Cardinals make it look easy against hapless Lions
Carson Palmer earned a break. Matthew Stafford was forced to sit.
Palmer threw for three touchdowns, Stafford was benched after throwing a third interception, and the Arizona Cardinals routed the Detroit Lions 42-17 Sunday.
Palmer was poised and efficient, completing 11 of 14 passes for 161 yards. He threw a 14-yard pass to Darren Fells, an 18-yard connection to John Brown, and a 2-yard strike to Larry Fitzgerald for scores.
"I feel comfortable and confident," said Palmer, whose 154.2 passer rating was the second highest of his career that started when Cincinnati drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003.
The Cardinals (4-1) have a two-game lead in the NFC West and Larry Fitzgerald said no one on the team would be celebrating on the flight home.
"It’s far too early," he said. "At this point of the season last year, we had a two-game and we didn’t win it."
It may not be too early to wonder when Detroit is going to win.
The Lions (0-5) have the dubious distinction of being the NFL’s only winless team, for a second straight week, and are off to their worst start since becoming the league’s only 0-16 team in 2008.
When they host Chicago (2-3) next week, Stafford is expected to start. Caldwell said he simply substituted Stafford out as a manager would with a pitcher.
"Going forward, we do think he’s our best quarterback," he said.
Arizona defensive end Cory Redding, who played for the Lions’ infamous team seven years ago, had an interception that he almost returned for a score, only to be stopped by Stafford. Redding hopes the Lions snap their skid because he doesn’t want the current players to join him and his former teammates in league infamy.
"I don’t wish that on my worst enemy," Redding said.
Stafford was picked off on passes well short of receivers and missed at least one wide-open option. Stafford was told to stay on the sideline in the third quarter and wasn’t surprised because of what he heard from coach Jim Caldwell at halftime.
"He warned me at halftime that I only got one more," Stafford recalled.
Stafford was 20 of 32 for 188 yards with a 6-yard TD pass to Theo Riddick that gave Detroit a 7-0 lead after its defense didn’t allow the Cardinals to score a point — or even pick up a first down — following two turnovers in the first quarter. He was replaced by Dan Orlovsky, who threw his first pass since 2012 and took a snap for the first time in two years. In Detroit at least, he is best remembered for obliviously running out of the back of the end zone when rolling out to pass for a safety during a setback at Minnesota when the franchise set a record it didn’t want.
After the Lions lost every game in 2008, they drafted Stafford No. 1 overall out of Georgia, ignoring questions about his inability to throw accurately. Now, they are relatively stuck after signing him two years ago to a $53 million, three-year extension that keeps him under contract through 2017.
Orlovsky completed 21 of 38 passes for 191 yards with a TD late in the game and an interception.
Stafford and Orlovsky combined to set an NFL record with 70 pass attempts in a regulation game, surpassing the 69 thrown by Vinny Testaverde of the New York Jets in a 2000 loss to Baltimore, according to STATS.
Palmer helped the Cardinals average an NFL-high 37 points entering the game, and they surpassed that with a mixture of plays.
Chris Johnson had 11 carries for 103 yards, giving him nearly 300 yards rushing in three games. Rookie David Johnson took over in short-yardage situations, scoring on a 4-yard run to put Arizona ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter and a 2-yarder late in the first half.
Rashad Johnson matched a career high with two interceptions. Patrick Peterson picked off a pass and limited Calvin Johnson to five receptions and 67 yards.
"Once we got the first couple turnovers, it was like piranhas with the blood in the water," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "I was just worried we were going to start taking the ball away from each other."
NOTES: Cardinals LB Alex Okafor and LB Kenny Demens both had knee injuries during the game. … Lions LB DeAndre Levy was cleared to return from a hip injury only to aggravate it against Arizona.