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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Lions' performance vs. Cardinals as good as it looked

There are more ways to measure the strength and depth of a heart for an athlete and his teammates than beats per minute or any of the other time-tested methods.

Measure it any way you want – and the eye test certainly fits – the Detroit Lions have heart.

They've showed it throughout this season in their ability to bounce back from adversity and gut-wrenching losses, but never more fully than in Sunday's 30-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

From a field goal for a 3-0 lead on their first possession of the game until they closed out the scoring with a field goal late in the fourth quarter, the Lions were in control of the game.

The Cardinals, now with a 10-4 won-loss record, are one of the top teams in the NFC, but they were no match for the Lions, who posted only their second win against 11 losses and a tie.

The underdog role didn't faze the Lions. Neither did the lengthy list of players unavailable for various reasons – COVID-19 protocols and injuries among them.

The Lions simply did what they've done all season after tough losses on the finial play of the game, or in blowouts like the 38-10 loss at Denver. They bounced back to compete as hard as they could, and this time they were rewarded with a victory.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at what motivates Lions to play like they did against the Cardinals. There is also a look at how the stats did not indicate which team dominated the game, and what head coach Dan Campbell said about quarterback Jared Goff going out of the game for one play after a low hit.

There are also takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, what's trending, and the bottom line on what the game meant.

We start with offensive tackle Taylor Decker explaining the Lions' resilience.

1. Fuel: Players are aware of what's being said about them, and for a team like the Lions with a losing record, it's not going to be positive.

"Having doubt outside the locker room just kind of fuels you," Decker said. Nobody's going to give you a chance. Nobody's going to give us a chance. We're a professional team, too. Take your pick of what positions we have guys out, but we're going to have guys come in and play their butts off.

"You don't win games when you walk off the bus. You still have to go out there and complete. When you go out there and do what you say you're going to do, you have a lot of fun."

2. Stats late: Arizona had 398 total yards to 338 for the Lions, but they couldn't score where it mattered most. They were 0-4 in the red zone, and 0-2 in goal to go. The Lions were 1-2 in the red zone and scored the only time they had goal to go.

The Lions fully bought into the game plan in all three phases: Offense, defense and special teams.

"These guys have bought into it all year," Campbell said. "It's what gets us over the edge. It's what's going to get us to that point where we start figuring it out, and we can keep the momentum in our favor.

"We did it today. We executed the game plan perfectly. They were playing our game. We weren't playing theirs."

3. Goff out, Campbell's concern: Goff went out briefly in the first half when he was hit on the leg. Tim Boyle went in for one play – a handoff on a running play – and Goff returned.

Was the coach concerned about his quarterback?

"No," Campbell said. "He's pretty tough. I told him I appreciated his sacrifice for the team."

4. Takeaways, offense:

  • Run game: The Lions continued to get yards on the ground with 126. Rookie Craig Reynolds led the way with 112 on 26 carries. "I credit the offensive line," Campbell said.
  • QB battle: Goff won it, passing for 216 yards and three TDs while completing 21 of 26 passes. He had a passer rating of 139.7 Cardinals QB Kyler Murray completed 23 of 41 for 257 with a TD, one interception and a passer rating of 72.9.
  • Goff streak: Sunday's win was his eighth straight over the Cardinals. He won his last seven games against the Cardinals after losing once as a rookie.

5. Takeaways, defense:

  • Sack time: Outside linebacker Charles Harris had 1.5 more sacks, giving him 7.5 for the season. Signing him as a free agent was one of GM Brad Holmes' sharpest moves of the offseason.
  • Batted balls: The Lions had eight passes defended on Murray. Cornerback AJ Parker, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and cornerback Amani Oruwariye had two each.
  • Containing Murray: He's one of the most dangerous quarterbacks when he's in the open field, but he never got there Sunday. He ran four times and gained three yards. His longest run was four yards.

6. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Punt returns: Neither team did much on punt returns. Kalif Raymond returned two punts, with a long return of 14 yards.
  • Kickoff returns: The Cardinals won this stat, not that it mattered. Rondale Moore and Andy Isabella each had a 31-yard return.

7. Trending:

  • Up: Lions game plan. There was no area where it didn't work.
  • Down: Running back Godwin Igwebuike lost a fumble for the second straight game.
  • Even: Wide receiver Amon-Ra. St. Brown. He had eight catches for the third straight game. For a rookie to build that much trust with his quarterback is unusual.

8. Bottom Line: Everything looks better when a team wins, but there's really nothing to complain about in the Lions' performance. It was as good as it looked

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