O'HARA's BURNING QUESTIONS: The good and the bad in Lions' 25-21 loss to Cardinals

Posted Sep 15, 2013

Mike O'Hara looks at the Lions' loss at Arizona, including RB Reggie Bush's injury and the performance of Calvin Johnson vs. Patrick Peterson

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Burning questions – an injury to Reggie Bush, the good and bad of the Lions’ performance and Calvin Johnson’s matchup with Patrick Peterson – in the Lions’ 25-21 loss to the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium:

Q. It was close all the way, and the Lions looked to be in control most of the way. What made the difference in a game that was so winnable for Detroit?

A. It was a combination of the same kind of plays that should make the Lions consider selling Maalox and Tums at the concession stands at Ford Field.

For all the good plays the Lions make, they sabotage themselves too often with bad plays. They added up on special teams, defense and on offense Sunday.

Q. Defense: They made some big stands in the second half and bailed out the offense, when it went to sleep for 30 minutes. That includes a TD return of an interception by DeAndre Levy? What was the problem there?

Willie YoungDE Willie Young (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

A. One big one was a penalty against Willie Young that wiped out a fumble recovery on a sack by Ziggy Ansah the third quarter. Ansah knocked the ball loose from Carson Palmer, and Young recovered it.

But Young’s recovery was nullified because of a penalty against him for illegally getting his hands in the face of a Cardinals lineman blocking him on the play. It was a good call, letting Arizona keep the ball and drive to a field goal that cut the Lions’ lead to 21-19.

All things considered, the defense played well enough to win, but you cannot give up plays like that that change the game.

The clincher came just before the two-minute warning – pass interference on Bill Bentley that gave the Cardinals first and goal at the one. That set up the winning TD with 1:59 left.

Q. Special teams: how much did missed field goals by David Akers hurt?

A. They were huge. He missed from 52 yards in the first half, but there was a penalty on the play for running into the kicker. He missed from 47 on the next kick. They were two bad kicks – missed left, then right.

However you cut it, the misses took six points off the board.

Q. Strategy: Did the missed field goals play into the final strategy?

A. They played into everything – field position, missed points and strategy at the end. The Lions could have played for a go-ahead field goal instead of needing a touchdown, trailing by five points after the Cardinals took the lead.

Q. No yards, big gain: Bush carried for no gain in the last minute of the first half. How did that rate as a meaningful play for the Lions that meant nothing on the stats sheet?

A. There is no way to calculate the meaning, and the impact on the Lions. It meant that Bush came back healthy enough to play after going out earlier in the second quarter with an injured left knee.

The Lions experienced last year what it’s like to run an offense without a back who’s a threat to break a big play at all times. That’s why they signed Bush as a free agent. He fills the void of a play-maker.

It was the biggest play that didn’t gain a yard for the Lions in eons.

Q. How much concern was there that Bush had been seriously hurt on the play?

A. The coaches and medical staff have the best immediate view because they are the ones treating the player. But when Bush went down holding his left knee, everyone connected with the Lions had to have their heart sink. He means so much, and to have him get hurt in the second quarter of the second game would be another example of bad Lions luck.

However, there were good signs too. Bush did some running exercises and jogged in place on the sideline. When he picked up his helmet, it was a sign that he was good to go again.

Q. Benching: Bush went out of the game and did not return after fumbling in the third quarter. Was that punishment?

A. No way Bush was being punished. It looked like the coaches and trainers wanted to make sure he the fumble wasn’t caused because he was favoring the injury.

Q. Offense – coming up short: What happened to the offense in the second half?

A. Nothing good. The last play summed it up. On fourth and four, Nate Burleson ran his route three yards deep and caught the ball – a yard short of a first down. That gave the ball to the Cardinals on downs and ended the game.

Q. Match-up: Who won the battle between Calvin Johnson and Patrick Peterson?

A. The Arizona Cardinals won, because they won the game.

Q. Seriously, who won that one-on-one?

A. That was a serious answer. Winning counts for everything. On the stats sheet, and man to man, Megatron won. In the first half alone he had four catches for 96 yards and two TDs. One catch was a 96-yard TD. For the game, he had six catches for 116 yards.

The great receiver beat a great cornerback.

On the scoreboard, the Cardinals won. It’s the only matchup that counts.