DENVER — The Denver Broncos honored the memory of Demaryius Thomas with tributes, decals and a 38-10 walloping of the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Running backs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon each scored a pair of touchdowns and Dre’Mont Jones had a monster game that included two sacks of Jared Goff.
Several Broncos arrived at the stadium wearing No. 88 jerseys and kicker Brandon McManus wore custom cleats featuring Thomas’ famous mile-wide smile. The retired receiver died at his Georgia home on Thursday at age 33.
About an hour before kickoff, local artist Armando Silva delivered a portrait of Thomas which he painted in the parking lot to the Broncos’ locker room. That was followed by a pregame moment of silence and a video tribute featuring Thomas’ 80-yard touchdown catch from Tim Tebow on the first play of overtime against the Steelers on Jan. 8, 2012.
Then, the Broncos (7-6) took the field with just 10 men in honor of Thomas. The Lions (1-11-1) declined the delay of game penalty.
The Broncos then recorded just their second opening-drive touchdown in 29 games under embattled offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur with Williams scoring from 5 yards out, carrying safeties Dean Marlowe and Jalen Elliott across the goal line with him.
Gordon’s 1-yard TD run after a three-and-out by Detroit made it 14-0, and the first quarter ended with the Broncos holding an 11-0 advantage in first downs and a yardage disparity of 135 to minus-1 in offensive production.
Their fortunes also flipped when the teams switched sides, however, and Goff quickly drove the Lions downfield and hit Kalif Raymond from 7 yards out to cut Detroit’s deficit in half.
The Lions pulled to 14-10 on Riley Patterson’s 36-yard field goal, but the Broncos went into the locker room up 17-10 on McManus’ 52-yarder as the first half expired.
The Lions, coming off their first win but hit hard by COVID-19 last week — they had seven players on the virus list Sunday — coughed up the football on the second snap of the third quarter when Shelby Harris punched the ball from Godwin Igwebuike’s grasp and linebacker Jonathon Cooper recovered at the Detroit 30.
Five plays later, Williams caught a 10-yard TD pass from Teddy Bridgewater, stretching Denver’s lead to 24-10.
Jones had a dominant series on Detroit’s next drive. He dropped Goff for a 9-yard loss on his second sack, stuffed Igwebuike for a 3-yard loss and batted down Goff’s pass on fourth-and-2.
The Broncos took over at the Lions 33 and Gordon ran it in from 14 yards out to make it 31-10. Albert Okwuegbunam’s 4-yard TD catch capped an 88-yard drive late in the fourth quarter.
Denver’s defense also had a goal line stand with safety Kareem Jackson breaking up Goff’s pass to tight end Shane Zylstra on fourth-and-goal from the 4.
Midway through the fourth quarter, safety Justin Simmons picked off a pass and immediately darted to a blue circle on Denver’s sideline and placed the ball in the middle of “88” stenciled in white paint as teammates respectfully gathered around in a subdued celebration of Simmons’ fifth interception of the season, which tied a career high.
Gordon, who missed last week’s loss at Kansas City with shoulder and hip injuries, gained 111 yards on 24 carries and Williams ran for 73 yards on 15 attempts to go with his 10-yard TD grab.
Among the slew of players promoted from the Lions practice squad over the weekend was running back Craig Reynolds, who was promoted to add depth at the depleted position with D’Andre Swift missing a second consecutive game with a shoulder injury. Reynolds ran for 83 yards on 11 carries Sunday.
The Lions lost CB Jerry Jacobs (knee) and LB Alex Anzalone (ankle) in the game. Several Broncos were banged up but all returned to action.
The Lions host the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 19.
The Broncos host the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 19.