Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals: Good, Bad & Ugly

Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

 

Sunday certainly lived up to yet another of those wacky Arizona games that Lions’ fans have come to loathe over the past two decades. The losing streak against the Cardinals has now reached five total games, and seven games in the desert, dating back to the last win in 1993. The 25-21 loss will live along with some of the other infamous Arizona meltdowns I mentioned in Saturday’s staff predictions. The fact that I got the Bobby Ross, “goin’ for two” game wrong (said 1998, it was 1999), can be chalked up to the strangeness that surrounds the Lions in Arizona.

Nearly Perfect First Half

A week ago against Minnesota, Detroit limped through much of the first half, shooting themselves in the foot every opportunity. The second half was a different story as the Lions cruised to a relatively easy 10-point win. They seemed to carry that momentum into the first half on Sunday. Certainly there was the back-to-back misses by David Akers (from 52 yards and then 47 after an Arizona penalty), but the offense moved the ball, the defense kept the Cardinals’ passing game in check and, more importantly, stayed away from penalties.

That all changed in the second half, when the penalty flags began flying–a defensive holding call wiped out a Carson Palmer fumble, a personal foul for going low on Palmer one play later (very questionable call IMO), and the Bill Bentley pass interference that set up Arizona’s go-ahead score with under two minutes to play were all extremely costly.

Defense

Though they ultimately had some mistakes (such as Bentley’s PI–which I contend that if he turned around to play the ball he could have intercepted the pass), the unit was the reason the Lions clung to a lead throughout the second half. They continually forced field goals (most laudable when Reggie Bush fumbled deep in Lions’ territory), and accounted for a third of the scoring with DeAndre Levy‘s pick-six (which was fitting after his pick-six was wiped out last week on Ndamukong Suh‘s costly penalty).

I was impressed how the defense was able to control the run (making Arizona largely abandon it), while still being mostly effective against the pass–something they didn’t have to worry about against Christian Ponder.

Reggie Bush‘s Knee

Deep down everyone knew that Bush had injury concerns, although the majority of those injuries came a few years back in New Orleans as he had largely been durable in Miami. We all knew this might happen, we just hoped it wouldn’t. The Lions moved the ball well, even when they weren’t putting points on the board in the first half, but if you want to know the exact moment it stopped–when Bush was injured.

Of course Bush came back for one series and fumbled, but the fact that he wasn’t seen the rest of the game, including the pivotal fourth quarter, is troubling. For six quarters this season, the Lions’ offense looked like 2011. Then Bush went out and it all fell apart giving us flashbacks to Jahvid Best.

Get better quickly Reggie….PLEASE!

Special Teams

The Lions lost by four on Sunday. The field goals missed by Akers (one missed–well actually two, see above for explanation-and one blocked) would have given the Lions the cushion they needed to hold on for a victory. I know schemes and situations might be different, but there is no excuse. The Lions have left points on the board with their kicking team three times in two weeks and that’s inexcusable.

Michael Spurlock was an absolute embarrassment on Sunday. His indecision nearly cost Detroit a safety and he backtracked on one return that cost the Lion precious field position. Just like Stefan Logan before him, the Lions seem to lack basic intelligence at the returner position. It makes me really miss Mel Gray.

Bottom Line

  • The oddities of a Detroit Lions game in Arizona likely also contributed to the final drive where a role reversal transpired with Brandon Pettigrew making an amazing catch and Calvin Johnson dropping an easy one. Not to mention the 4th and 4, 2-yard catch….
  • 4 pm kickoffs really blow in a loss, don’t they? When the Lions break our hearts in 1 pm games, we usually have several afternoon games to take our minds off it and its usually just another painful, regressed Lions’ memory by the time “Breaking Bad” rolls around. 4 pm kickoffs rob us of decompression time. Happy days are on the horizon though–next week’s game in Washington is an early kickoff. Joy.
  • Speaking of Washington, they were blown out for a second straight week, this time by the rival Packers. Usually this would be a good thing for a visiting club to face a reeling home team, but the Lions have faced the Redskins on the road before when they have been terrible and the Lions always right their ship.
  • The loss in Arizona is troubling because the Cardinals may have been the “easiest” road opponent left. There are no gimmes (including Cleveland) and make no mistake, Arizona is not as bad as some believe, but this is a game the Lions controlled most of the way and should have won.
  • Last week Peyton Manning earned me 72 points in fantasy football–this week he only got 22. Seriously, has Peyton lost a step in the last week, or is it just me?
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals Bill Bentley Carson Palmer David Akers Detroit Lions Reggie Bush

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