MINNEAPOLIS -- The one thing coach Matt Patricia had held onto all season long with the Detroit Lions was how his team fought. He got emotional about it on Thanksgiving after a loss to Chicago. He mentioned it over and over again throughout a season gone wrong.
And yet on Sunday, while the Lions may have fought, the club just wasn’t competitive throughout the first three quarters in a 20-7 loss to Minnesota. The score might appear reasonable, but once the Vikings scored in the first half, much of the game felt like a struggle for the Lions.
Detroit couldn’t do much right, finally having a performance that befit its 3-9-1 record careening toward another top 10 pick and another last-place finish in the NFC North. For the first time all season, the Lions did lead at all in the game.
The Lions were atrocious on offense, not gaining more than 100 yards of net offense until early in the fourth quarter. On defense, the Lions were continually flustered by Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and his play-action, time and time again giving him time to read the entire defense in the pocket. Special teams added to it as well, as Matt Prater missed a field goal and returner Chris Lacy mishandled a kickoff.
Perhaps none of this should be surprising with a third-string quarterback David Blough and free-agent running back Bo Scarbrough on offense. But both players have shown limited promise -- Blough on Thanksgiving, Scarbrough most of the last month -- which led to thinking the Lions could hang around.
It was Detroit’s sixth loss in a row, ninth defeat in its last 10 games and one piece of good things for the Lions’ future: With their loss and a win by Atlanta, Detroit temporarily moved into the top five of the 2020 draft.
QB breakdown: This was a return to reality game for Blough. He was consistently pressured by Minnesota’s defense and seemed to get a little flustered by it. He ran into one of the sacks from Minnesota defensive end Danielle Hunter and should have thrown the ball away instead of taking another sack. He missed throws short and long and threw a poor interception to Harrison Smith while pressured. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 170 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He likely should remain the starter the rest of this season but not a good showing from the rookie from Purdue.
Silver lining: It is, once again, Scarbrough. The running back wasn’t helped much by the offensive line, the quarterback play or some of the play-calling, but Scarbrough continued to run hard and choose holes effectively. He finished with 19 carries for 65 yards – clearly becoming Detroit’s work back down the stretch of the season. At this point, he is showing to be a run-only back, but that can be functional for the Lions combined with Kerryon Johnson and perhaps J.D. McKissic or another pass-catching back in 2020. Of course, as it is for the Lions this season, even Scarbrough came with a caveat. He exited in the fourth quarter with an injury and did not return.
Describe the game in two words: Improving. Draft. The Lions are hanging around for a shot at a pick in the top three if they keep on losing, especially if Washington or the Giants can win another game or two.