The same ol' Lions showed up during the first half of today's game. The offense couldn't do anything under Daunte Culpepper, and although the defense played fairly well, Arizona still led 17-0 thanks in part to a muffed punt. The biggest problem for the Lions was that the offense absolutely stunk and was completely irrelevant. As bad as the defense looked on some plays, it did a good enough job to keep this somewhat close, but there was no hope whatsoever with Culpepper in the game at quarterback.
As the second half got underway, my expectation was that like the same ol' Lions usually do in the third and fourth quarters, the offense would continue to be nonexistent and the defense would get blown out. Instead, though, the Lions came to life. Drew Stanton finally replaced Daunte Culpepper, and though Stanton didn't do a whole lot of positive things outside of one drive, the Lions seemed to be sparked by the change at quarterback.
The first good thing to happen to the Lions in today's game was actually on the first play after Stanton threw an interception. Kurt Warner tried to go to the end zone, but Louis Delmas read the play perfectly and picked off the pass. He proceeded to run down the sideline and managed to stay inbounds to return the pick 101 yards for a touchdown. The Lions had momentum on their side, and on the first play after a punt (the Cardinals went three and out), Maurice Morris ran 64 yards for a touchdown. Just like that, the Lions went from being down 17-0 to only trailing by a field goal. And actually, after another three and out, the Lions did get a field goal to tie the game at 17 as the third quarter came to an end.
Arizona finally got things going again in the fourth quarter and scored on an 18-yard run by Beanie Wells to retake the lead. The Lions had to punt the ball away and looked like they were reverting back to their old ways, but Steve Breaston muffed Nick Harris' punt and Zack Follett recovered at the Arizona 17. The Lions couldn't capitalize on the mistake, though, as Jerome Felton was stuffed for no gain on 4th and 1. Even so, the Lions' defense forced another three and out and the offense took advantage of good field position and drove down the field for a touchdown. Stanton ran into the end zone on a QB sneak from 1 yard out to tie the game up at 24.
The Cardinals got the ball back and quickly went down the field. A good kick return helped by setting the offense up with good field position, allowing Arizona to get in the red zone after only two plays -- a 13-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald and a 34-yard run by Beanie Wells. The defense looked like it might hold the Cards to a field goal, but Anquan Boldin scored on third down to put Arizona up 31-24.
Drew Stanton and the Lions had 1:54 to go down the field and score a touchdown, but there was no Matthew Stafford-like drive today. The Lions went four and out and Arizona was able to take a knee a couple times to finish off the game and avoid the upset. It was disappointing to see the team come up short, especially with a chance to tie things up, but all in all I was happy that they even had a chance to tie things up. After the first half I thought it was going to be another blowout, but the Lions fought back and made things interesting.
Next up for Detroit is a game at the 49ers. The one thing I'm most interested in as we get ready for the second-to-last game of the season is if Matthew Stafford will be able to play. Daunte Culpepper's career in Detroit (and basically the entire league) is as good as done after he was benched today, and although the Lions played better once Drew Stanton entered the game, it's pretty clear that he's just not very good. He did score a touchdown, which is worlds better than anything Culpepper has done in his last few starts, but this team needs Stafford to have a real chance at winning another game.