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2014 Regular Season
Preview: Lions @ Cards

Setting the Stage:
Cards staged a 4Q comeback to win going-away vs. the Rams; but, in doing so, lost their starting QB, Carson Palmer for the remainder of the season. Megatron's back, the Lions outscored the Dolphs 10 - 3 in the 4Q to win 20 - 16 and are now 7 & 2, feeling pretty good about themselves. Media is all over the issue of: "Can the Cards win without Palmer?"

Opponents' Last Game:
Lions won a see-saw contest in the 4Q on a n 11-yard TD completion from Stafford to Riddick with 0:34 left on the clock.

First Quarter

  • Detroit received. TB on the KO. Stafford engineered a 15-play (8:41) drive ending on Prater's 26-yard field goal. Lions 3 -Dolphs 0.

  • TB on the KO. Suh's sack of Tannehill helped Lions make the Dolphs go three & out Punt was returned to the Miami 49. On the first play from scrimmage, Stafford hit Megatron deep over the middle for a 49-yard TD. Lions 10 - Dolphs 0.

  • TB on the KO. Miami went 3 & out again. (Ansah's sack played a key role). Punt was fair caught at the Dolph 47. An offensive pass interference penalty on Megatron forced Detroit into a 3 & out. TB on the punt. Dolphs moved to their own 41 in two plays to end the quarter.

First Quarter Score: Lions 10 - Dolphs 0.

Second Quarter

  • Dolphs couldn't even get to midfield and Fields' punt was returned for no gain at the Lion 11. Lions were able to move out to the Miami 41 but failed to convert a 4th down. Dolphs took over on their own 38 and managed to move to the Lion 19 in 7 plays; but on the next play, Tannehill's pass for Hoskins was intercepted by Ihediigbo and returned 70 yards. But a face mask flag on tIhedigbo put the ball on Miami 31 where Stafford gave the ball right back when his pass for Megatron was picked off by a leaping Grimes just inside the end zone.

  • Miami ball on its own 20 with 5:22 left till halftime. Dolphs mouted a 14-play (5:09) drive which ended at the Lion 5, where the Dolphs had to settle for a 23-yard Sturgis FG with 0:17 on the clock. Half ended one KO and one knee later. Lions 10 - Dolphs 3.

First Half Score: Lions 10 - Dolphs 3.

Third Quarter

  • Dolphs received - KO was returned to the Miami 42. On the second play of the Miami possession, Ansah forced and recovered a fumble. Lions ball on their own 44. They picked up a 1st down but a 10-yard sack of Stafford stalled the Lions at their own 47. MArtin punted 30 yards to the Miami 23. The runback and a penalty on Abdul-Quddus gave Miami the ball at their own 43. They managed to move to the Detroit 29, but were pushed back to the 32, where Sturgis' FG try from 50-yards was good. Detroit 10 - Miami 6.

  • KO was returned by Lions to their own 23. They reached the Dolphin 24 in 11 plays but were forced to attempt a 42-yard FG. Field goal was blocked and returned to the Detroit 3. On the first play from scrim,age, Tannehill hit Wallace for a 3-yard TD. Miami 13 - Lions 10.

  • Ross returned the KO to the Detroit 18, but the quarter ended 3 plays later with Detroit's ball at the Detroit 39.

Third Quarter Score: Dolphs 13 - Lions 10.

Fourth Quarter

  • Detroit made it to the Miami 23, where Wake's sack of Stafford forced them to attempt a 50-yard FG. Attempt was good. Game is all tied up. Dolphs 13 - Lions 13.

  • KO was returned to the Miami 28. Plenty of time (12:02) left. Miami used up 7:30 of clock and 12 plays to reach th Detroit 2-yard line, but they couldn't punch it in and had to settle for a 20-yard Sturgis FG. Miami 16 - Detroit 13.

