MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The first three plays for David Blough and the Detroit Lions on Sunday were an ominous sign. The rookie quarterback’s first two passes were deflected at the line of scrimmage. Then he was sacked for a 6-yard loss.
The Minnesota Vikings made sure there would be no repeat of Blough’s strong Thanksgiving Day debut.
In Blough’s first NFL road start, the Lions sputtered toward their sixth straight loss, 20-7 to the Vikings. They failed to score until 2:09 remained in the game. Blough finished 24 of 40 for 205 yards, taking five sacks and throwing two interceptions. His late touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay kept Detroit from being shut out for the first time since 2009.
“Obviously frustrating to start slow,” said Blough, who was given the job in the previous game after injuries to Matthew Stafford and Jeff Driskel. “It’s something we harp on, and it can’t happen for us, can’t happen for me. Got to find a way to get those to our playmakers, because we had guys where they were supposed to be.”
With Stafford missing his fifth straight game due to hip and back injuries, Detroit mustered just 13 yards on 13 plays in the first quarter. Blough was 1 of 6 for 18 yards, a far cry from his debut a week earlier at home against Chicago. He threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Golladay on his second NFL pass attempt in that game and capped the Lions’ first two drives with scoring throws. He finished that game 22 for 38 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The Vikings didn’t let him get close to that until a handful of decent gains in the fourth quarter once they led 20-0.
“They have a lot of packages, a lot of different looks and a lot of flexibility and variability in their defense,” Detroit coach Matt Patricia said. “Just looked like they used a lot of it early, give us some of those looks and different problems that we had to solve. They executed at a high level, especially at home.”
Blough wasn’t done many favors, though.
On two of Danielle Hunter’s three sacks, tight ends were lined up against him for the initial block. With the Lions at the 15-yard line and trailing just 10-0 late in the second quarter, Blough drifted out of the pocket and was sacked by Hunter for a loss of 12 yards on third down. Matt Prater missed a 45-yard field goal, and Kirk Cousins drove Minnesota the other way for a touchdown in less than a minute, scoring with 25 seconds left in the half.
“I can’t put us in the position to take those sacks,” Blough said. “I can’t leave those linemen out to dry on some of those. Five is five too many. I can’t hold the ball too long, take us out of field-goal range. Obviously, we talk about the halftime swing a lot. Didn’t help our chances in that position.”
Through three quarters, Blough was 10 of 19 for just 74 yards.
“We tell him we’ve got his back no matter what,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said. “We’re going to do our job to try to get open, try to make plays and to just get back there and be a gunslinger, man. Get up and let it rip. It’s a learning experience for him, definitely, throughout each week, throughout each game, throughout each series, throughout each situation.”
Stafford hasn’t been ruled out for a return this season, but he has not practiced since the injury. With Driskel on injured reserve, Blough’s backup was Kyle Sloter, who was signed off Arizona’s practice squad on Nov. 30.
“David is an extremely competitive guy,” Patricia said. “He’s a tough guy. I love his energy and what he brings every single day to the practices, to the games. He’s competitive. From that standpoint, he’s trying. He’s trying to get it all right.”