GLENDALE, Ariz. – Burning Questions: One big one – how should the Detroit Lions feel after a 27-27 tie with the Arizona Cardinals in the opening game of the season?
Answer: It goes in the record books as a tie, and it’s in the standings as a tie for both teams, but for the Detroit Lions it should feel like a loss.
And it a lot of ways, it was a loss. There isn’t an ounce of satisfaction for the Lions. They had a 24-6 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter and had shackled Arizona’s offense under rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.
All of it came unraveled in a rally by the Cardinals that came from nowhere. They scored a field goal, two touchdowns and a game-tying two-point conversion that sent the game into overtime.
An exchange of field goals left the game in a tie – one that will haunt the Lions for days to come, and probably longer.
Q. What was the feeling in the first minute of the fourth quarter, when the Lions scored a touchdown to take what seemed like a safe 24-6 lead in a game that they had dominated to that point?
A. At that point the Lions looked like a team that had a year of experience together and was starting its second season with a much more complete grasp of the schemes and demands of head coach Matt Patricia and his staff.
It wasn’t a perfect game – especially penalties on the offensive line, and what could have been a disastrous fumbled punt – but the Lions were clearly a better team than they were in last year’s opener.
They were good enough to win an opener this year, despite some hairy moments in the fourth quarter. Last year they lost games like the one Sunday.
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.
Q. First half key: What was it for the Lions to have a 17-3 lead after the first half?
A. Persistence. That’s what drove the Lions and put them in command for the first 30 minutes.
Head coach Matt Patricia talks about how the team keeps grinding – through the offseason, training camp and the preseason – and that’s what the Lions did in the first half.
And they did that in all three phases. They converted key plays on offense to get their two touchdowns – on quarterback Matthew Stafford’s passes to wide receivers Danny Amendola and Kenny Golladay -- made big stops on defense and played well on special teams with the exception of one big breakdown.
And even with that breakdown – a fumbled punt by Jamal Agnew that led to the Cardinals kicking a field goal in the last two minutes – the defense made a stand near the goal line to make the Cardinals settle for the field goal.
Q. Second half key: What was it?
A. Bottom line: They couldn’t close it out after building that 24-6 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter. The defense could not make stops.
Q. The Time Out: Stafford completed a pass on third down that would have given the Lions a first down and would have let them just about run out the clock in the fourth quarter and clinch a win. But the play was nullified because time had been called on the Lions’ sideline. How damaging was that?
A. It was hard to explain or justify why time was called. The Lions clearly had a play called that worked. Running back J.D. McKissic was wide open as he cut to the right and got the first down with yards to spare.
The Lions misfired on the next third-down play, and Sam Martin’s punt was partially blocked, giving the Cardinals a relatively short field for their drive to the TD and two-point conversion that tied the game.
Q. The offense: It did some good things as we finally had the unveiling of new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s attack in a game that counts. What did it show that was different?
A. It’s a one-game analysis, but there was a little more variety in formations. Stafford threw the ball downfield, and across the middle more than in previous years.
Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson was more involved in the passing game than any of the tight ends last season – and for good reason. He produced.
Q. Moving on: What do the Lions do to get ready for next week's game at home against the Chargers?
A. Try to forget the failure against the Cardinals – which will be hard to do. But they have no choice.
Their critics won’t let them forget. That’s for sure.