FOUR DOWNS: Why Lions called timeout on fourth-quarter play

FIRST DOWN – THE TIMEOUT CALL

It appeared the Lions had put themselves in terrific position to milk away the clock late in the fourth quarter Sunday in Arizona holding on to a 24-16 lead.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford completed a pass to a wide-open J.D. McKissic in the flat with a little more than three minutes left in the game. The Cardinals had no timeouts. McKissic had a clear first down, and potentially a lot more, but as he turned and raced down the right sideline, a referee raced in, waving his arms to call the play dead. Detroit had called a timeout.

“That’s a got-to-have-it situation, so first down is critically important for us,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. “The play clock was running down, call it zero (seconds) or call it one (second), whatever it was in that situation, you’d rather be in 3rd and 5 than 3rd and 10.”

Coming out of the timeout, Stafford failed to convert on a 3rd and 5 pass to wide receiver Kenny Golladay. The Lions punted to Arizona, which was partially deflected, and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray orchestrated a touchdown drive and two-point conversion to tie the game in the final minute. The game would eventually end in a 27-27 tie.

Stafford said after the game he got the play off in time, but the offense had to do a better job of getting lined up quicker and in and out of the huddle a little bit quicker to make sure the sideline has confidence they can get the play off in time.

“I thought we got it off, but, you know, I understand the decision,” Stafford said.

SECOND DOWN – BITTER FEELING

Sunday definitely felt like a loss for Lions coaches and players.

“You never want to lose or tie,” veteran defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “The only success in the NFL is winning.”

Detroit blew an 18-point fourth quarter lead to an Arizona team that won three games last year and were debuting a rookie head coach and quarterback.

“Obviously, not the way we wanted the game to end,” Patricia said. “I think overall we have to finish the game better, we have to coach it better at the end, we have to play it better at the end. Obviously, very disappointed.”

Stafford said the tie was a tough one to swallow given the lead they had.

“Obviously, was in a good spot there for a little bit,” Stafford said. “Have to do a better job of finishing the game out.”

THIRD DOWN – HALL OF FAME PLAYS

Larry Fitzgerald will go down as one of the league's best wide receivers when his career is all said and done. He’s likely a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Even in his 16th season, Fitzgerald made Hall of Fame plays to help Arizona secure a come-from-behind tie against the Lions Sunday.

He finished the game with 113 receiving yards on eight receptions and a touchdown in the final minute.

In the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald caught a 41-yard pass down to the Detroit 37-yard line over safety Tracy Walker to set up a field goal that trimmed Detroit’s lead to 24-9.

Fitzgerald’s 4-yard touchdown catch with 47 seconds left pulled Arizona within 24-22. A two-point try was good to wide receiver Christian Kirk on next play to tie the game.

In overtime, Murray and Fitzgerald hooked up on a 45-yard pass down the left sideline with Walker in coverage again. The catch set up a field goal that gave them a 27-24 lead.

Fitzgerald was a big reason why the Cardinals were able to come from behind and come away with a tie.

View photos from the Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Week 1 game at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona.

FOURTH DOWN – BEVELL’S OFFENSE

While most of the headlines leading up to the game Sunday centered around Arizona’s new “Air Raid” offense, Detroit was debuting a new offense of its own under new coordinator Darrell Bevell.

While there’s some things Detroit needs to clean up on that side of the ball, they did finish with 477 yards of total offense, 116 of which came on the ground.

Stafford threw for 385 yards and three touchdown passes. He finished with a 110.0 passer rating. The tight end position was expected to be a bigger feature, and T.J. Hockenson caught eight passes for 131 yards and a score. Tight end Jesse James also caught a pass for 15 yards.

One area that hurt them, especially in the fourth quarter, was finishing just 6-of-18 (33 percent) on third down. That’s an area they have to get better in by next week’s game vs. the Los Angeles Chargers.

They also struggled with penalties, and turned the ball over. But overall, it was a pretty good debut performance.

“Made some big plays in the passing game,” Stafford said. “We were getting into the right stuff in the run game, which was good. Just anytime you don’t win it doesn’t feel very good.”

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