LIONS INSIDER

FOUR DOWNS: Lions' defense gets it done vs. Cardinals

Posted Sep 10, 2017

Four downs following the Lions' 35-23 victory over the Cardinals includes defense gets it done, have a day Golladay, red zone efficiency and muddying the pocket.

FIRST DOWN: DEFENSE GETS IT DONE

Detroit’s defense wanted to be faster and more disruptive than they were a season ago. Arizona's explosive offense was going to be a good first test for them.

Let's just say Detroit’s defense aced the test.

They created four turnovers (three interceptions and a forced fumble/recovery), made Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer uncomfortable all game, and held Arizona to just 45 yards rushing.

They kept Detroit in the game early on when the offense and special teams couldn’t get out of their own way. An early red zone sequence for the defense showed just how dominant they were Sunday.

After punter Kasey Redfern botched a punt and turned it over at the Detroit 13 with Detroit already trailing 7-0, the defense stiffened up and forced a field goal try after a three and out. Arizona made the field goal, but the special teams was called for a leaping penalty, giving the Cardinals a first down at the Lions 5-yard line.

Again, Detroit’s defense was up to the task. A 2-yard pass, 1-yard run and then 4-yard loss on a 3rd down pass forced the Cardinals into another field goal try that was good.

“It’s huge,” veteran Glover Quin said of the two stops in that particular point in game. “They were probably thinking, ‘Hey, let’s go up 14-0 real quick on them, jump on them real quick.’

“And so to come out and get two red zone stops, stop them, get the penalty on special teams and stop them again, I’m pretty sure that let them know, ‘hey, it’s not going to be easy. We came to play.’”

SECOND DOWN: HAVE A DAY, GOLLADAY

Veteran receiver Golden Tate ran over to the corner of the end zone, picked up the ball that was laying there, and threw it over to the Lions sideline. Lions equipment manager Tim O’Neill grabbed it for safe keeping.

The ball was from Kenny Golladay’s first career touchdown, a 10-yard pass from Matthew Stafford with 9:27 left in the fourth quarter to give the Lions their first lead of the game at 21-17.

Who knew just a few minutes later Golladay would have another ball for the trophy case. His second touchdown of the game was a spectacular 45-yard diving score with 4:13 left in the game that pushed the lead to 28-17.

The two plays showed why the Lions are high on their rookie receiver.

“Really, once again, Matt just gave me a shot and just let my skills just do the rest pretty much,” Golladay said of the second score. “Just left my feet, used all hands and just made a nice catch.”

Golladay, who couldn’t haul in some 50-50 balls earlier in the contest, finished with four catches for 69 yards and those two scores. He was targeted seven times.

Golladay is a rookie and he's going to make mistakes, but the physical tools are there, and his confidence has to be sky-high after this debut.

THIRD DOWN: RED ZONE EFFICIENCY

Detroit ranked in the middle of the pack last year in red zone touchdown efficiency at 54 percent. They had 48 red zone drives and scored 26 touchdowns.

The addition of Golladay was expected to help in that department, as well as having a healthy Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah.

The Lions were a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone Sunday, getting touchdown catches from Marvin Jones Jr., Golladay and Riddick.

Detroit’s ability to convert in the red zone against the Cardinals, and not leave points on the field, played a direct role in them getting off to a 1-0 start this season with a 35-23 win.

If their offensive weapons can stay healthy, Detroit could be very tough to handle in the red zone.

FOURTH DOWN: MUDDYING THE POCKET

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell described the pressure Detroit’s front seven was able to get on Palmer throughout the game as “muddying the pocket.”

Detroit recorded just one sack (Anthony Zettel), but that doesn’t tell the whole story about the pressure they applied to Palmer. Detroit’s front four nearly got to him on a number of other occasions. He was harassed and hit seven times.

That harassment showed up in other ways too. Getting him off his spot and disrupting some of the timing with his receivers certainly contributed to the Lions defending 11 passes and intercepting three. It’s a perfect example of how the pass rush and the coverage go hand-in-hand.

“There was some pressure,” Caldwell said. “If you can create pressure you can muddy the pocket a little bit and we did muddy the pocket some.

“I’ll have to look at the film, but I could sense it out there on the field. There were some times we were getting rather close. I think Zettel came around the horn pretty nicely. Ziggy (Ansah) got close a couple times.”