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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Campbell discusses turning point in loss to Broncos

There was no celebration this week for the Detroit Lions, and there really was no expectation that there would be one.

They were outmanned going into Sunday's road game against the Denver Broncos, and the result -- a 38-10 loss -- should have been predictable.

The Lions' performance against the Broncos should not take away what they accomplished a week earlier -- a 29-27 win over the Vikings on a last-play touchdown pass from quarterback Jared Goff to wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

That game stands on its own merit, as does their performance against the Broncos.

The Lions played with a roster depleted by injuries, an outbreak of flu that hit the team early last week, and players lost to the covid protocols.

It affected how the Lions were able to practice throughout the week, and also forced them to play without key starters.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at head coach Dan Campbell's reaction to the roster issues, a turning point in the game and a bright spot for the Lions. There are also takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, what's trending and the bottom line.

We start with Campbell's views:

1. Turning point: For a brief time, the Lions played like the team of the last month that kept games close, with the outcome decided in the final minute.

There were no last-play heroics this time. The end realistically came in the third quarter, after the Lions had come back from a 14-0 deficit in the first quarter to make it 17-10 at halftime.

The Lions received the second-half kickoff, feeling good about where they stood. After a five-yard run by running back Craig Reynolds on the first play of the possession, running back Godwin Igwebuike carried over the right side and was close to a first down when he fumbled.

The Broncos recovered at the Lions' 34 and from there drove to a TD in five plays for a 24-10 lead.

Goff threw an interception on the fourth play of the next possession. The Broncos converted that into another TD to boost their lead to 31-10.

In all, the Broncos outscored the Lions 24-0 after they'd cut it to 14-10.

Campbell looked at the fumble as the crucial play.

"We really had the momentum," Campbell said in his postgame press conference. "We felt like we were in a good place. You come out after halftime and fumble the ball.

"That started everything. That's how it works."

2. Ground work: What also could be considered for what started the Lions on the way to a loss was their inability to stop the run.

The Broncos rushed for 184 yards. They drove 75 yards on 11 plays to score their first TD and went 76 yards on 12 plays for the second to make it 14-0. They used the running game almost exclusively on both drives.

3. Excuses: There weren't any from Campbell or Goff on how the flu, covid protocols and injuries affected the team's performance.

"Doesn't matter," Goff said. "No one feels sorry for us. No one feels bad for us, including ourselves.

"We went out there intending to win."

Campbell said pretty much the same thing, with a reference to the personnel changes.

"Put it this way," Campbell said. "We made too many mistakes, particularly with where we're at, and who we had to win the game."

4. Takeaways, offense:

  • Rookie debut: Reynolds stood out in the running game, carrying 11 times for 83 yards in his first pro game. It might get him another chance.
  • Go to man: St. Brown got the most targets for the second straight game. He made eight catches for 73 yards on 12 targets.
  • Missing man: Tight end T.J. Hockenson's value was notable by his absence. He did not play because of a hand injury.

View photos from Detroit Lions vs. Denver Broncos Week 14 game at Empower Field on Sunday, Dec. 12 in Denver, CO.

5. Takeaways, defense:

  • Running wild: Melvin Gordon (24 carries, 111 yards) and rookie Javonte Williams (15-73) did that. There were too many missed tackles, and too many yards gained by both after contact.
  • QB sad stats: Only one sack and one pass defended let Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater feel far too comfortable in the pocket.
  • One more run stat: The Broncos had 14 rushing first downs.

6. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Lions punter Jack Fox: He averaged 53 yards with a net of 46.5 on two punts.
  • Broncos punter Sam Martin: A Lion from 2013-2019 before signing with the Broncos in 2020, Martin averaged 54.4 yards with a net of 44.8 on three punts. Kalif Raymond lost four yards on his only punt return for the Lions.

7. Trending:

  • Up: Reynolds: He had a 35-yard run and averaged 4.8 yards on his other 10 carries.
  • Down: Lions' run defense. The first quarter might have been the worst 15 minutes of the season.
  • Even: St. Brown: He's had 24 targets and 18 receptions in the last two weeks.

8. Bottom line: The high moments are very good, as was the case in last week's win over the Vikings. And the bad ones are just that -- bad.

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