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The Setup
Opening game - early-Sunday in Detroit. Cards hoping to prove that last season's disappointing record was a one-time bump in the road. Detroit made its starting QB, Matthew Stafford the highest paid QB in pro football, and there was a subtle buzz throughout the League that it was up to him to prove he deserved it. Card fans are still trying to figure out: "Who are the Cards?"

The Lede
Lions Catch Cards in 4Q & Breeze to a 35 - 23 Win

The Bottom Line:
Cards started out with guns ablazing, but, as they've done in the recent past, allowed themselves to lapse into sloppy play, leave points on the ground and allow the Lions to jump back into the football game and eventually win going away.

Biggest take-away was that the Cards were continually out-executed in crunch-situations and one-on-one matchups. They played hard, but - compared to Lion players - generally looked a bit "fragile" with more of our guys being helped off the field throughout the game.

Game Recap
Card defense and ST's revved up the jets from the very start, scoring six quick points on a Pick-6 and putting us in a position to put another 6 points on the board. But then we began to get sloppy - settling for a field goal, repeatedly letting the Lions off the hook on third downs, turning the ball over 4 times and allowing the Lions (who were still behind 17 - 15 opening the 4th quarter) to find their groove and capitalize on every break to beat us going away.

Lions ran away with the game in the 4th quarter and the Cards had no answer. Tough pill to swallow.

1st Quarter
  • Cards won the toss and received. KW returned the KO to the Card 23. A 15-yd completion to David Johnson was fumbled but recovered by Cards. But 3 plays later, Palmer's pass for Johnson was intercepted and returned to the Card 26. Two plays later, Stafford's pass for tate was picked off by Bethel and returned 82-yds for a Cardinal TD. Cards 7 - Lions.

    Dawson's KO was returned to the Lion 15. Cards forced a 3 & out. Redfern punted from his 17. No gain by KW. Card ball at its own 33. Cards held to 3 & out. Lee's punt (net Lion penalty) gave Detroit the ball on their own 14. Sack by C Jones pushed them back to the Detroit 7. A grounding penalty on Stafford pushed Detroit back to their own 3. Redfern fumbled the snap but recovered and ran it to the Detroit 13. Cards couldn't move past the 11. Dawson's 29-yd FG was nullified by Lion penalty but Cards were unable to convert this into a TD. Dawson was good from 24-yds out. Cards 10 - Detroit 0.

    Dawson's KO returned to the Detroit 7. They managed to reach the Detr 25 to end the quarter.

    1st Quarter Score: Cardinals 10 - Lions 0.

2nd Quarter
  • An 18-yd completion on 3rd & 7 helped Detoitr move to their own 46 where they were forced to punt. Fair catch: Card 22. A 33-yd completion to Fitz moved the Cafds to the Lions 42, but one play after a low block call on Iupati nullified an 11-yd completion for a 1st down - Palmer's pass for Smoke Brown was intercepted by Quin and returned to the Arz 42.

    Stafford then led his offense on an 11-play scoring drive capped by a 6-yd TD pass to M Jones. Key Plays: Stafford's 15-yd scramble to convert a 3rd & 12. A 5-yd completion to Ebron to convert a 3rd & 5. Washington's 6-yd gain to convert a 3rd & 1. (2-pt conversion no good). Cardinals 10 - Lions 6.

    KW returned the KO to the Card 20. A ball down by contact ruling reversed an interception call., but Cards still went 3 & out. Lee's punt returned to Lion 38. Cards held Detroit to 3 & out. 1:53 left till halftime. Punt downed at the Card 30. Cards managed to reach the Detroit 14, and on the 11th play of the drive were forced to kick a 32 yd FG. But Dawson's FG hit the left upright. Lion ball on their own 22 with 0:59 left till halftime. They moved to the Card 40 and Prater kicked a 58-yd FG to narrow the score to one point. Key Plays. Stafford to Tate for +19 yards to convert a 3rd & 10. Cards 10 - Lions 9.

    First Half Score: Cards 10 - Lions 9.

3rd Quarter

  • Lions received. TB on the KO. Lion drive stalled at their own 47. Punt was downed at the Cardinal 6. Palmer engineered a 12-play TD drive capped by a KW TD run up the middle. run. Cards 17 - Lions 9.

    KO. returned to the Detroit 6. After Stafford hit M Jones for +31 yds, the Cards were forced to punt 4 plays later. Punt (net unsportsmanlike call on K-Mart) gave Cards the ball at their own 21. On the next play, "Disaster City": D Johnson fumbled after a 5-yd gain. Recovered by Detroit and returned to the Card 10. Johnson hurt his wrist and left the game. Two plays later, Stafford hit Riddlick for a 7-yd TD. 2-pointer failed. Cards 17 - Lions 15.

