FIRST DOWN: JOHNSON'S RETURN
"That's probably the most fun I've had in a year," running back Kerryon Johnson said Sunday after his return to the Lions lineup after missing the last eight weeks with a knee injury. "It was great just to get back out there, get to contribute a little bit and be able to play."
It's been a long eight weeks for Johnson as he's rehabbed and gotten himself to a point where he could come back and play the final two weeks of the season. He rushed 10 times for 42 yards (4.2 average) in Detroit's 27-17 loss to the Broncos.
That's about as many carries as Johnson expected to get after so much time off. He said Lions head coach Matt Patricia gave him the option this week to return or shut it down for the year, and the choice was easy for him.
"Coach Patricia said, 'Look, you know, obviously, you don't have to do this,'" Johnson said. "I said, 'no, I want to play.' I just felt like it was the right thing to do, something I wanted to do for myself and for the team and (Patricia) gave me an opportunity. I went through practice, had a good week and it paid off."
Johnson said the knee came out no worse for wear and he thought he saw the game well and made some good runs. He ran with a brace on the right knee for the first time in his career and said he'll probably continue to wear it moving forward.
Detroit was pretty good on the ground throughout the contest, led by Johnson. They rushed 21 times for 96 yards for an average of 4.6 yards per carry.
SECOND DOWN: DRAFT ORDER
Detroit's loss Sunday in Denver, coupled with wins by Miami and the New York Giants, saw the Lions move up to the No. 3 overall pick in the current 2020 NFL Draft standings.
The Giants and Dolphins both won in overtime to improve to 4-11 on the season. Detroit's loss dropped them to 3-11-1.
Cincinnati has clinched the No. 1 pick with a loss Sunday against Miami. Washington is currently at No. 2 with a 3-12 mark.
The Lions can move up to the No. 2 spot with a loss to Green Bay next week and a Washington win on the road in Dallas.
THIRD DOWN: AGNEW'S SPARK
A couple steps to his left, a cut up the field, and Lions return man Jamal Agnew found himself into open grass early in the second quarter Sunday. Agnew made quick work of punter Colby Wadman with a simple juke move, and off to the end zone he went.
A team picture in the end zone, and Agnew's 64-yard punt return touchdown was in the books.
It was his second return touchdown of the season and his first since a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown in a win over the Eagles in Philadelphia.
He now joins Eddie Drummond as the only players in Lions history to have career totals of three punt return touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown.
Since 1995, only five NFL players have logged three punt and one kickoff touchdowns within their first three seasons – Agnew, Tyreek Hill, Devin Hester, Drummond and Steve Smith Sr.
"I'm honestly humbled and honored," Agnew said when told of the exclusive club he joined Sunday. "Devin Hester, obviously I look up to him a lot. I watch his highlight tape every day, college and NFL highlights, doesn't matter. To be considered in the same category with those dudes is honestly an honor for me."
FOURTH DOWN: FAMILIAR LOSS
It's been an all too common theme for the Lions this season, and it played out again Sunday in Denver.
Detroit jumped out to a lead, fought to keep the game close into the fourth quarter, but ultimately couldn't find a way to make the plays late to win the game.
"They fought ... in the end just couldn't make enough plays," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. "That's really it."
Sunday marked the 13th time in 15 games the Lions have held a lead in a game. Sunday's lead was by as much as 10 at one point.
It's a team that continues to fight to the end, and they should be commended for that, but they simply don't have the firepower at the moment to tilt the scoreboard in their favor with all the injuries.
"[The Broncos] made the plays when they needed to in the end," Patricia said. "It was a tough game. I thought our guys played hard and battled. We just didn't make enough plays when we needed to."
That, and all the injuries, have been two of the big storylines for the 2019 season for the Lions.