  • Ross returned the KO to his own 24 with 4:19 left. etook it down to the Detroit 2-yard line. Stafford threw 3 straight incompletions, and Martin's 59-yard punt was returned to the Miami 17 with 3:47 to go. Detroit held them to 3 & out and Fields' punt from the 22 was returned to the Detroit 26.

  • 3:13 left to play. Stafford used 10 plays (& 3:00) to move the Lions to the Miami 11-yard line where he then drilled a short pass to Riddick in the left corner of the end zone. Other key plays: Stafford deep-middle to Tate for 17-yards. Stafford deep-right to Megatron who ran out of bounds for an 18-yard gain. Detroit 20 - Miami 16.

  • TB on the KO. A 20-yard completion to Wallace on the next set of downs was all Miami was able to do..

Final Score Detroit 20 - Miami 16

Game Stats
Stafford outpassed Tannehill. Lions were penalized twice as often as the Dolphins. Tate and Megatron had "beast games." It was enough to enable Detroit to eke out a late-second win.

  • Stafford completed 25 of 40 passes for 280 yards, a TD and one interception.

  • It was the Golden & Calvin Show. Tate led all receivers with 11 catches for 109 yards followed closely by Megatron with 7 catches for 113 yards. Megatron and Riddick were each credited with a TD.

  • Bell was the leading Lion rusher gaining 44 yards on 10 carries (4.4 ypc).

  • The Detroit run-to-pass ratio was Runs: 19/Passes: 42.

  • Lion Turnover Ratio was +1 with Stafford throwing one pick, Miami losing a fumble and Detroit (Thomas) recovering a fumble).

  • Miami sacked Stafford 3 times. Detroit returned the favor 3 times. (Ansah had one sack, Suh one and Tapp and Palmer shared a sack).

  • Levy led Detroit defenders with 11 tackles, followed by Ansah (6) and Ihedigbo (6).

  • Detoit gained 63 net rushing yards (while giving up 50 to Miami).

  • Lions gave up 172 net passing yards (while gaining 288).

  • Detroit was penalized 10 times for 98 yards. (Dolphs were penalized half that number of times).

  • Lions won Time of Possession 31:34 to 28:26.

What the Season Stats Do (or Don't) Tell Us
(Note - Published team statistics may not reflect a team's most recent game or even two).

  • The Lions attempt more (& convert more) third downs.

  • They lead their competitors in Total Yardage 3,061 to 2,551.

  • They run more offensive plays (593 to 537).

  • They've piled up 700 rushing yards to their opponents 642.

  • They average 3.1 yards per rushing carry (& give up just 3.2 ypc)

  • They've gained 2,523 yards through the air (vs. 2,088 by their competitors).

  • They've given up as many sacks (27) as they've made (26)

  • They've attempted 22 FG's (vs; their opponents' 15) but only converted11. (Their opponents were successful in all but one).

  • Lions have scored 21 touchdowns vs. their opponents' 14.

  • Their defense has scored 2 TD's. (Opposing defenses have scored zero vs. Detroit).

  • Lions own a 32:44-to-27:16 time of possession edge over their opponents.

  • Stafford has completed 208 of 339 (61.4%) of his throws for 2,496 yards. He's thrown for 13 TD's and has been picked off 8 times and sacked 27 times.

  • Bell is their leading rusher with 357 yards on 108 carries. Bush is their role-player, gaining 191 yards on 53 carries. Although he remains a home-run threat, his longest run has been for 26 yards.

  • With Megatron injured part of the season, the leading Lion receiver is Golden Tate with 66 receptions for 909 yards. Johnson comes next with 461 yards on 29 receptions. Bush is #3 pass catcher. He and their FB (Collins) are the only two guys who have averaged less than 10 yards per reception. Interesting news for Cardinal fans: Lion TE's aren't that high on their list of receiving threats. (Pettigrew caught , Ebron 10 and Fauria and Collins fewer than 5.

  • Prater has made 7 of 10 FG attempts (3 of 6 outside the forty).

