GLENDALE, Ariz. – On the final play that put into cement a game whose outcome had hung in the dry desert air all day, Nate Burleson had the stony feeling that he hadn't done enough to let the Lions keep alive their last chance to win a game.
It was 4th-and-4 at the Lions' 43, and the score that would hold up at the end – Cardinals 25, Lions 21 – was glaring on the scoreboard at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Fourth-and-4, and a lot of frustration and angst could be erased from this game and many others the Lions have lost to the Cardinals, with a touchdown drive.
But first, the Lions had to convert on 4th-and-4.
Stafford took the snap, looked quickly to his right, and threw to Burleson, who was lined up right and cut inside to his left to make the catch.
The first thing Burleson thought as he slid to the turf with rookie Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu grabbing him, was that he hadn't gotten enough yards to get the first down and keep the drive alive.
"I don't think I got that," Burleson said, recalling his thoughts after the game.
He ran his route against a two-man coverage – meaning two deep safeties – which meant Mathieu didn't have to worry about getting beat deep.
"I wanted to be able to make that play, even against a tough coverage," Burleson said.
Burleson figured he was a foot short, maybe more, as he saw the Cardinals' defenders and their teammates celebrate on the sideline.
The Cardinals had done what they had to do – win a home game to get to 1-1.
The Lions didn't do what they wanted to do, and what they have every reason to think they should have done – get to 2-0 and go on the road again to play Washington next week. Instead, they are 1-1 and head off to play a team they have never beaten on the road.
Burleson wasn't the only Lion who could have left the stadium thinking "I didn't get that."
A penalty against defensive end
"That's just playing hard," Young said later. "I slid up his jersey. It very easily could have been no call."
But it wasn't. It was a call that hurt the Lions.
On the Cardinals' game-winning possession, second-year cornerback
Instead, they got 1st-and-goal at the one.
It was a play Bentley was in position to make.
"He panicked," is how coach Jim Schwartz described how Bentley played Palmer's looping pass that should have been an incompletion or an interception for the Lions.
Instead, it was a glaring misplay.
All the plays add up. The Lions sacked Palmer only once. The run defense wasn't as stout as it was against Adrian Peterson the previous week. The offense went into hibernation in the second half. After gaining 232 yards and 12 first downs in the first half, the Lions managed 90 yards and four first downs in the last 30 minutes.
Some of the offense's falloff could have been caused by the absence of
"How it changed their game plan, I don't know," Johnson said. "How it changed our game plan – I don't think too much."
Something changed – on offense, defense and on special teams with a crucial blocked field goal in the fourth quarter.
As a team, the Lions could have felt what Nate Burleson felt on the final offensive play.
They didn't get that.