    TB on the KO. Other than an 8-yarder to Gresham, Cards couldn't get anything going and punted from their own 34 early in the 4Q.

    Third Quarter Score: Cards 17 - Lions 15.

4th Quarter
  • Punt returned to the Lion 33. Lions mounted a 10-yd TD drive ending in a 10-yd completion to Golliday. Key Plays: Stafford to Jones for +16 to convert a 3rd & 10. Two other completions for +17 and +16 yds. 2-pointer failed again. Detroit 21 - Cards 17

    TB on KO.Offensive PI call on Smoke helped stall the next Card possession. They punted from their own 41. Returned to the Lion 28. Five plays later, Stafford hit Golliday deep middle for a 45-yd TD. Detroit 28 - Cards 17

    TB on KO. 4:03 left. Palmer managed to put together a 10-play TD drive ending in a one yard completion to Nelson. 2-pointer no good. Detroit 35 - Cards 23

    Onside KO returned to Card 44. 1:33 left. Two runs and a knee.

    Final Score: Detroit 35 - Cards 23

Notable Game Stats.

  • Passing: Palmer was 27 for 48, 269 yards 1 TD and 3 Interceptions. (Stafford was 29 for 41, 292 yds, 4TD's and 1 picks).

  • Rushing: D Johnson gained 23 yards on 11 carries (Lions held to 82 yards on ground. Abdullah picked up 130 yds on 15 carries.
  • Card rush defense gave up a 3.0 yds per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 2.5)
  • Receiving: Fitz and D Johnson led with 6 grabs each. Nelson caught 5 for 43 yards.

    Turnovers: Minus-4. Cards lost 1 fumble and 3picks. (Lions gave away 1 pick and no fumbles (although Refern's recovered fumble could be considered worse than a safety)

    Penalties: (I was a Mickey Mouse officiated game). Cards said to have had 6 penalties and the Lions 10 (but it sure looked more anti-Cardinal than that).

  • Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 18/48. (Detr: 27/41)

  • Kicking: Dawson was 1 for 2

    Net Punting Yards: Lee averaged 34.0. (Lion punter averaged 37.8)

  • Tackles: Branch (10), Riddick (8), Dansby (7)

    Sacks: C Jones (1)

    Interceptions: Bethel had the one pick-6.

    Third Down Efficiency: Cards wer 6 of 15 for 40%. (Lions: 8 of 16 for 50%). A leading factor in outcome of game.

    Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 2 of 4 - 50%. (Lions were 3 of 3 for 100%). Lions had huge edge in "clutch plays delivered."

    Time of Possession: Cards 26:40/ Lions 33:20

Bright Spots

  • Early pass rush looked awesome

  • Riddick made plays/didn't appear to screw up very often.

    Bethel had the pick-6 and, even after that, wasn't "awful."

    I think we'll be OK at corners - it wasn't as much their playing badly as it was Stafford being on a hot roll. (Tip your cap to Stafford).

The Dark Side

  • 3 picks by Palmer

  • Palmer when, pressured, tended to throw awkwardly and lack zip on throws (especially long outs to opposite side of field)

  • Little or no holes on running plays. Why were most running plays between the tackles instead of attacking the perimeter?

  • Pass blocking decent (but not good enough)

  • Seemed like the Lions converted 80%+ of its clutch plays while holding the Cards down to about 75%. Lion receivers won nearly every receiving battle.

  • Cards overran Stafford and allowed him to escape via the waggle more than a couple of times.

    The Badger did not have an especially strong game.

    Love Dawson, but even he wasn't immune to botched FG attempts.

    As a roster of players, the Cards appeared a bit "fragile" and injury prone compared to their opponent. Is it the training regimen? The type of players we bring in? Individual conditioning regimen? Not sure, but it concerns me.

Last Word:
I've said in other posts that I thought the Cards were good enough to beat every NFL opponent and go 16 & 16 or it could play down to the level of their opponent and go 0 & 16. I still feel that way. (Let's not forget that, despite our loss (on the road), the Cards were leading the contest at the end of the third quarter but found a way to lose.

Who is this team? We still lack WYSIWYG consistency. I saw a 16- 0 team for about one-quarter, an 8 & 8 team for a couple of quarters and a 0 & 16 team for the final 15:00. Not good enough.

Fortunately for us, Seattle and the Niners also lost this week. Next week we play an equally angry Colt team who got waxed by our other NFC West rival, the Rams. Maybe the tussle in Indy can't quite yet be termed "a must game" but - after our losing a very winnable game to the Lions, it sure feels like it.

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/26/2012