  • Martin outpunts his competitors by an average of 47.4 gross yards to 43.8. He also dropped 18 of 40 punts inside the 20 (vs. 11 by his competitors).

  • Ross is pretty close to his competitive kick and punt returners.

  • On defense, Levy has almost double the number of tackles (86) as the next highest Lion tacker (Whitehead) who has 48. Quin is next with 40. Slay follows with 38. Ihegidbo is #4 with 36.

  • Of the Lions' 26 sacks, Ansah leads with 5.5 sacks followed by Suh with 4.5 and George Johnson with 4.0. Moseley has 2.5 and Ihegdibo and Tullas 2.0 each.

  • Quin leads Detroit with 3 picks followed by Whitehead with 2. Five other dudes have one apiece.

Rosters/Match-ups
Lions keep a FB but also have 4 pretty good TE's. I'm guessing their base offense seems to line up: One RB, One TE, 2 WR's; with their FB coming in for short-yardage lead-blocking. On defense, they ignore "left-right" or "strong-weak"designations.

Lion Offense.

WR....15 Tate..............12 Ross...........84 Broyles             
LT      71 Reiff.......... ...77 Lucas                      
LG     67 Sims      
C       51 Raiola      
RG    64 Swanson......75 (Warford)      
RT     66 Waddle.........70 Reynolds
TE.....87 Pettigrew......80 Fauria...........85 Ebron.......89 K Davis                  
WR    81 C. Johnson...10 Fuller                                  
QB....09 Stafford.........08 Orlofski........xx K Moore                    
RB    21 Bush.............35 Bell................25 Riddick... 38 Winn
FB    45 Collins

Cardinal Defense

DE        95 Kelly...........96 K,Martin      
NT        92 D. Williams 66 Ta'amu                     
DT        98 Rucker       72 Stinson                    
SLB      57 Okafor........53 Keiser        
ILB       50 Foote..........54 Demens              
ILB       51 Minter..........97 Alexander 56 Carson                     
WLB     94 Acho...........59 Benard    
LCB      21 Peterson.....28 Bethel                      
RCB     31 Cromartie....25 Powers                     
SS        22 Jefferson.....36 Bucannon                 
FS        32 Mathieu.......26 R. Johnso
n   

Matchup: Ram Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Detroit trots out three elite pass catchers on offense in Megatron, Tate and Pettigrew (Make that four - when Reggie Bush is healthy). Hook them up with a former high #1 pick like Stafford and put him behind an offensive line that can protect him and you have a Pro Bowl offense. But there are concerns - Warford is out and will be replaced by Swanson at RG. Bush isn't 100% healthy and sat out Wednesday's practice. Megatron (who still is All Pro at 70%) is resting a gimpy ankle but will play Sunday.

Tate and Megatron are expected to be covered man-to-man by Peterson and Cromartie (Matchup of the Century)? It will be up to Cardinal safeties like R Johnson and Bucannon to keep Pettigrew and Bush in check. Cardinal replacement pass rushers are still figuring out how to get to the opposing QB (before he can get to us). With Swanson replacing Warford, look for the Cards to employ a lot of stunts and twists to put pressure and wreak a bit of havoc on the the Lion right side. Interesting matchup question: How will the Cards use Tyrann Mathieu within the overall scheme of things?

Stafford and his recievers have been especially effective late in games in come-from-behind situations.

Key Matchups: Cromartie and Peterson vs. Tate and C. Johnson. Bucannon vs. Pettigrew. R Johnson vs. Bush. Variety of Cardinal Pass Rushers vs. Swanson.

Matchup: Lion Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Lions have tended to make Bell and Riddick their Mr. Inside and Reggie Bush Mr. Outside. This is one of those rare occasions when the Cards aren't being challenged by a crunching running attack (Lions are averaging 3.1 ypc). This doesn't mean the Arizona Front Seven can afford to let Detroit have its way with us (We've been vulnerable in the past to "unsung heros" who've rocked us on our heels). Regardless - if Dan Williams, Tommy Kelly, Calais Campbell & Co. continue to play their butts off vs. the run, it could force the Lion offense to become more one-dimensional and simplify our effort to contain Stafford and his receivers in the passing game.

