After five consecutive losses for the Detroit Lions, it seemed like the Arizona Cardinals were the perfect opponent to face. The Cardinals were coming off of a 58-0 embarrassment, and as bad as the Lions have looked at times this season, it's never gotten that bad. This was a recipe for a streak-snapping win on the road, right?
While the recipe for a win may have been there, there was also the possibility of disaster for the Lions. Losing to a team like the Cardinals would be the low point of the 2012 season, and unfortunately for the Lions, it was this scenario that came true. Some killer turnovers and an inability to score doomed the Lions, and they managed to not only lose to the Cardinals, but they were flat out embarrassed in a 38-10 blowout. This was their sixth loss in a row, dropping them to 4-10 on the season.
Sunday's game actually started off with something the Lions hadn't done all season. They once again won the toss, but they decided to defer rather than take the ball. At least initially, this appeared to be a mistake. The Cardinals promptly went right down the field and were setting up for at least a field goal. Then they showed exactly why they were home underdogs in this game by committing a pair of bad penalties to kill the drive. The Cardinals backed themselves up to the Lions 39-yard line, and they ended up having to punt when all was said and done.
The Lions promptly went three-and-out on their first drive of the game, but the defense got them the ball back. DeAndre Levy made a nice read to pick off Ryan Lindley, giving the Lions the ball near midfield. The offense was unable to capitalize on the turnover, though, going three-and-out yet again. This became the theme of the first quarter, as the Cardinals and Lions proceeded to produce four consecutive three-and-outs following the turnover.
Toward the end of the first quarter, the Lions finally moved the chains for the first time in this game. This sparked the offense, as did a 13-yard screen pass to Kevin Smith on third-and-9. The Lions were able to convert another third down with a 12-yard pass to Will Heller later in the drive, and Calvin Johnson got down to the 1-yard line with an 11-yard reception. Mikel Leshoure scored from a yard out on the very next play, and the Lions were suddenly in control of this game, leading 7-0.
The Lions defense came up with another stop, and it seemed as though the offense would have a chance to start pulling away. They never got a chance, though. Instead, on the punt return, Pat Lee collided with Stefan Logan, who muffed the ball. A Cardinals player fell on it at the 5-yard line, and Beanie Wells scored on the very next play. This completely changed the outlook of this game, and it was another gaffe by the special teams unit that killed the Lions.
After trading punts, the Lions took over at their own 7-yard line. Thanks to back-to-back false start penalties by Gosder Cherilus and Riley Reiff, the Lions backed themselves up to the 2-yard line. On the first and only play of the drive, Stafford threw a bad pass in the direction of Johnson and was picked off by Patrick Peterson. Peterson returned the ball all the way down to the 3-yard line, and Wells was back in the end zone a couple plays later. The Cardinals now led 14-7, and the Lions were on the verge of completely falling apart.
It was on the next drive that the Lions did completely fall apart. On third-and-15, following another Cherilus false start, Stafford threw another bad pass. This one was picked off by Rashad Johnson and returned 53 yards for a touchdown. The interception return sent the Lions into the locker room down 21-7 to a team that hadn't even found the end zone in the previous 11 quarters before Wells' first touchdown run. The Cardinals ended up scoring three TDs in the second quarter, and they were all gifts from the Lions offense and special teams.
After opening up the second half with yet another three-and-out, the Lions surrendered a 51-yard field goal to Jay Feely. They answered back with a 41-yard field goal of their own, keeping this a two-score game. After having five consecutive drives that ended with punts, the game remained 24-10 as time started ticking down in the fourth quarter.
For the Lions, it was now or never to begin their comeback, and they did finally start to show a sense of urgency. Stafford opened the drive with a 30-yard completion to Johnson, and he found Tony Scheffler for 29 yards four plays later. (Scheffler caught the ball this time after dropping a wide-open pass that could have gone for a touchdown one drive earlier.) The Lions continued to work their way down the field with an 8-yard pass to Stefan Logan, which gave them third-and-2 from the Cardinals 4-yard line. Stafford threw a perfect pass to Kris Durham for a would-be touchdown, but a delay of game penalty kept it from actually happening. Two plays later, on fourth-and-2, Stafford was picked off by Greg Toler, who went 102 yards for a touchdown.
After turning the ball over on downs on their next drive, the Lions allowed Wells to score a 31-yard touchdown two plays into Arizona's next possession. This made the score 38-10, and this ended up being the final score after the two teams traded punts to run out the final few minutes of the game.
To say this game was a disaster would be an understatement. The Lions actually outgained the Cardinals by a margin of 312-196, but the difference was in the turnover battle. Arizona not only forced three more turnovers than the Lions, but they capitalized on them. Two of the turnovers were returned for a touchdown, and the other two set up easy scores for the Cardinals.
At this point, I'm simply fed up with this team. The Lions opened this game looking as unprepared as ever, and as usual, they failed to execute. You can blame injuries all you want, but there's no excuse for losing to a team like the Cardinals by such a lopsided score. There's also no excuse for letting this happen when you finally have such a great chance to end your losing streak. Now the Lions are 4-10 after dropping six straight, and with the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons up next (on Saturday night on ESPN), it doesn't exactly seem like this streak is about to come to an end.
While I still would be surprised if a head coaching change is made after this season, this is the type of game that could be the beginning of the end for Jim Schwartz if he doesn't get things straightened out in the final two weeks of the year.