GLENDALE, Arizona – Burning questions: Zach Zenner picks up the offense, Darius Slay scores one for the defense and offenses for both teams are no-shows except for one late drive by the Detroit Lions that clinched a 17-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium Sunday.
Question: Can you describe it – or is it indescribable?
Answer: There are a lot of words that describe how the Lions won the game, and a lot of them aren't polite or flattering.
The bottom line: It was an ugly win in a lot of ways, but the Lions were happy to take it home. It beats losing.
Q. Key players: Who were they: It's obvious on both sides.
A. A lot of good work was done up front on both sides of the ball, but the key player on defense was Darius Slay. His 67-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Lions a 10-0 lead in the third quarter and some breathing room.
And on offense it had to be running back Zach Zenner. They went to him on the clinching drive, and he delivered.
The Lions went 75 yards, and Zenner finished off the drive with a one-yard blast into the end zone with 4:05 left. That sealed the victory.
Q. Zenner: What stood out about his performance?
A. It was his resilience, and how he took advantage of an opportunity. Before Sunday he had carried the ball only four times and gained 28 yards.
On the clinching drive, he had all eight carries for 39 yards. He was the only Lion to gain any yards on the play. The other 36 yards were on two penalties – a 28-yard penalty for pass interference, and eight yards added to a four-yard run by Zenner for grabbing the face mask.
It was a strong effort by Zenner, and also by the Lions' offensive line for taking over the game when they had to.
Q. The win: It made the Lions' record 5-8, but what did it mean?
A. There hadn't been anything to cheer about for the offense before the last possession. Until then, the defense had carried the day.
Most of the game won't look good in the film room. But teams play to win, and the Lions will enjoy the flight home to Detroit a lot more with the win than they would have had they lost to a very poor Cardinals team.
Q. Injury bug, bites twice: How much did it hurt the Lions that defensive linemen Da'Shawn Hand and Ziggy Ansah were hurt on successive plays late in the first quarter?
A. It was a big loss for the game, and potentially the rest of the season. The matchup of the Lions' defensive line against a Cardinals offensive line decimated by injuries and patched together favored the Lions by a wide margin.
With Ansah and Hand gone – and linebacker Devon Kennard inactive because of an injury – that took away three starters from the Lions' front seven.
Ansah's injury was to a shoulder. Hand's was a knee. The fact that both players were taken to the locker room on carts does not bode well for the immediate future.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 14 game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Q. Highlights, first quarter: What were they?
A. For the Lions they were two plays involving running back LeGarrette Blount. He had a 12-yard run on the second play of the game and a 14-yard run later in the possession.
Unfortunately, they went for nothing when his fumble and a recovery by the Cardinals ended the possession.
Q. Early score chance: Didn't the fumble take away what could have been a good scoring chance for the Lions?
A. Yes – but with a qualifier. "Good" might be too strong. It was first and 10 at the Cardinals' 34 when Blount fumbled, and the Cardinals recovered at their 30. The way the Lions were going on offense, with a holding penalty, their ultra-short passing game, sacks and runs for no gain, I'm not sure they'd have done much except give Matt Prater a chance to showcase his skills as the best long-distance kicker in the league.
Q. Post notes: In the second quarter, a 54-yard field-goal attempt by Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez hit the left upright. That's happened a lot this season to opposing kickers, to the benefit of the Lions. Is there some kind of magical force involved?
A. Probably not. And I say probably because we can never be certain.
One thing is for certain: Prater has been kicking at the same goal posts, and he's not hitting the posts or missing. Prater's 47-yard field goal in the second quarter made him 24-of-27 for the season. That's 88.9 percent.
The miss by Gonzalez made opposing kickers 16 of 25 for the season. That's 64 percent.
Kick 'em straight, and they'll go through the posts – not hit the posts.
Teams deserve what they get, and the Lions got what they deserved Sunday – a win.