Lions impressive late in mistake-filled win over Arizona
DETROIT (AP) Matthew Stafford and Carson Palmer traded early interceptions.
Only Palmer kept misfiring badly, and when he did, Detroit took advantage.
Stafford threw four touchdown passes, and the Lions raced past Arizona in the fourth quarter Sunday for a 35-23 victory . Detroit snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Cardinals and avoided what would have been a dispiriting home loss amid a tough early schedule.
”Just a total team win,” Stafford said. ”I mean, it took everybody. It wasn’t pretty, a bunch of penalties, some mistakes, turned the ball over.”
Palmer threw his first of three interceptions on the game’s initial possession, but Stafford’s very first pass was picked off and returned 82 yards for a touchdown by Justin Bethel. The Lions later botched a punt in their own end zone, and Arizona led 10-0 after one quarter – but it turned out the Cardinals had wasted their best chance to take control of the game.
”It should’ve been big. It should’ve been real big,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. ”It was very concerning because, you know, you are giving away opportunities.”
The Cardinals led 17-15 heading into the fourth quarter before Stafford connected twice for touchdowns with rookie receiver Kenny Golladay. Miles Killebrew put the Lions up 35-17 when he returned an interception 35 yards for a TD.
Detroit has games against the Giants and Falcons coming up next, so it was important to take care of business at home against an Arizona team that missed the playoffs a season ago. The Lions did make the postseason last year, thanks in large part to their ability to rally late in games.
If anything, this comeback was even more emphatic than what the 2016 team did with such regularity.
”Number one, I know we’re young because we made a whole bunch of young mistakes. Number two, I think the core guys still have that same sort of fight in them regardless of what the circumstances are,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. ”They’re looking for an opportunity to get a win and they’ll fight you to the end and get it done.”
Here are a few more things we learned from this season opener:
STRONG ON D
There were concerns about Detroit’s pass rush after the Lions lost Kerry Hyder in their preseason opener, but they were able to pressure Palmer and force turnovers from the very start. It was the defense that kept Detroit in the game during a rocky first half.
The Lions have struggled to build a consistent running game in recent years, and Sunday wasn’t all that encouraging in that regard. Ameer Abdullah managed only 30 yards on 15 carries.
Arizona wasn’t any better, though. David Johnson was held to 23 yards on 11 carries and hurt his wrist when he fumbled the ball away deep in his own territory in the third quarter.
Kicker Matt Prater has been a key player for a Detroit team that has played so many close games of late. Apparently, he can also punt if need be.
Punter Kasey Redfern hurt his knee after he dropped a snap in the end zone in the first quarter and then tried to run for the first down. Prater took over the punting duties and averaged 34.8 yards on four attempts.
Prater also kicked a 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
Golladay made quite an impact with his touchdowns, the second of which came on a diving catch, but first-round draft pick Jarrad Davis made an impression as well for Detroit. The linebacker recovered Johnson’s fumble in the third, and with the Lions down 17-9, that turned out to be a big play.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
The 37-year-old Palmer threw for 269 yards, but his only touchdown pass came at the end when his team was well behind. His numbers slipped last season, and he’ll need to improve if this Arizona offense is going to live up to its potential.
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