Stafford-to-Golladay, defense lift Lions over Cardinals 35-23
DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford was forced to play defense after his first pass of the season, and failed to stop an opponent from returning his interception for a touchdown.
Like the rest of the Detroit Lions, he knows how to bounce back.
Stafford threw two of his four touchdown passes to rookie Kenny Golladay in the fourth quarter, helping Detroit rally to beat the Arizona Cardinals 35-23 on Sunday.
“We just have to get out of our own way earlier,” Stafford said.
Detroit got in the way of a few of Carson Palmer’s passes.
Palmer was picked off three times and one of his interceptions was returned by Miles Killebrew for a score in the fourth quarter. To make matters worse for the Cardinals, star running back David Johnson was knocked out of the game after fumbling in the third quarter.
“You’re not going to beat anybody turning the ball over that many times,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.
Detroit opened the season with another comeback after setting an NFL record last year by rallying to win eight games after trailing in the final quarter.
The Cardinals scored the first 10 points of the game and led 17-9 late in the third quarter before giving up 26 straight points.
“We played pretty well for three quarters, but that’s a good team,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “And, it is always going to be tough to stop them for 60 minutes. ”
Stafford’s first pass was returned 82 yards for a touchdown by Justin Bethel , but the player with the richest contract in the NFL was undeterred. He was 29 for 41 yards for 292 yards and threw 45- and 10-yard TD passes to Golladay , along with short passes to Theo Riddick and Marvin Jones for scores.
Palmer was 27 of 48 for 269 yards with three interceptions, one shy of his career high, and threw a 1-yard TD pass to J.J. Nelson in the final minutes. Johnson, who led the league with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns last season, was limited to 23 yards rushing on 11 carries and had six receptions for 68 yards.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Golladay ran past Bethel and fully extended to catch a long TD pass with 4:13 left in the game, putting Detroit up by 11 points.
“That’s a receiver’s dream,” he said. “The quarterback leads you and you get a chance to lay out and make a play. You just focus on getting your hands under the ball and bringing it in.”
The Lions botched their first extra point as holder Jake Rudock bobbled the snap and ended up running. That was one of their many miscues in a sloppy first half.
“It was not a fake,” Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. “There weren’t too many things that happened in the early part of the game were fake. You wished they were.”
Cardinals: Johnson left with a wrist injury and Arians didn’t have an update on his condition. Early in the game, starting left tackle D.J. Humphries left the game with a knee injury.
Lions: Kasey Redfern’s NFL debut didn’t last long and his season may be over after he had what Caldwell described as a significant injury. The punter, filling in for injured Sam Martin, hurt his knee in the first quarter when he dropped a snap in the end zone, picked up the ball and tried to run it out. Placekicker Matt Prater punted the next four times for Detroit, marking the first time he has done that since he was a junior at Central Florida.
“I practice a little, but after all these years, I never really thought it was going to happen,” Prater said. “When I saw them load Kasey onto a golf cart and drive him away, I realized it was about to happen.”
Cardinals: Play at Indianapolis on Sept. 17.
Lions: Visit New York Giants on Sept. 18.