Final Thoughts -- Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay's value proven by his presence; Quote to note from Adrian Peterson. Random Thoughts – defending Kyler Murray; the run game works, use it; learn from last year's tie; another view of Murray from former Lion Devon Kennard; my pick in what I think is a winnable game for the Lions.
Golladay has proven on the field in his three seasons with the Lions how much he means to the offense and the dimension he provides as a big-play receiver who makes contested catches down the field.
He didn't have to be out of action – as he was by missing the first two games with a hamstring injury – for his value to be apparent. At 6-4 and 214 pounds, he provides a physical presence that has to be accounted for by opposing defenses. Golladay returned to practice this week and is listed as questionable for today's matchup in Arizona.
No matter the circumstances, Golladay has produced from his first game as a rookie in 2017 through the final eight games of last season when quarterback Matthew Stafford was out with a back injury.
"He's just come in and just worked hard," Stafford said. "If you're trying to gain the trust of the quarterback or the guys in the locker room, that's the one thing to do. Just work hard and be on your assignments, and when you get a chance to make plays, go make them."
Golladay made his first Pro Bowl last season with 65 catches for 1,190 yards and a league-high 11 touchdowns.
He had a slight – and understandable – decline after Stafford went out.
He had 35 catches for 640 yards and seven TDs with Stafford running the offense and 30 catches for 550 yards and four TDs in the final eight games. Jeff Driskel started three games and rookie David Blough the final five.
"He's a competitive dude," Stafford said. "He doesn't care who's throwing the rock. Obviously, I like being out there throwing it to him. Obviously, he's trying to help our team win, as everybody on the team is.
"He's not just a receiver trying to get his. I was happy with the year he had – when I was in there, and when I was out."
Quote to note: Peterson on the Lions' 0-2 start: "I would say it's a must win. Taking that it was two divisional games (losses to the Bears and Packers) ... that really sucks. Put us in a hole. The good thing is we see those guys again. We can even the series, 1 and 1. That's something to keep in mind.
"It's a long season. There are 14 more games out there. Who's to say we won't go 14-2? Who's to say we won't go 12-4?"
Defending Kyler Murray: Make him throw the ball, and don't let him run.
That's my precious advice. It's up to the coaches and players to figure out how to do it.
Murray has been more dangerous running than throwing in the first two games. He's thrown two TD passes and two interceptions, with an average of 6.6 yards per pass attempt. As a runner, he leads the Cardinals with 158 yards, an average of 7.4 yards per carry and three TDs.
Big play prevention: More advice -- don't have a repeat of the Cardinals' 18-point rally in the fourth quarter last year to get a tie. A 41-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald – on third and 14, no less – led to the first TD in the rally. A 45-yard completion to Fitzgerald led to a field goal that the Lions matched on their ensuing possession to avoid losing and escape with a tie.
Run game, use it: It's only two games, and the circumstances and flow of the game were different in both, but there were encouraging signs that the run game has improved.
The Lions rushed for 138 yards and an average of 4.8 yards per carry in the opener against the Bears, and 83 yards with a 4.2-yard average last week against Green Bay.
It's the first time the Lions have averaged 4.0 yards or better in the first two games since 2016 – 116 yards and 4.8 per carry in a win over the Colts; 137 and 6.0 in a loss to the Titans. The streak ended the next week in a loss to the Packers – 50 yards and a 2.2 average.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice Sept. 25, 2020.
Different view: Cardinals linebacker Devon Kennard prefers watching Murray do his magic from the sideline as a teammate to chasing him on the field, as he did as a starter for the Lions in last year's opener. Kennard signed with the Cardinals in the offseason.
"He's a tough guy to stop," Kennard told reporters after the win over Washington. "I played against him last year. That was his first game. He's gotten so much better since then. I'm glad he's on my team."
My pick: The Lions should play like their season is on the line, because it is. Dropping to 0-3 with another loss would make the hole they're already in deeper. Until demonstrated otherwise, the Lions will ride their offense, good and bad.
The Lions should move the ball, but stopping the Cardinals' offense is another matter. If they contain Murray and keep him in the pocket, they can win this game.
Prediction: Cardinals 27, Lions 24.