The Detroit Lions just couldn’t do it.
They couldn’t give themselves an easy win to start the season. Instead, after dominating play for three quarters, they absolutely imploded in the fourth quarter, allowing the Arizona Cardinals to come back from an 18-point deficit in the final period. The two teams would come to an extremely disappointing tie.
Here’s how it happened.
The Detroit Lions got the ball first, and it appeared they unleashed some new formations and looks. Things seemed to be going well early, as Detroit approached midfield, but a third-and-1 C.J. Anderson run was stuffed in the backfield and the Lions punted early. The defense responded with a quick three-and-out, though, giving Matthew Stafford the ball back in his hands.
T.J. Hockenson got the Lions into Cardinals territory with a 28-yard catch, but Matthew Stafford missed on two straight passes—one to Hockenson and one (under duress) to Danny Amendola. The Lions were, again, forced to punt, although Sam Martin pinned the Cardinals at the 1-yard line.
Then things started to get a little wacky. Tracy Walker picked off Kyler Murray deep in the Cardinals’ own end of the field.
But on the very next play, Chandler Jones walked around Taylor Decker and crushed Stafford’s blindside, jarring the ball loose.
Arizona would take over at its own 33-yard line, but quickly go three-and-out thanks to a third-and-1 stop from A’Shawn Robinson.
The Lions’ offense again worked its way into Cardinals territory as a scoreless first quarter came to an end.
After failing to connect with Kenny Golladay on third-and-long, Matt Prater came in and nailed a 55-yarder, putting the Lions on the scoreboard first. 3-0 Lions.
The Lions’ defense continued to make Murray’s debut tough. For the third time in four drives, the Cardinals went three-and-out, and this time the Lions made them pay.
On a play action pass, Stafford expertly avoided pressure, then lofted a ball to a wide-open Danny Amendola. The veteran receiver ole’d the only remaining player between him and the end zone, and 47-yards later the Lions were up two scores. 10-0 Lions.
A pressure from Mike Daniels led to a sack from Devon Kennard—his second of the game—and the Lions got the ball back. But a special teams penalty on Dee Virgin had them backed up on their own 5-yard line.
However, Matthew Stafford was up for the challenge. Thanks to big plays from Hockenson (39 yards), Stafford running the ball (12 yards), and a couple of Cardinals penalties—including one a fourth-and-1 — the Lions worked themselves into the red zone. A wide-open pass to Kenny Golladay gave the Lions a three-score lead. 17-0 Lions.
The Lions were set up in a golden opportunity to go into halftime with that three-score lead, but returner Jamal Agnew muffed a punt inside his own 10-yard line, giving the Cardinals a first-and-goal situation. However, the Lions held strong, forcing the Cardinals into a short field goal. 17-3 Lions.
The Lions had a chance to add to their lead before the half, but stalled at midfield.
The Lions defense picked up where it left off to start the second half. Thanks to a sack from rookie Jahlani Tavai, the Cardinals, again, went three-and-out.
But Detroit couldn’t capitalize, as Taylor Decker continued his struggles throughout the day. Terrell Suggs strip-sacked Matthew Stafford, but Frank Ragnow came up with the timely recovery.
The teams traded three-and-outs from there, as the Lions continued to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and poor offensive line play, keeping the Cardinals in the game.
Finally, Arizona would end the second-half stalemate. Connecting with Keyshawn Johnson for 15 yards, Kyler Murray got into field goal range, but not much further. 17-6 Lions.
The Lions responded with a solid offensive drive, getting into the red zone before the turn to the final quarter.
The Lions faced a tough third-and-long situation after a Taylor Decker false start. But Matthew Stafford escaped the pocket and threw a jump ball to T.J. Hockenson who grabbed the 23-yard pass for his first career touchdown. 24-6 Lions.
The Cardinals struck back, though, keeping it a two-score game. Thanks to a big catch from Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona found themselves in the red zone. But Detroit’s defense stood tall yet again, forcing just a field goal attempt, which was good from 34. 24-9 Lions.
Detroit tried to bleed the clock, but the Lions continued to struggle on the ground and gave the ball right back to the Cardinals after three quick plays.
The Cardinals were dinking and dunking their way down the field, burning a lot of clock, but then they got the chunk play they needed. David Johnson burned Jalen Reeves-Maybin in coverage for a 27-yard touchdown, making it a one-score game. 24-16 Lions.
Then things got scary. The Lions needed simply one more first down to run out the clock. It was third-and-5, and the Lions dialed up a perfect play, earning a first down. But the play was blown dead because someone called a timeout for Detroit just before the snap. The Lions would fail to convert on the second chance, and they would give the ball back with over 2:30 to go.
Then the punt got blocked.
A personal foul here, a 15-yard catch there, and a two-point conversion to cap it off, and the Lions and Cardinals were somehow tied with 47 seconds left to play. 24-24.
Matthew Stafford couldn’t lead the Lions on a one-minute drill, so the two teams went to
A 45-yard bomb to Larry Fitzgerald immediately got the Cardinals into field goal position. However, Detroit’s defense finally stopped the bleeding, forcing the Cardinals into a field goal. 27-24 Cardinals.
Two big plays from Marvin Jones Jr. got the Lions in field goal position for the rebuttal, but they couldn’t get any further. Prater was good from 33, and it was tied again. 27-27.
The Cardinals nearly worked their way into field goal position, but the Lions got stop just when they needed to. Unfortunately, Detroit could do anything with less than a minute left and the two teams ended with a tie.
It’s an extremely disappointing start to the season for Detroit, especially considering how well the team played in the first three quarters.
The long wait is finally over. After waiting nine long months, the Detroit Lions will take the field Sunday and play some actual, meaningful football.
We can stop reading season predictions. We can stop bickering about offseason signings or draft picks. There are no more projections. Only results.
The Detroit Lions will kick off their 2019 campaign under head coach Matt Patricia against the Arizona Cardinals, one of the most mysterious teams in the NFL. New head coach, new rookie quarterback, and a new offensive scheme.
The Cardinals were easily the worst team in the NFL last year, but things can change in a hurry in this league. No one is expecting a Super Bowl-level team out of Arizona, but it’s hard to know just how competitive they will be in Kliff Kingsbury’s first season.
The Lions, on the other hand, are trying to rebound after an extremely disappointing inaugural season for Patricia. They made some splashy moves in free agency and added a shiny top-10 pick, but there aren’t a lot of believers in this team. Can they prove everyone wrong?
Here’s how to watch the Lions’ Week 1 season opener.
How to watch Lions-Cardinals
Date: Sunday, September 8, 2019
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Location: State Farm Stadium — Glendale, AZ
Week 1 TV Map: Courtesy of 506 Sports here
Announcers: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Jennifer Hale
Online streaming: Fox Sports Go, Yahoo Sports app
Local radio: WJR-AM NEWS TALK 760
Radio announcers: Dan Miller, Lomas Brown
Odds: Lions by 2.5