Lions win despite loss, moving up to No. 3 in 2020 NFL draft

DENVER -- The most dramatic moments for the Detroit Lions on Sunday came hundreds of miles and two time zones away from Empower Field at Mile High. For the purposes of this flailing Lions season and everything that is to come in the future, what happened in Maryland and Miami mattered much more.

As games between fellow top-five draft contenders went to overtime -- actually overlapping with a quarter of Detroit’s 27-17 loss to Denver on Sunday -- there were questions about how high or how low the Lions could go, at least in terms of the 2020 NFL draft.

As the Miami Dolphins kicked a field goal at the end of overtime to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Giants scored an overtime touchdown to best the Washington Redskins, the Lions moved from No. 5 in the draft to No. 3. And the chase for potential defense-changing Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young remains on in earnest.

At the time when those games ended, the Lions were actually leading Denver, 10-0, in an attempt to win their first game since Oct. 27. But that didn't last.

Detroit, as it has in almost every game this season, fought throughout the game, but as is typical with these Lions, it wasn’t enough. They lost their eighth game in a row and their 11th in the past 12 outings to fall to 3-11-1.

The loss also gives the Lions a bit of history they don’t want.

In the Super Bowl era, they now have the worst record of any team that went unbeaten in the team’s first three games, snapping a 50-year-old mark held by the Bengals, who went 4-9-1 in 1969 after starting 3-0. Coincidentally, they lost at Denver in their season finale. While this isn't the last game for the Lions, the loss did lock up this mark for Detroit.

A loss Sunday in the season finale against Green Bay would give the franchise its worst season since a 2-14 record in 2009 -- one year removed from the franchise’s winless 2008 season.

But a loss to the Packers on Sunday combined with a Washington win over Dallas would give the Lions the No. 2 overall pick and a really, really good chance at Young.

Silver lining: The Lions activated starting running back Kerryon Johnson on Saturday and he ended up being a decent part of the team’s game plan. He didn’t take his first snap until late in the first series, but had 10 carries for 42 yards -- including the bulk of the work in the third quarter on a drive that ended with a Kenny Golladay touchdown. It’s still reasonable to question why Johnson was playing in a game with little meaning, but the duo of Johnson and Bo Scarbrough showed promise, combining for 76 yards and 4.2 yards per carry.

Bold prediction for next week: One unexpected player is going to have a standout performance with more playing opportunity. The pick here is linebacker Steve Longa, who might see increased work if Jahlani Tavai's shoulder injury keeps him out. Should that happen, don’t be surprised if Longa has a double-digit tackle day to show he can play some defense along with his role as one of Detroit’s top special-teams standouts.

Describe the game in two words: One. Left. The 2019 Lions season mercifully comes to an end Sunday against the Packers. Green Bay could be playing for a bye or a division title. The Lions will be playing for the last time until the 2020 season.