired of the constant disappointment of the losing Broncos. The good news, however, is that there are still five games left on the schedule.
Debate rages on whether the season is likely to continue to plunge into mediocrity with an occasional victory over Denver’s long-term hope of securing five straight wins to close the year and almost secure a spot. in the playoffs. Whichever perspective you subscribe to, there will be some football in “Mile High City” this Sunday as the Broncos host the 1-10-1 Detroit Lions.
It will be an emotional game in the wake of the shocking and untimely death of former Broncos Pro Bowl wide Demaryius Thomas. Broncos Country was rocked by the news reported late Thursday night.
This game against the Lions is a chance for the Broncos to come together as an organization to unite, mourn and attempt to bring the same tenacity and class that Thomas carried with him on and off the field.
Meanwhile, the Lions rejoiced after claiming their first victory of the season last week over the Minnesota Vikings, 29-27. First-year head coach Dan Campbell has entertained the soccer masses with his unorthodox metaphors that include “biting kneecaps” in reference to his never-say-die philosophy and intense press conferences.
Detroit’s record and pedigree hardly suggests that he is a formable opponent. However, the game’s movie reveals that Detroit are a very competitive team that has faced teams like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
How do the Broncos come out on top and come back to plus-.500? Let’s review three keys to the Broncos’ victory over the Lions at home.
Take Hockenson with Simmons
This week, Broncos safety Justin Simmons was selected as the team’s 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year for the third consecutive season – an award that recognizes a player for his distinguished leadership but more importantly, his impact. in the community.
Honor corresponds to the elite caliber of the person and athlete that is Simmons. He has become a fan favorite since arriving as the Broncos’ third round pick in 2016 and one of Mile High City’s most beloved athletes.
While individual accomplishments make the WPMOTY nominees feel great, winning football games too – something the Broncos have struggled to do with some consistency as the team sits with an official record of .500 . Last week, Simmons was tasked several times with defending Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce, who caught just three passes for 27 yards.
Pro Bowl security may only have recorded two tackles in prime time, but he was still able to defend Patrick Mahomes’ deep bombs against Kansas City’s explosive tandem of Kelce and Tyreek Hill, the latter having only caught the balls over 22 meters while suffering from a case of dropsy.
Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, former Chargers head coach, was relieved of his offensive appeal duties by Campbell in mid-November. The decision was taken to create an offensive spark with the goal of winning at least one game. Lions quarterback Jared Goff completed 25 of 41 attempts for 296 yards and three touchdowns with an interception in the team’s first win of the season.
Detroit tight end TJ Hockenson has always been a target for Goff, who joined the third-year Pro Bowler four times on eight targets for 49 yards and one scoring. The 24-year-old from Iowa currently has 61 receptions for 583 yards, four touchdowns and an average of 9.5 yards per catch.
Hockenson is currently ranked third in receptions among tight ends in the NFL behind Kelce and Mark Andrews of Baltimore. Hockenson was Noah Fant’s varsity teammate in Iowa and was selected before him in the 2019 Draft with the eighth pick overall.
It will be essential for Broncos head coach Vic Fangio to plan the game to eliminate Hockenson, who has become Goff’s safety cover throughout the year. By attributing his bullet-hawker safety to Hockenson, the Broncos defense can quite possibly force a turnaround against the Lions’ troubled offense. In 12 games, Simmons tied for the team lead with four interceptions (and tied for fourth in the NFL), with 46 tackles and 13 saves.
Lean on Javonte Williams even if Gordon returns
It didn’t take long for the second-round pick of general manager George Paton to burst onto the scene and grab the attention of the National League. Williams quickly climbed the depth chart in training camp to become Melvin Gordon’s replacement, although the two were used in tandem as co-starters for the most part.
Williams, 21, was the winner of “Angry Runs” – a segment on NFL Network’s hello football – in addition to being named NFL Rookie of the Week against the Dallas Cowboys in November. So far, the 5-10, 210-pound flashback leads the Broncos with 670 rushing yards and two scores, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Last Sunday against Kansas City, Williams got his first career start after Gordon was suspended with a hip injury. “Pookie” ran for 102 yards on top of catching six passes for 76 yards and a touchdown, which was the Broncos’ only score.
Although it is speculated that Gordon will return to action against the Lions, the main fullback is expected to be Williams. Not only did he earn the starting position, but the rookie proved to be effective in the run, pass protection and as a receiver.
Ever since I evaluated him before last year’s draft, I’ve always thought Williams’s receiving and road running skills were underrated aspects of his game. No, it wasn’t. isn’t a Jerry Jeudy caliber road racer, but when Williams is in space, he misses defenders by running on contact.
Last week, Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur tried hard to get the rookie involved in the passing game with nine targets. For reference, Williams’ second-most targets this season came against Cleveland in Week 7 with seven, against Gordon’s most targets with four.
The North Carolina native has recorded 33 receptions for 269 yards, including 11 first downs and four total touchdowns this season. So, as fans cry out and beg for Shurmur to throw the ball and feed “Pookie” to the ground, he’s more than capable of playing the same role in the passing game.
Against the Lions, Teddy Bridgewater should be able to use Williams for pass protection and as a safe control option – if not the primary target on specific games.
Style points don’t count, but field goals count
If you were like me last Sunday night, anxiously biting your nails in the Broncos’ fourth attempt, then you can breathe a sigh of relief this week. Against the struggling but still powerful offense of the Chiefs, Fangio stepped up to the plate, choosing to try his luck in fourth place six times.
The Broncos offense converted three of those fourth-down attempts, but produced just nine points overall throughout the game. On Sunday night, kicker Brandon McManus netted a 42-yard field goal that would be his only attempt outside of kickoff duties.
Against Kansas City, the fourth down attempts no doubt made sense, but in the midst of what is now a 12-game losing streak, the Lions are hardly an offensive heavyweight to force such recklessness. Focus on professional football currently ranks Detroit 27th in attack and 31st in defense.
This means that if the Broncos offense is near or in the red zone, Fangio has to rely on his most consistent scoring weapon and that is McManus. The 30-year-old captain is the only player left in the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 championship roster and is in his eighth season with the team.
In 12 games, McManus had 19 of 22 field goal attempts, including one over 50 yards. Conversely, his three misses were more than 50 meters. “B-Mac” also connected on 22 of the 23 extra points, making him as close to a sure thing as it gets in the kicking area.
However, McManus is currently tied for 14th among active kickers in the league for field goal attempts, which is somewhat disappointing for a precision-dependent specialist position. I love the fourth down attempts as much as the next guy, but winning games at this point should be the goal, with the Broncos clinging to desperate playoff aspirations.
Goals on the pitch aren’t fun to watch, and they don’t help fantasy football rosters much, but they do put points on the board and win games.
Follow Luc on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on Youtube for daily podcasts live from the Broncos!