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Drive-By-Drive Breakdown of Cardinals' 31-24 Win Over Lions

Here is a drive-by-drive look at how the Cardinals beat the Lions by a score of 31-24 on Sunday.

1st Quarter

  • Maurice Morris moved the chains once for the Lions on the opening drive of the game, but it quickly stalled after that thanks in part to a false start by Manny Ramirez.
  • Arizona couldn't do anything on its opening drive and went three and out.
  • Similar to the first drive of the game, the Lions moved the chains once before it stalled.  This time it stalled on an incompletion on 3rd and 2.  Why the coaches felt the need to pass the ball out of the shotgun on 3rd and 2 is beyond me, but even if the pass had been complete, an offensive pass interference penalty would have negated it.
  • Arizona moved the chains twice on its next drive -- a 13-yard pass to Beanie Wells and a 16-yard run by Wells.  After that Wells ran for 6 and 3 yards, but he was dropped by Larry Foote and Louis Delmas for a loss of 3 on 3rd and 1.  The Cardinals had to punt, but Dennis Northcutt fumbled away the defense's hard work by muffing the punt.  A Cardinals player fell on it at the 13-yard line, and three plays later Kurt Warner threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald, who caught it after it was deflected into the air.
  • Daunte Culpepper picked up where he left off last week and was picked off on a terribly-underthrown pass on 3rd and 14.  It came nowhere near Calvin Johnson, allowing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to pick it off and take it back to midfield.

2nd Quarter

  • Arizona moved the chains only once on this drive, but the good field position meant that the 18-yard pickup was enough for the Cardinals to be in field goal range.  Mike Nugent, picked up earlier in the week to fill in for the injured Neil Rackers, nailed the 48-yard field goal right through the uprights to put the Cardinals up 10-0.
  • The Lions were on the move after picking up a pair of third-down conversions, but more boneheaded penalties killed this drive in its tracks.  Specifically, Dylan Gandy jumped for a false start, and on the very next play Gosder Cherilus did the same thing.  The pair of penalties made it 1st and 20, and although the Lions managed to pick up 16 yards to make it 4th and 4, the coaches opted to have Jason Hanson attempt a 54-yard field goal.  Unfortunately Hanson's recent struggles continued, because he kicked the ball wide right of the uprights, ending the once-promising drive with no points.
  • The Cardinals wasted little time in making the Lions pay for the mistake, as they had great field position because of the missed kick.  First Beanie Wells ran for 13 yards to get the Cardinals into Lions territory, and then Kurt Warner connected with Larry Fitzgerald for 5 yards and Anquan Boldin for 9.  Ben Patrick, Arizona's tight end, then picked up 28 yards on a catch, and Tim Hightower punched it into the end zone on the next play from a yard out to give Arizona a 17-0 lead.
  • Back-to-back sacks instead of back-to-back penalties killed the Lions' next drive before it even really got going, giving the Cardinals a chance to add to its lead before halftime.
  • Arizona was well on its way to scoring again, but its drive was derailed by Cliff Avril, who hit Kurt Warner and forced a fumble that was recovered by Julian Peterson.  The Lions now had the ball at their 27 with 11 seconds left, and Culpepper found Dennis Northcutt for a gain of 20, setting up a Hail Mary.  Unlike his interceptions, Culpepper overthrew the Hail Mary big time (the ball went through the uprights I believe), bringing the first half to a close.