One notable feature of the Lion OL is that their left tackle (Reiff) profiles more as a road-grading run blocker than as a pass blocker. Todd Bowles may have to adjust his defense to make certain we don't get blown off the ball on runs behind Reiff.

This may be one of those "take what the defense gives us" situations. If the Lions go "heavy" to support their run game, we may see more of Jefferson to stop Bell or Riddick. But if it looks like they plan to play a lot of "fast-break basketball", we may see more of Rashad Johnson. What serves the Cardinals well is the number of cover guys who can hit and the run-stuffers who can cover. It maximizes the number of arrows in Bowles' quiver and makes our defense all the more flexible and unpredictable.

Key Matchups: R Johnson vs. Bush. T. Jefferson vs. Bell or Riddick. Campbell and Minter vs. Reiff.

Cardinal Offense

WR1     11 Fitzgerald....19 Ginn...............13 John Brown   
LT         68 Veldheer......79 Sowell                      
LG        62 Larsen..., ....61 Cooper                     
C          63 Sendlein......62 Larsen                     
RG       74 Fanaika.......78 Watford                   
RT        70 Massie........79 Sowell                      
TE        87 Niklas..........85 Fells            
WR2     15 M. Floyd.....13 Jaron Brown              
QB        05 Stanton......06 Thomas...........xx Lindley      
RB        38 Ellington.....(30 Taylor).............39 Hughes....xx Grice
TE        89 Carlson.......84 Housler

Lion Defense

DE......94 Ansah.......93 G Johnson....52 Tapp    
DT......99 Mosely......96 Fluellen...... ..(98 Fairley)        
DT......90 Suh...........97 Reid        
DE......91J Jones.....92 D Taylor..........79 L Webster 
OLB...58 Palmer...... 57 Bynes............95 Van Noy             
MLB...59 Whitehead             
OLB...54 Levy.........49 Stanford
CB.....31 Mathis.......39 Selsay
CB.....23 Slay...........29 Vaughn         
SS     32 Ihedigbo....xx Quddus             
FS.....27 Quin...........26 Carey

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Lion Pass Defense
Palmer is out for the season, and the Cards have a new starting QB in Drew Stanton. You can't get into the nitty gritty of matchups without first exploring the pros and cons of this change. This will be the second time this season, Stanton has stepped in for Palmer. The first time we won two games (but a concussion forced him to leave the third game - which turned out to be Arizona's only loss this year).
What you worry most about when starting a backup is (1) can he consistently move the chains, (2) can he put the ball into the end zone and (3) will he avoid turnovers and other mistakes. Drew has demonstrated he can make the big play (see Brown reception vs. StL) and avoid errors.

What we don't yet know is whether he can move the ball with any consistency. And one other concern: "When things start to bog down, does he have the ability to shake things up and re-ignite the offense? (He doesn't have a huge body of work for us to look at). With only Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley behind him, Stanton's ability to stay healthy becomes doubly important. All of this makes matchup issues a bit more unpredictable.

Detroit has the #3 pass defense in the NFL. Lion pass rushers (most notably Ansah, Suh and Fairley on their front four) are downright scary. Cards catch a small break with Fairley's absence, but their OL will still have its hands full.

Only the Eagle defense has forced more negative yardage than have the Lions.

Most of the scouting write-ups about the Lion secondary focuses on their safeties: Quin and Ihedigbo both rank in the Top 11 by PFF in pass coverage by safeties. They're known more for their smarts than for their athletic ability. Opponents' QB Ratings on passes of 21+ yards average are just 47.3 (vs. a League average 87.2). But what'a conspicuous by its absence are comments about the Lion corners (Mathis and Slay).

