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O'HARA: Lions playing physical on both sides of the ball

A midweek review of the Detroit Lions' victory over the Arizona Cardinals sounded like one of the old press-room rehashes of a boxing match.

All that was missing was big cigars, big hats – and bigger lies.

In separate interviews with Lions assistant coaches, big hits by the defense and football's version of body blows were credited with giving the Lions a unanimous 17-3 decision on all stats sheets. For the record, the match went the full 60 minutes.

Middle linebacker Jarrad Davis led an assault that limited the damage by the Cardinals' David Johnson either in the ground game or as a receiver.

On offense, the Lions put the game away with a 75-yard drive that featured seven running plays – all by Zach Zenner – that gained 42 yards and ended in a one-yard run by Zenner that closed out the scoring with 4:05 left.

"The thing that was good about Sunday is, we gave the Cardinals a lot of kind of body blows throughout the game," running backs coach David Walker said Tuesday in an interview session that made the assistant coaches available for interviews.

"We really saw the dividend in our second-to-last drive."

The possession started with a 14-yard run by Zenner. On the Lions' last possession, he had another 14-yard run that was called back on a holding penalty. It could have been a longer run, but Zenner alertly slid when he knew he had the first down to avoid any chance of a fumble.

The scoring drive, and that run by Zenner that was called back, showed how the Lions were dominating the line of the scrimmage late in the game.

Regardless of the circumstances or the opponent, it was a morale-lifter for the Lions to put the game away with a physical effort in the trenches.

"A combination of, let's call them body blows, got us to the point to have those last two drives, which is something we've been trying to get better at and trying to preach," Walker said.

"I know he (Zenner) slid to go down to protect the ball. If he doesn't do those things, it's going to be another 20-yard run for us. It would be the third week in a row we had a 20-yard run."

LeGarrette Blount had a 27-yard run two weeks earlier against the Rams and a 24-yard run against the Bears.

Golden, who moved to linebackers this year after coaching the Lions' tight ends a year ago, sees Davis coming from a different physical mode than what has been standard for linebackers in the defenses head coach Matt Patricia coached in New England.

In boxing terms, it's like a light heavyweight performing like a heavyweight.

"I guess I'm so used to seeing guys play that 255 or 260 in New England, watching all the old New England film," Golden said.

"Here's this guy who's 235, but man, he can pack it. It's like explosive power, inch for inch. I'll put him up against anybody.

"Just a powerful young man who understands leverage and knows how to bend."

Davis, along with linebacker Christian Jones, held Johnson to 12 yards on eight receptions, an average of 1.5 yards per catch. And the Cardinals were held to 2.9 yards on 21 rushes. Johnson gained 49 of those yards on 15 carries. He was hit hard throughout the game.

"I thought he (Davis) did a great job of finishing the pile," Golden said. "That's one of the things the Cardinals had done a great job of before our game, was going forward – a great back and a line that was pushing forward.

"Jarrad was one of the guys who spearheaded making sure we were going in the other direction."

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