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FOUR DOWNS: Undermanned defense keeps Cardinals in check


What a job defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and his staff did scheming a plan to stop Arizona's potent offensive attack, and what a job the players on defense did executing that plan Sunday.

Glenn was without his two top tacklers for most of the game, had a safety playing cornerback, and incorporated some players into the mix who only arrived in Allen Park this week.

Still, he was able to pull all the right strings in holding quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals' offense to just 12 points – they came in averaging 28.2 points per game — and out of the end zone until the final five minutes of the game, holding a three-touchdown lead.

"It'll be hard for me to find the right words to speak of AG," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said after his team's 30-12 win Sunday. "Got a ton of respect for him. He's once again put together a great game plan. We knew what we had to do, we had to hit this guy (Murray), we needed to bottle him up, we needed to be aggressive on these receivers, and those guys did it."

Glenn and his defensive staff have a terrific understanding of what this defense needs to do every week to have a chance to win.

"Those players know exactly what's expected of them and what's going to give them the best odds to win or shut down an offense," Campbell said. "They did it."

It was clear from the start the Lions' defense came to play and they executed Glenn's vision to perfection for 60 minutes.

"Yeah, I thought they played better, coached better, had a bigger sense of urgency from the start," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. "We just weren't good enough in any area. Got to give them credit, they came out and played really hard and played well."


It's one thing to step into a role and have a nice debut like running back Craig Reynolds did for Detroit last week in Denver (11 carries for 83 yards) when a defense doesn't really see it coming.

But to have an encore performance the way Reynolds did Sunday, with Arizona's defense fully expecting him to carry a big load, just validates what Reynolds did last week and shows the Lions might have something with this young running back.

That really isn't a surprise to the Lions, as much it might be to those outside the organization, because they've seen this in practice all year with Reynolds.

Reynolds rushed for a career-high 112 yards on a career-high 26 carries (4.3 average) leading Detroit's ground attack against Arizona.

"I'm more than blessed and more than thankful for this opportunity the Lions gave me," Reynolds said after the game. "Just have to keep rolling with it, you know, keep putting good stuff on and helping this organization win. That's all it's about."

Reynolds was quick to praise the offensive line, tight ends and receivers for opening lanes in front of him all game.

Carrying the ball 26 times is a lot for any back, especially one who was on the practice squad just three weeks ago. Reynolds will likely be sore Monday, but he said with a big smile that it will be a good sore after being a big part of a really big win for this football team.


After the Lions' defense held Arizona out of the end zone on a 4th and goal from the 3-yard line late in the first half, Campbell knew he had to be aggressive and try to score a touchdown in the final two minutes to extend their then 10-0 lead.

It was 2nd and 10 at the Lions' 34-yard line when quarterback Jared Goff completed a 14-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown at the Lions' 48-yard-line. During the throw, Goff took a low hit that drew a roughing the passer penalty and also caused him some pain. Goff laid on the field while trainers came out to see him. After a little bit, he popped up and jogged off, trying to walk off whatever was going on with his left leg.

Backup Tim Boyle came in for one play before Goff ran back on the field to a really loud cheer from the Ford Field faithful. Goff was playing great at the time, and the fans appreciated his toughness.

"It was cool to come back in and finish that drive," Goff said. "Up to this point I've learned you can't play quarterback in this league if you aren't going to be able to fight through a little bit of pain, especially for this team and this city. It's important to be that guy."

Not only did Goff come back into the game, he completed three of his next four passes moving Detroit into striking range before capping off the nine-play, 97-yard drive with a 22-yard strike to wide receiver Josh Reynolds in the end zone.

Goff would finish 21-of-26 passing for 216 yards and three touchdowns for a 139.7 passer rating. It's his best performance as a Detroit Lion, and it came against a really good defense in Arizona.

It's the kind of toughness and overall performance that can endear Goff to a city and a fan base.


Sunday's performance is exactly what Campbell envisioned his team looking like: A tough, gritty, dominating performance from all three phases against a really good opponent that had everything to lose.

"To be able to control it and feel like you have control of the game," Campbell said. "Like, I felt like that was more they were playing our game. We weren't playing theirs and that's what we needed to be able to do."

Left tackle Taylor Decker said it was finally good to see everything come together, all three phases at the same time, to put together a dominating performance.

Campbell and co. threw caution to the wind and played fast and aggressive. They were good on third down offensively and stingy in the red zone defensively. For the first time all year, the Lions played a complete 60-minute football game.

Goff said the way Detroit played complementary football Sunday is how good teams play in this league.

"We make a mistake, we have a fumble, Amani (Oruwariye) makes an interception and nearly takes it back to the house. We score on the next play," Goff said. "That's how good teams win in this league, and we put it on display in all three phases today. All the times we've talked about this whole year ... that's what it looks like."

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