It is chiseled on the face of the tombstone that is a haunting, daunting, taunting symbol a Lions season on the skids slid over the precipice.
There are still two games left in this torture test, but the last flicker of life went was extinguished Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The outcome – the epitaph for 2012, really – is set in stone:
“Cardinals 38, Lions 10.
“Rest In Misery.”
Statistics don’t explain the loss, and words don’t do much better.
There are a few stats that stand out, and they pertain to the respective records of the Lions and Cardinals.
Both teams were 4-9 going into the game, and both had plummeted to that level on losing streaks – nine games for the Cardinals, five for the Lions.
By most accounts, the Cardinals were the worst team in the NFC by virtue of their losing streak and because of an offense that has been the NFL’s worst over the last three months. It was still awful Sunday, not that it mattered much.
Sunday’s outcome left no doubt that the Cardinals and Lions have changed positions. The Lions are now tied with the Eagles at 4-10 for the NFC’s worst records.
Watching the Lions lose to the Cardinals was like watching an avalanche – in slow motion. You saw it coming, every drift, every rumble, and no one could stop it.
The offensive line didn’t hold up against the Cardinals’ rush, and the Lions’ front four applied almost no pressure on rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley.
Arizona did almost nothing on offense – 99 yards rushing, 104 passing – but didn’t have to because of the giveaways by the Lions. Two of Stafford’s interceptions were returned for touchdowns. A fumble on a punt and a third interception off Stafford set up short drives for easy touchdowns.
The three touchdowns scored by Arizona’s offense covered only 37 yards and took just five plays combined.
It was a grim afternoon for the Lions in every way, and it left a sense of numbness in the locker room as coach Jim Schwartz and his players tried to explain what had gone wrong.
“It’s as mad as I’ve been for a long time,” Schwartz said.
He was asked what there was left to play for in the last two home games against the Falcons and Bears.
“We’re going to play it out -- believe me,” Schwartz said. “We’re going to play this out.”
The thought persisted that maybe they already have, but no coach would ever believe that about his team.
Stafford was willing to take the burden alone. He stood in front of the team after the game and took the blame for the loss. It was a noble gesture, befitting of a young quarterback who wants to lead, but he was hardly the only culprit.
“For me personally, that’s about as bad as I can play,” said Stafford, who started out with six straight incomplete passes.
“For us to be successful, I have to play a whole lot better than that. I understand that.”
“I went up to him,” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s not all on you Bro. It’s a team effort.’”
The way the Cardinals stacked their defense to cover Johnson, sometimes doubling him at the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field the way some teams have done near the end zone, there should have been opportunities for other receivers to make plays.
And there were – except nobody made a play. Tight end
Scheffler ahd three catches, and no other Lion besides Johnson had more than two.
“I never thought before that we’d be 4-10,” Sims said. “I never imagined .500.
“When you lose to another 4-9 team, I don’t need to sugar coat it or soften the blow.
“We got sucker-punched.”