In a battle of the top two teams in the NFC, the Detroit Lions fell to the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 14-6. The Lions got off to a slow start defensively, but the NFL's No. 1 defense rebounded quite nicely for the remainder of the game. The problem for the Lions is that the offense did not follow suit after a slow start of its own. Matthew Stafford and co. never got things going, and that ultimately led to the Lions' first loss since early October.
The start of this game felt similar to the start of the Lions' game in London. I say that because nothing went right for the Lions early on. The Cardinals easily drove down the field and scored on a 42-yard pass from Drew Stanton to Michael Floyd on the game's opening drive. Then, after a Lions three-and-out that featured Jed Collins being stuffed on third-and-1, the Cardinals easily scored on a 12-yard pass to Floyd. The Cardinals continued to have success on third down on their second drive, and Floyd's second TD actually came on third-and-10.
Now down 14-0, the Lions finally found some life on offense. Joique Bell got things moving with an impressive 33-yard run, and the Lions got all the way down to the Arizona 32. At that point, they faced fourth-and-2, and instead of going for it, the Lions settled for a 50-yard Matt Prater field goal. This decision nearly backfired, but Prater managed to bank the kick in off the left upright to get the Lions on the board.
Arizona was on its way to another easy scoring drive after getting the ball back, but Stanton made a big mistake after getting inside the red zone. He threw the ball right to Josh Bynes, giving the Lions defense a much-needed turnover.
Unfortunately, the offense was unable to do anything with the turnover thanks to a drive-killing facemask penalty on Rob Sims. The Lions had first down at the Arizona 37 at that point, but they only managed to get back to the 40 after the penalty, leading to another punt.
After the two teams traded punts, the Cardinals got the ball back with decent field position. However, the Lions defense came up with another big play. This time, Cassius Vaughn, who got off to an awful start in this game, picked off Stanton. He returned the interception to the Arizona 19, giving the Lions a huge opportunity to add some points before halftime.
The Lions did manage to add some points, but they only got a 28-yard field goal. This was because of an absolutely horrendous spot on third down. Eric Ebron looked like he had enough yardage to move the chains, but the officials somehow saw it differently:
I'm flat out accusing these refs of complete incompetence now. pic.twitter.com/aK4cXsGcKI— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) November 16, 2014
What's even more amazing is that this play was reviewed, but the call was not overturned. As a result, the Lions settled for Prater's second field goal of the game and went into halftime down 14-6.
The Lions also went into the fourth quarter down 14-6, as neither team was able to score in the third quarter. The Lions opened with a punt after driving into Arizona territory, and the Cardinals followed with a punt of their own. Then, on the Lions' next drive, Stafford arm-punted the ball on third-and-13 near midfield. I say arm-punted because he was picked off after throwing it up for grabs downfield. It was a turnover, but it basically served the same purpose as a punt.
After an Arizona three-and-out, the Lions were on the wrong end of yet another questionable spot. This time, on second-and-2, Bell fumbled the ball forward, and it was recovered by Sims. It seemed like Sims may have had enough for a first down, but the spot made it third-and-1 instead. Predictably, the Lions couldn't move the chains with a poorly designed running play, and they elected to punt on fourth-and-inches.
Things continued to go poorly for both the officials and the Lions offense shortly after the start of the fourth quarter. The Lions defense made a stop just in time to keep Arizona out of field goal range, and the ensuing punt was nearly downed at the 1-yard line. I say nearly because a Cardinals player quickly threw the ball back into play, at which point Jeremy Ross came out of nowhere to pick it up. Since the Cardinals touched the ball, there was no risk of a fumble, and Ross returned the punt all the way to the Arizona 46. It looked like a potential game-changing play, but it was challenged, and somehow the officials decided that the Cardinals player possessed the ball at the 1-yard line. This meant that instead of having the ball on Arizona's side of the field, the Lions were stuck at their own 1-yard line.
Despite the awful field position, the Lions did eventually get into Arizona territory. In fact, they ended up just about where they should have been after Ross' return. Unfortunately, the Lions only managed to get to that point when it was fourth-and-2, and needing points with time starting to run out, they decided to go for it and were unable to move the chains thanks to a poor throw in the direction of Calvin Johnson.
In need of another clutch stop, the Lions defense delivered yet again. This time, the Cardinals made it down to the Detroit 35, but they once again elected to punt instead of trying a field goal. This gave the Lions offense the ball at their own 11 with 4:34 to play. Everything seemed to be setting up for another late comeback, but the Lions got one first down and that was it. A poorly timed snap on third-and-12 doomed any chance of the Lions moving the chains, and they were forced to punt.
In need of one more stop to give the offense one final chance, the defense looked like it did just enough to bring up fourth down. However, the officials gave the Cardinals a very generous spot, as this was ruled a first down (via @WorldofIsaac):
This play occurred just before the two-minute warning, so there was no automatic review, and with the Lions out of timeouts, they were unable to challenge. As a result, the Cardinals were able to simply take a knee and run the final two minutes off the clock to seal their 14-6 victory.
This was an extremely frustrating and disappointing loss for the Lions, but they won't be able to dwell on it for too long with another big road game coming up. Next week, the Lions have to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxborough, and they will have to play much better than they did this week in order to avoid their second loss in a row.
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