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Broncos fall behind in first half on 'frustrating night,' drop to 7-7 with 42-17 loss to Lions

DETROIT — With a chance to fuel their playoff chances in the Motor City, the Broncos suffered a 42-17 loss at the hands of the Detroit Lions.

"We tip our hats to Detroit," Head Coach Sean Payton said. "They kind of kicked our butts tonight. They outplayed us, they outcoached us. There wasn't a lot positive for us in that game. Thought those guys did a real good job in the red area, third down. Really, in all phases. Frustrating night. Tough to have one of these nights, obviously. There's a lot at stake."

Behind three first-half touchdown passes from Jared Goff and a strong defensive performance, the Lions jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead and never trailed in a Week 15 win over the Broncos.

"We've just got to play cleaner," quarterback Russell Wilson said of the offense's performance. "… We can play a little cleaner, play a little sharper. They played well tonight. They played really well, and we could've played better."

Goff finished the game with five touchdown passes — including three to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta — and running back Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery combined for 185 rushing yards.

"He was making the throws, and he had too much time," defensive lineman D.J. Jones said of Goff. "So we've just got to be better. We've got to win up front."

With the loss, the Broncos dropped their first game of the year to an NFC North opponent and missed a chance to earn their second consecutive win to close a three-game road trip.
After being shut out in the first half for just the second time this season, the Broncos scored on their opening drive of the second half. Keyed by a pass interference call drawn by Marvin Mims Jr. and a third-and-goal contested catch by Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Denver posted points on its first drive of the second half for the second time this year.

The Broncos also scored on their ensuing drive of the second half, though they had to settle for a field goal after an offensive offsides call wiped out a Mike Burton touchdown on third-and-goal. Before the Burton touchdown, both Jaleel McLaughlin and Javonte Williams made plays by the goal line, but the officiating crew ruled both players short of the end zone. Payton said it "becomes difficult" to challenge spots, and noted that his frustration was in regard to the penalty.

"We handed the ball to Burton, he scored a touchdown, and they called a foul," Payton said. "It was frustrating."

Wilson said a touchdown in the scenario could have kept the Broncos in the football game.

"Any time we're within striking distance like that, we believe we can win," Wilson said.

The Lions' offense, though, kept Denver at arm's reach. After the Broncos' initial score, the Lions marched 75 yards in eight plays to push the lead back to 21 points. And following the field goal to cut the lead to 28-10, the Lions later pushed their lead to 35-10. The teams would trade a pair of touchdowns in the late stages of the fourth quarter to reach the final score.

"We just didn't play well enough at all," safety Justin Simmons said. "Got to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we didn't do well. [There's] a lot of things defensively, and we've got to correct those mistakes and get ready for New England at home."

Denver had a chance to take an early lead, as Wilson found Jerry Jeudy on the Broncos' first offensive snap of the game for a 40-yard catch-and-run. The play, which came after the Broncos forced an opening punt, pushed Denver to the Detroit 31-yard line. An ensuing Marvin Mims Jr. rush gave the Broncos another first down on the edge of the red zone. 

On second-and-10, though, Denver lost its momentum. Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu brought pressure as the Broncos ran a naked bootleg, and he strip-sacked Wilson as he brought down Denver's quarterback. Defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs recovered the fumble and returned it 33 yards to the Denver 37-yard line. 

"It's on us to capitalize on those moments in the game whenever we do have a chance to have a big play," wide receiver Courtland Sutton said. "… Being able to capitalize on that is what great teams do. Obviously right now we're hovering around being a good team and we want to be a great team. Those are the drives that we have to make sure that we find a way to get into the end zone."

Though the Lions did not score on the ensuing drive, the play thwarted Denver's best first-half scoring chance and ended the chance to gain an early advantage.

The Broncos would punt on their four ensuing first-half possessions and total two first downs and 30 yards.

"We just came out a little slow," Sutton said. "Couldn't get some of our plays going that we wanted to. Couldn't stay on the field. Just a slow start today. Kind of hard to pinpoint what it was. I haven't been able to watch the film, so I don't know what the execution was like. I just know that we weren't able to sustain drives, weren't able to stay on the field."

As the Broncos' offense struggled to gain traction in the first half, the Lions started to stack possessions. After recording 47 yards on their first three possessions, the Lions scored touchdowns on each of their final three first-half possessions. Detroit marched 80, 61 and 81 yards, respectively, to build a 21-0 halftime lead. The final score, which came with 24 seconds to play in the first half, pushed Denver's deficit to the largest the team had faced since a Week 4 come-from-behind win in Chicago.

Against Detroit, though, there would be no comeback.

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