GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carson Palmer knew the Lions’ reputation for penalties, so when he let go of his pass with the game on the line, a pass interference call was a definite possibility.
Sure enough, cornerback Bill Bentley collided with receiver Andre Roberts in the end zone. A flag was thrown and a 31-yard penalty was called, giving the Cardinals their only third-down conversion — in 11 tries– of the day.
Two plays later, Rashard Mendenhall scored on a 1-yard run with 1:59 to play, giving the Cardinals the go-ahead score in a 25-21 win Sunday in Bruce Arians’ home debut as head coach.
“It’s something we talked about a lot,” Palmer said. “Those DBs play the receiver, they don’t play the ball, and when we have opportunities and they’re staring at the receiver, they’re going to face-guard. Dre (Roberts) did a great job setting that up.”
Jay Feely kicked four field goals and Carson Palmer threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to rookie Andre Ellington for the Cardinals (1-1). Ellington, a sixth-round draft pick out of Clemson, also had a 16-yard catch to start the deciding drive.
“It’s not always going to be perfect,” Arians said. “You’ve got to learn how to ride the emotions of the game, stay with it. I thought our coaches did a great job with some adjustments in the second half and some young kids really stepped up.”
Kerry Taylor, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, had three catches for 40 yards, all late in the game with Larry Fitzgerald sidelined with a sore hamstring. They were Taylor’s first NFL catches.
Matthew Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson on touchdown plays of 72 and 3 yards, and DeAndre Levy returned an interception 66 yards for a score for Detroit (1-1), which led 21-13 midway through the third quarter.
But time and again, the Lions found themselves starting deep in their own territory.
“I feel like we lost the field-position battle today big-time,” Stafford said.
The Lions also were penalized eight times for 101 yards. Asked how the team could cut down on that problem, Stafford said he and his teammates are trying.
“We’re making a concerted effort to try and play cleaner football this year,” he said. “I don’t know. Maybe (we should be) asking them to quit throwing flags on us. I don’t know.”
Detroit’s Reggie Bush left the game after taking a helmet or shoulder to the knee early in the second quarter, and he played only briefly in the second half.
“I was able to go back in the game, but I wasn’t myself,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t have gone back in the game, but I tried to give it a shot. We will see what happens this week. I am not sure, but I don’t think it is anything serious.”
The Lions also were without standout defensive tackle Nick Fairley with a sore shoulder.
The Cardinals defense, which held the Lions offense scoreless in the second half, forced Detroit to punt from its 8-yard line late.
“We pride ourselves on showing up when it matters,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said, “and we showed up at the end of the game when it really mattered.”
The Cards took over at their 39, and Palmer’s 16-yard pass to Ellington quickly moved it to the Detroit 45. The drive stalled at the 32, but on third-and-8 Palmer threw deep for Roberts, who slowed down to wait for the ball and was hit by Bentley.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Palmer handed off to Mendenhall, who stretched the ball over the goal line with one hand for the deciding score. Palmer’s pass on the 2-point conversion attempt failed.
The Lions got the ball back with a chance to win, but their hopes ended when Nate Burleson was stopped just short of the first down by rookie Tyrann Mathieu on a completion on fourth-and-4 from near midfield.
Stafford completed 24 of 36 passes for 278 yards and two TDs but was
only 8 of 16 for 77 yards in the second half. Palmer finished 22 of 39
for 248 yards.
While Feely was good from 47, 23, 43 and 33 yards, Detroit’s David Akers missed a 47-yarder and had another 47-yard attempt blocked by Justin Bethel. Actually, Akers misfired twice on Detroit’s first scoring opportunity. His
52-yard attempt was wide right, but Bethel was called for running into
the kicker. Then, Akers’ 47-yard attempt was wide left.
Feely made his 47-yard try to put Arizona up 3-0 with 11:44 left in the half.
Three plays later, Stafford threw short over the middle to Johnson, who raced 72 yards for the score. Karlos Dansby had a chance to knock the pass down or intercept it, but Stafford threw the ball just hard enough to zip it past the linebacker’s outstretched hands.
The Cardinals responded with a six-play, 80-yard drive on their next possession. Palmer lofted a 22-yard pass to Fitzgerald, then found Ellington open up the sideline for a 36-yard score to put Arizona up 10-7 with 7:32 to play in the second quarter.
Detroit regained the lead with a 10-play, 92-yard touchdown drive capped by Stafford’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 1:55 left in the half. NOTES: After the game, Peterson asked Johnson to trade jerseys, and the Lions star obliged. … Besides defending Johnson and returning punts, Peterson also caught a pass and completed one. … Detroit is the only team Arizona has beaten in the last 14 games. The Cardinals have beaten the Lions twice in that time and gone 0-12 against everyone else.