The Lions get back into the win column for the first time since October 2019, beating an undefeated Cardinals team 26-23.
Matt Prater played hero once again, nailing a 39-yard field goal as time expired.
The 11-game losing streak was not fun for anyone, but the team now has something to be excited about as they look to get their season back on track.
With star receiver Kenny Golladay making his 2020 debut, the team was primed to win against an electric offense led by the 2019 number one overall pick, quarterback Kyler Murray.
For the second straight game, the Lions received the ball to start the game, and they again jumped out to an early lead with an almost seven minute drive capped by a 37-yard field goal by Prater.
The Lions defense came up huge against the vaunted Cardinals offense, recording what would be their first of three interceptions off Murray on Arizona’s opening drive. After getting into Detroit territory, a deflected pass off of Dan Arnold’s hands fell into the lap of newly-acquired safety Duron Harmon.
Detroit was not able to capitalize on the turnover with a drive that stalled on a three-and-out. The Cardinals took the lead on the ensuing drive with a Murray pass to wide receiver Andy Isabella for a 13-yard touchdown strike. Q1 ended with the home team up 7-3.
After matching up against Davante Adams last week, rookie Jeff Okudah had another tall task at hand on Sunday in DeAndre Hopkins. The Pro Bowl wide receiver started out with the upper hard, hauling in a 30-yard reception on his first touch of the game. Okudah came back later in the quarter with a nice tackle on Hopkins three yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Murray threw his second interception on his next drive, this time in Cardinals territory to another new face in Jamie Collins.
Detroit made sure to come away with points this time, taking advantage of the great field position and turning it into a 5-yard Matthew Stafford to Jesse James connection on fourth down for the score.
Arizona returned the favor, going on a nine-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a one-yard run by Murray. His great footwork and change of direction juked out Okudah before crossing the goal line. A failed extra point by Arizona kicker Zane Gonzalez kept Detroit in reach, only trailing 13-10.
With under two minutes left in the first half, the Lions once again had another successful drive as Stafford found Golladay in the open field for a 15-yard touchdown. Golladay had to extend for the goal line, and, after a long review, the score would stand. The good guys went into the intermission leading 17-13.
The Cardinals opened the second half with the ball and a score, a hefty 54-yard field goal by Gonzalez.
The Lions were forced to punt on their first drive of the new half, but the defense got their third turnover with the first career interception by the rookie Okudah. He jumped the route to pick off the pass that was intended for Hopkins and returned it 36 yards into Cardinal territory.
While Hopkins finished the game with 10 receptions for 137 yards, this play was a huge boost of confidence for the young buck and the rest of the defense who had been struggling for most of the early season.
The offense could not put up another TD after the turnover, and they had to settle for another Prater field goal to put the Lions up 20-16.
Murray and the Cardinals kicked it into high gear, scoring a touchdown to take the lead with another pass to Isabella. Arizona went into the final quarter up 23-20.
After an Arizona punt from their own endzone later in the quarter, Jamal Agnew returned the ball inside Cardinal territory. The excellent field position led Detroit to tie the game with another Prater field goal.
Time was ticking, and it was only a matter of time before the Lions would be faced with another potential game-winning drive or a gut-wrenching loss. They had to make a stop on defense and that they did. After forcing the Cardinals to punt with under two minutes, the Lions would have to concoct a drive starting from their own nine yard line.
The Lion’s new fourth quarter mantra ‘Dagger Time’ did not work out well in week one, but this was a different game and a different story.
Detroit was able to push the ball close to midfield, only needing a field goal to win. However, Stafford wanted the long-ball, and connected on a 52-yard bomb to Marvin Hall to put the Lions at the one-yard line. Unfortunately, the play was nullified with an offensive holding penalty on free agent signee Halapoulivaati Vaitai. With under two minutes left, the Lions received a break in the form of a defensive pass-interference that gifted the Lions a first down on a 2nd & 15.
The Lions ran the clock out and let Arizona spend their timeouts. On a big second down, Stafford connected with Marvin Jones for 20 yards, solidifying their field position and the game. With four seconds left, all they needed was for Prater to come through once again. From the Arizona 21-yard line, Prater’s kick was straight down the middle, and the Lions rejoiced in celebration.
While this game could have been another disaster, the Lions stayed resilient and strong in their win on the road. There were many noticeable improvements from last week on both sides of the ball, and Detroit was able to limit the mistakes as well. After having no turnovers the first two games, the defense’s three interceptions were a huge factor in this game.
Stafford finished the game 22/31 for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns. Murray completed 23/35 for 270 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also ran the ball five times for 29 yards and a score.
Detroit’s leading rusher was Adrian Peterson, who seemed to be the workhorse this week. He finished with 75 yards on 22 carries. Rookie D’Andre Swift did not get a whole lot of action, only being on the field for six total snaps.
Swift was still able to manage one reception for 19 yards. Fans are eager to see him on the field, but it looks like Patricia will continue to roll with his running back by committee approach. It is only a matter of time, however, until we see Swift separate himself as the true RB1.
Besides the touchdown, Golladay finished with six receptions for 57 yards. T.J. Hockenson produced just like he did in his debut last season against the Cardinals, recording four receptions for 53 yards.
Lions-D had a much better game, keeping Murray in check while also being effective in stopping the run. Arizona running back Kenyan Drake only racked up 73 total yards, which was quite a difference from what the defense allowed to Green Bay running back Aaron Jones last game. They were also able to rack up one sack on Murray, compared to Arizona’s four sacks on Stafford.
Along with their improved offensive and defensive effort, Detroit’s special teams were just as impressive against Arizona. Prater made all four of his field goals and both of his extra points, while punter Jack Fox had four punts for an average of 55.5 yards. Fox’s longest punt was for an incredible 65 yards and three of his four punts landed inside the 20-yard line. After coming into the league last season undrafted, he is proving to be one of the best in the game.
The Lions (1-2) return home for a tough week four matchup against the New Orleans Saints (1-2). With the return of injured wide receiver Michael Thomas looming, Okudah could be in for another key day. Corner Desmond Trufant could be back on the field for Detroit, but his progress is something to monitor this week.
This win against an up-and-coming team in Arizona is exactly what the doctor ordered for a struggling Lions team. Hopefully, this puts the season back on track and provides some great energy in the next couple of weeks. Could Detroit be playoff bound? Only time will tell, but wins like these give Lions fans some much needed hope.
In week four the Lions will see a return home to Ford Field as they take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. It’s a battle to see which team will go 2-2 and who will be 1-3 early on in the season. The game is at 1:00 p.m. EDT and you can watch it on FOX.