Twentyman: Lions drop first game of the season, 25-21, at Arizona

Posted Sep 15, 2013

Despite getting big plays from both their offense and defense, the Lions couldn’t overcome a few of their own mistakes in a 25-21 loss to Arizona

GLENDALE, Ariz.– A victory in the Arizona desert continues to elude the Detroit Lions.

Despite getting big plays from both their offense and defense, the Lions couldn’t overcome a few of their own mistakes in a 25-21 loss to Arizona.

Two missed field goals, a fumble inside their own 10-yard line and a forced fumble on defense that was negated by a penalty turned into crucial plays in a close loss.

As a result, the Lions dropped their first game of the season (1-1) and their fourth straight on the road dating back to last season. They haven’t won in Arizona in 20 years.

A one-yard touchdown by Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall with 1:59 left in the game proved to be the difference in a loss that has to leave the Lions wondering what could have been without the mistakes.

It was really a tale of two halves for the Lions.

They led 14-10 at halftime, but after running back Reggie Bush left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury, the Lions offense floundered.

After recording 232 yards of offense and 14 points in the first half, the Lions had just 90 yards and did not score an offensive touchdown in the second half.

"Well, obviously, he's a big part of the offense, but that's no excuse," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "We have plenty of other guys that can step up and make plays and we just didn't get it done on offense in that second half.

"It certainly affected us, but we still got 11 guys on the field even after he was down and we've got to find ways to convert third downs and get the ball moved and then score. When we did drive the ball, we ended up getting a field goal blocked. That would have gone a long way to setting us up and padding our lead at that point."

The Lions still had an opportunity to win the game with one final drive, but Matthew Stafford’s fourth-down pass to Nate Burleson was short of the first down at the Detroit 43-yard line and the Cardinals ran out the clock from there.

"He was trying to run to the sticks," Stafford said of the play. "It is a play we have been running with great success all game and the guy made a good play. He caught him, tackled him right as he caught it.

"Nate ran a great route, got separation. The guy made a good play."

Stafford finished the game 24-of-36 passing for 278 yards and two touchdowns with a 108.3 quarterback rating.

The Cardinals were just 1 for 11 on third down, but were bailed out by penalties, none bigger than the 31-yard pass interference penalty on Bill Bentley in the end zone that set up the game-winning touchdown for the Cardinals late in the fourth quarter.

"The last one, obviously, hurt us because we were in a situation where we were trying to hold them right out of field goal range and that dynamic changes a lot if we can hold them to a field goal and then our offense is coming back on only needing a field goal to win it," Schwartz said.

"But, obviously, that was a tough one. Bentley panicked. The guy got in behind, the ball went in the air and thought he was in position if he just turned around and found the ball that he could have made that play."

The Lions had eight penalties for 101 yards in all.

"Our confidence is (still) high," Stafford said. "We had some adversity, obviously had too many penalties again. One took away a turnover, had a couple other ones that were big and crucial and still had a chance to win the game at the end of the game. That’s all you can ask for in this league."

Akers missed a 47-yard attempt wide right and had another 47-yard attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. The first miss came after he missed a 52-yarder but was rewarded a second kick from five yards closer when he was run into.

Those six points loomed large in this one.

DeAndre LevyLB DeAndre Levy (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

"I mean, obviously the 47-yarder, that when we got the second opportunity, you just got to make those kicks," Akers said. "I mean, there’s no ifs, ands or buts about that.

"The (second field goal), felt like it hit well. I’ll have to check it out on film, see what happened, see if I was fast enough or whatnot. Hats off to Arizona because they’ve been a nemesis of mine for awhile. Between (Justin) Bethel and (Patrick) Peterson coming off the edge, then you got (Darnell) Dockett and (Calais) Campbell up front, they just wreak havoc.

"It’s frustrating. I want to make my kicks. That’s for sure."

Calvin Johnson had a fine game for Detroit in the loss with touchdown catches of 72 and 3 yards.

He finished with six catches for 116 yards and those two scores.

His 72-yarder was his sixth-career 70-plus-yard catch, which broke the franchise’s all-time record.

Sunday was also Johnson’s 10th career game with two-plus touchdowns, which also broke a franchise record.

Linebacker DeAndre Levy accounted for the other Detroit touchdown had an interception return touchdown called back last week when Ndamukong Suh was called for an illegal low block on the return.

Levy stepped in front of a Carson Palmer pass in the third quarter and outran the Cardinals offense to the end zone.

The team will hit the road again next week in Washington, a place they’ve never won before.