3rd Quarter

  • After allowing Beanie Wells to run for 17 yards and picking up a face mask penalty on the next play, the Lions' defense stepped it up and forced a punt, setting the tone for what would be its best quarter of the season.
  • Drew Stanton finally replaced Daunte Culpepper as the Lions' offense took the field for its first drive of the second half.  Not much changed production-wise, as the offense picked up one first down before having to punt, but at least a change was made.
  • Following a three and out by Arizona, the Lions quickly gave the ball right back to the Cardinals when Drew Stanton threw a bad pass and was intercepted.  Thankfully, Louis Delmas made the interception an afterthought by picking off a pass of his own on the very next play.  Kurt Warner thought he had Steve Breaston open in the end zone, but Delmas came out of nowhere and made the interception.  He proceeded to return the interception 100 yards for a touchdown despite having very little room to run down the sideline initially. 
  • The defense continued to play well and forced another Cardinals three and out.  The offense capitalized on the momentum the defense created by quickly scoring another touchdown.  On the first play after the punt, Maurice Morris found a crease and ran 64 yards for a touchdown.  Just like that the Lions went from being down 17-0 to being down only 17-14.
  • Arizona once again went three and out, and their implosion continued when defensive tackle Bryan Robinson got two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties before the Lions' next drive could even begin.  He and the referee were having what appeared to be a civil conversation, but Robinson obviously said something the ref didn't like, because a flag was thrown.  That set off Robinson, who proceeded to pick up another penalty, giving the Lions 30 free yards in all.  That proved to be important, because the Lions got a 37-yard Jason Hanson field goal despite going three and out.  The game was now tied at 17.

4th Quarter

  • The Lions' defense reverted back to its old ways on the next drive.  Instead of forcing a turnover or a three and out, Arizona marched down the field and scored on an 18-yard run by Beanie Wells.  The tackling was just absolutely pathetic on the TD run, as Wells was able to get into the end zone even though he should have been brought down well short of it.
  • Just like Dennis Northcutt earlier in the game, Steve Breaston made a big mistake for the Cardinals to give the Lions' offense another shot at tying the game.  Following a drive that went nowhere after a 17-yard run by Maurice Morris, Breaston muffed a Nick Harris punt and Zack Follett recovered it on the 17-yard line.  It looked like the Lions were in perfect position to tie the game, but Jerome Felton was tackled for no gain on 4th and 1, bringing the drive to a quick close.
  • Luckily the defense tightened things up and Arizona went three and out.  As a result, the Lions had great field position and got all the way down to the 26 when Calvin Johnson made a catch for a gain of 24 yards on 3rd and 2.  Stanton moved the chains again on 3rd and 2 by completing a 12-yard pass to Jake NordinDerrick Williams got down to the 1 on the next play, and Stanton followed that up with a touchdown run on a QB sneak.  Jason Hanson made the extra point to tie the game up at 24 with 3:48 to go.
  • A kick return to the Arizona 42 put Kurt Warner and company in good position to break the tie, and that is exactly what happened after only five plays.  Warner moved the chains on a 13-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald, and then Beanie Wells ran for 34 yards.  After a couple 3-yard runs by Arizona, it was 3rd and 4 at the 5.  It appeared that a lineman moved early and a false start penalty should have been called, but there was no flag and Warner threw a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin.  The Cardinals now controlled a 31-24 lead with 1:54 to go. 
  • Drew Stanton tried to get things going for the Lions one more time, but his pass to Bryant Johnson on 4th and 3 fell to the ground and was incomplete, ending any hope of a comeback on the final drive of the game.  Arizona took over and took a knee a couple times to seal the 31-24 win and hand the Lions their 12th loss of the season.

Like I said yesterday, I was disappointed that the Lions were unable to pull off the win, but I was extremely pleased that it was even a close game.  The first half was a complete joke on offense and special teams, and though the defense played well overall, there were a few plays that just made me scratch my head.  In the second half, though, the defense played exceptionally well in the third quarter and gave the offense a chance to tie the game up.  That is exactly what happened, but unfortunately Arizona answered with a touchdown and the Lions really just ran out of time to do anything.  Yes, the offense had a couple minutes to try to tie the game, but it was a bit much to expect Drew Stanton, who had never seen any real extensive playing time before yesterday, to lead the Lions down the field in a pressure-packed situation like that.

Looking ahead to next week, my hope is that if Matthew Stafford needs to sit out another game, Drew Stanton will be the Lions' starting quarterback.  I know he struggled at times yesterday, but he is better than Daunte Culpepper, and I'd like to see how he plays with a full week of practice as the starter.  If he can shake off some of the rust and the defense can play as well as it did in the third quarter of yesterday's game, an upset is at least a possibility out in San Francisco next Sunday.

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