This may make it easier for Cardinal WR's (Fitz, Floyd and John Brown) to have big days but, more likely, we can expect to see a lot of disguised coverages by Lion DB's to confuse Stanton. From a matchup standpoint this suggests that our WR's will face a variety coverages in varying combinations from an assortment of CB's and safeties

Key Matchup: Veldheer and Massie vs. Ansah and Suh. Cardinal Wideouts vs. You Name it.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Lion Run Defense
#2 rush-defense vs. #31 run-offense. Yech!!!!
Levy is the unsung hero of the Lion run-defense with nearly double the number of tackles as the next Lion defender. We don't know that much about their Mike backer (Whitehead) or their other OLB (Palmer). Lion website points to a slight fall-off in productivity in run defense since Fairley went down, but Ansah, Mosley and Suh are handfuls.

The Cards' struggles running the ball hasn't discouraged Coach Arians from dialing up enough running plays to keep opposing pass rushers from teeing off at will. We don't expect to see anything different this week. If Stanton and Ellington are adept at executing the screen, look for BA to utilize this as one way to add spice to the Cardinal run game (and possibly wear out Levy on the perimeter).

Key Matchup: Ellington vs. Levy. Cardinal OL vs. Lion DL ("hat on hat").

Special Teams

Lions

P/KO   06 Martin                      
FG       05 Prater                          
H         06 Martin    
LS       48 Mulbach                               
KR      12 Ross.........15 Tate                      
PR      12 Ross

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          02 Butler                             
H          02 Butler                               
LS        82 Leach                                  
KR        19 Ginn             12 John Brown               
PR        19 Ginn             21 Peterson        12 John Brow
n

Matchup: Lion Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Martin has good distance and "inside the 20" numbers, but statistically, Prater appears to be a bit of a liability. Ross has average punt and KO return numbers.

Catanzaro has been more than solid in the kicking game (lots of touchbacks on kickoffs). Butler has been satisfactory but not necessarilly special in punting distance or directional efforts. Ginn, while not consistently dazzling is always a threat to hit a home run (Problem is - you never know when or where; you just let him keep taking his shots in the hope that "the next one will go all...the....way). With Campbell, Bethel and Mathieu leading the way, Cardinals usually have a leg up in special teams coverage and in blocking FG's and punts.

Key matchups: Ginn vs. LIon coverage teams. Campbell and Bethel vs. Lion punt and FG blockers.

Coaching
Jim Caldwell replaced defensive-minded Jim Schwartz this past Spring. As head coach of the Colts, he led them to a Super Bowl in 2009. He also took Baltimore to a Super Bowl three yeas later. He has solid offensive creds, having, among other things, been QB whisperer to Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco. I always liked Schwartz, but never could understand why the Lions would go into each new season with high hopes only to wind up disappointing their fans by season's end (be it from injuries, "bad luck" or whatever). After Caldwell stepped in, the Lions (now 7 & 2) have suddenly become "luckier." Obviously, Coach Caldwell is doing something right.

Coach Arians seems to be doing something right as well. His 8 & 1 Cardinals have overcome bad karma from the injury (& suspension) gods to continue to put an opportunistic Top 5 defense on the field along with just offensive juice and special teams heroics to somehow find a way to win each week. Now he's lost his starting QB for the second time this season. Yet, under Arians, the Cards - like the Energizer Bunny - keeps on clicking without missing a beat.

Last Word
Both teams are Cindarella teams and have similar talent on both sides of the ball. While you'd logically have to give an edge to Stafford over Stanton, we haven't seen enough of Drew to predict whether he'll turn out to be better or less better than expected. On the other hand, you'd also have to give an edge to Cardinal wideouts over Lion corners. Lions were penalized 10 times last week. (I don't know what their season figures for penalties are, but - if they follow the same pattern, it could also be a game-changer this Sunday). Both teams have several ways they can beat you with the Big Play, so the outcome of this contest could very well be a function of "which way the ball bounces." The Lions figure to be our toughest opponent since the Broncos and this game could go either way. Fasten your seat-belts.

 
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