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Lions-Cardinals recap: Sloppy first half takes a wild turn as Detroit wins, 35-23

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It went from weird to wonderful in Detroit on Sunday.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

First Half

The Ford Field crowd was ready for football this afternoon, and after Carson Palmer’s errant throw to an area only occupied by Tavon Wilson, the Lions were in business. Already on the Cardinals side of the field, the Lions’ offense had a chance to put the first points of the game on the board.

After a short run by Ameer Abdullah on first down, Matthew Stafford prepared for his first throw after signing his record-setting contract extension this offseason. It was complete, but to Justin Bethel of Arizona. After throwing one pick-six all of last season, Stafford matched that total with his first pass of 2017:

Kenny Golladay’s role with the team was a curiosity for many coming into Week 1. The team’s third-round selection in this year’s NFL Draft, and the cause for much hype with his play throughout training camp and the preseason, Golladay had his first chance to get the offense moving on the Lions’ second possession of the afternoon. A ball Stafford should have put to his inside fell out of his hands, and the Lions were forced to punt it away.

Heading into Week 1, the Lions’ defense, especially their front seven, were the cause of much discussion. Along the front line, it was a question of what new faces would step up to the challenge and fill the hole left by Kerry Hyder’s Achilles injury suffered in Week 1 of the preseason. Anthony Zettel earned the start opposite of Ezekiel Ansah, but other names stepped up huge for Detroit’s defense on Sunday.

Cornelius Washington, a newcomer from division rival Chicago, stepped up in a big way on an early third-and-1 for the Cardinals. Along with Tahir Whitehead, the Lions’ defense was answering the bell for their struggling offense early on.

As the offense continued to stumble, the special teams took a huge blow when Kasey Redfern bobbled the snap when punting from his own end zone. After recovering, instead of trying to get off a kick, Redfern tucked the ball and charged toward the outside in hopes of getting the first down...

Redfern limped back to the training table, was loaded onto a cart en route for the locker room, and would be deemed questionable to return with a knee injury. In his absence, Matt Prater would take over the punting duties, and Jake Rudock would assume the holding responsibilities. The amount of strange in this game through the first quarter alone was enough for the entire 60 minutes, but things were only getting started at Ford Field.

After holding the Cardinals to a field goal after the botched punt attempt, the Lions’ defense, with their backs to the end zone, rose to the occasion and held Arizona to a field goal. A 10-0 lead seemed to be a blessing, and the Lions’ offense would finally show some signs of life on their next possession, gaining their first set of new downs almost 14 minutes into the game.

Once again, it would be Detroit’s defense that would force the issue. Glover Quin picked off a pass from Palmer that was intended for John Brown, and the defense set the offense up with some fortuitous field position, and the opportunity to get on the board.

The ensuing drive for the Lions offense included the following, and please, ready this with Yakety Sax playing on an infinite loop:

  • Detroit converting three times the amount of first downs they had up to this point in the game
  • Defensive end Alex Barrett lining up at fullback
  • Dwayne Washington running with the football, and gaining a first down to boot
  • Stafford connecting with Marvin Jones Jr. for six points!
  • Rudock fumbling the hold on the point after attempt and doing his best Redfern impression by making a beeline for the sideline

All of that and the Lions were trailing by four points. A couple of short possessions and punts exchanged back and forth by both teams took us near the end of the first half. With the ball, the Cardinals’ offense converted a couple of key first downs, but Jeremiah Ledbetter would catch a piece of Palmer as he attempted to escape the pocket. Arizona would line up for a field goal, but Dawson’s 32-yard attempt would Doink off the upright, and the score would have remained 10-6 heading into the half if it wasn’t for the 39 seconds Arizona left Detroit’s offense to operate—which is like two minutes in Stafford time.

Prater lined up for a field goal attempt of 58 yards with a few seconds left, and with his right leg, not only did he make the score 10-9 at the half, he also ruined some poor cameraman’s Sunday:

Second Half

The second half was much lighter on the general screwiness and overall insaneness that the first half was overflowing with. The Lions returned the opening kick, failed to do much with it on offense, and before you knew it, Arizona was knock knock knocking on the Lions’ door. David Johnson absorbed a brutal blow and made his way back to the sideline under his own power. It would be his backup, Kerwynn Williams, who dashed into the end zone to extend the Cardinals lead, and Dawson who made the score 17-9 Arizona.

Detroit’s offense looked poised to respond after a 31-yard pass and catch from Stafford to Jones Jr. got the drive rolling, but the Lions’ offense managed only two more yards before giving the ball back to Arizona, but they wouldn’t have the ball for long.

It was the defense that continued to keep the Lions in the game, and A’Shawn Robinson made a huge play on first down when he forced David Johnson to cough up the rock. Jarrad Davis scooped it up and returned it 21 yards to the Arizona 10-yard line.

Two plays later, the Lions crossed the goal line and were two points away from tying the game after this nifty display of moves by Theo Riddick:

A fade to the back of the end zone for Golladay fell harmlessly out of bounds on the two-point conversion, so Detroit remained two points back of the Cardinals, still in search for their first lead of the game.

On Arizona’s next possession, Detroit’s pass rush would finally find the mark as Zettel made it past the Cardinals’ backup left tackle John Wetzel—in for the injured D.J. Humphries—to record his first sack of the season. The Lions were building some momentum, and it was their defense leading the cause.

T.J. Lang was called for an illegal block above the waist that wiped out a Golden Tate first down, and it looked like the offense was in trouble on a third-and-long, but it was the other TJ, TJ Jones, who helped keep the Lions’ drive alive with a reception good for a new set of downs. He would make two catches for 32 yards on the drive that would help set up the redemption of Kenny Golladay:

A pass interference against Marvin Jones Jr. kept the Lions from extending their lead to six points, but Detroit was up by two possessions, 21-17... UNTIL GOLLADAY DID IT AGAIN!

Arizona would have one last chance to claw back into this one, down 11 with just over four minutes left, but Palmer threw his third interception of the game, and Miles Killebrew took this one back 35 yards to the house to put the Lions up 35-17.

A pass interference call on Davis in the end zone would set the Cardinals up with a first-and-goal from Detroit’s 1-yard line, and J.J. Nelson would score on the next play from scrimmage making it 35-23, and your final score from Ford Field on Sunday.