Cardinals-Lions game pits playoff push vs. pride

BY foxsports • December 21, 2009

Kurt Warner has been at his best when the Arizona Cardinals needed to bounce back. That's not good news for the Detroit Lions.

Warner has completed 73 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games after losses this season.

``You hate to think that you get more focused after a loss,'' he said. ``But I do think that there's something to having your backs against the wall a little bit. Or being pressed and in a corner, knowing that you don't want to lose two games in a row.''

Arizona set itself up to clinch the NFC West on Monday night at San Francisco and flopped.

Now, the Cardinals (8-5) need a win over Detroit (2-11) and a 49ers loss at Philadelphia to win consecutive division titles for the first time since 1974-75 and avoid making the last two weeks of the regular season dramatic.

With a lot at stake, Arizona had five turnovers in the first half and finished with seven in a 24-9 loss to the 49ers in its lowest-scoring game of the year.

``I think you have to say it was an aberration,'' Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``Everything that could go wrong seemed like it went wrong. Sometimes you have those games.

``Hopefully, we got everything out of our system in one game.''

The Lions certainly are hoping they don't repeat their last performance. Detroit was dismantled at Baltimore, losing 48-3 for a third straight time and 28th in 30 games.

``We got thumped,'' linebacker Larry Foote said. ``We got humiliated.

``A better offensive team is coming in. A good performance is what I'm expecting, and we can forget all about that Baltimore game.''

The Cardinals might make it tough for the Lions to move on.

Larry Fitzgerald expects to play after injuring his right knee, and he will run routes with Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston for Warner against the NFL's lowest-rated defense against the pass.

Whisenhunt tried to strike a respectful tone when talking about the Lions' secondary.

``I put the Seattle tape on and it certainly didn't look like a mismatch early in that game,'' he said, referring to last month when Detroit gave up 32 points in a loss to the Seahawks. ``So, I think that they have NFL players on that roster.''

The Lions, coming off the NFL's first winless season, were going to have a hard time winning games this season even if they were the healthiest team in the league. They've been even worse than expected at times because of injuries.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is expected to miss his second straight game with a sore left shoulder, putting lackluster Daunte Culpepper behind center. Receiver Calvin Johnson was limited in practices with a knee injury, as was safety Louis Delmas with an ankle injury. Running back Kevin Smith had a season-ending injury last week.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz, though, bristled at a question about the Lions playing only for pride.

``You play to win,'' he said. ``You don't play for pride.

``I never once talked about playing for pride or any other agenda. You play to win every Sunday and I think that message has been consistent to these guys since the very beginning.''

Consistency is what the Cardinals are striving for and it has been an elusive goal.

Just when Arizona thought it was rolling with a 30-17 win over Minnesota in a Sunday night game - a fourth win in five games - it was awful at San Francisco.

``Look at how we played against Minnesota, how we played against San Francisco - we're two totally different teams,'' Fitzgerald said. ``You can't have those ups and downs. You have to be consistent in this league. You look at the great teams in this league - the New Orleans Saints, the Minnesota Vikings, the Indianapolis Colts - they might be in a tough game, but consistently they play good football.''

The Lions have been bad regularly and they're getting tired of it.

``The misery continues,'' kicker Jason Hanson said. ``The more you lose, that's what happens.

``We have to gain some traction by pulling out some wins. We're not in contention for the playoffs again, but every win matters. We're playing some teams that are playing for stuff, so it's a good test and it'll be legit if we win.''

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