O’HARA: What we learned from Week 1

Points add up, no matter when they come. Early or late, they can be part of the string of scoring plays that make a difference between winning and losing. And tying.

That’s one of the things we learned in the Detroit Lions’ 27-27 tie with the Cardinals’ Sunday. A fumbled punt led to what seemed at the time an insignificant field goal and three points for the Cardinals that got them off the schneid and not much else.

Among the other things we learned was that experience can still beat youth, that the national reaction to the tie was different for the Cardinals than for the Lions, a tie still feels like a loss for the Lions because of the way it happened -- but history shows it might prove to be invaluable (and I’m not buying it, even though I looked up a recent example).

We start with points:

It was 17-0 Lions when Jamal Agnew fumbled a punt that the Cardinals recovered at the Lions’ eight-yard line late in the first half. The defense held – after David Johnson made it second and one with a seven-yard run on first down -- forcing the Cardinals to kick a field goal that cut the deficit to 17-3.

The way the Lions were dominating on both sides of the ball, it seemed like an insignificant play at the time – more like three points that would deprive the defense of getting a shutout in the opener. And it was all but forgotten when Matthew Stafford hit T.J. Hockenson with a touchdown pass in the first minute of the fourth quarter to extend the Lions’ lead to 24-6.

But then the points started adding up for the Cardinals in regulation time.

Another field goal, Arizona’s third, made it 24-9. Still a 15-point lead, but a little tighter.

Johnson’s 27-yard TD catch with 5:57 left made it 24-16 and put the pressure squarely on the Lions’ defense. It was sweaty palms time.

A four-yard TD catch by Larry Fitzgerald – more on him in a moment – followed by a pass to Christian Kirk for the two-point conversion tied it at 24-all with 43 seconds left.

Ultimately, the game ended in a tie with an exchange of field goals in overtime.

Can the loss be blamed on a fumbled punt when the Lions had a 17-point lead in the last two minutes of the first half? No. The offense had two quarters to add points, and the defense could have continued to dominate its side of the ball.

The point is, points add up. They mean something. They can add up to be the points difference between winning and a tie.

Larry Fitzgerald: The 36-year-old had a quiet first three quarters, with five targets and two catches for nine yards. It was a different story the rest of the way. He had six targets and five catches for 59 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter. In overtime he added a 45-yard catch.

A 41-yard catch in the fourth quarter came on third and 14 with second-year safety Tracy Walker covering him, and with rookie Will Harris nearby. It was a good throw by rookie Kyler Murray into a tight opening, where Fitzgerald used his skill, will and experience to make the catch.

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.

Monday reaction: It actually began with the highlight shows Sunday night and continued Monday.

The Cardinals were portrayed as a team that made a valiant rally to get a tie, led by rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. For example, ESPN had this headline: “Kyler Murray’s NFL debut a promising start – and a thrilling finish.”

And the Lions were the team that couldn’t hold a 24-6 lead and were lucky to get a tie.

Both were predictable – and hard to argue against either one.

Tie value: No way the Lions can be happy with the tie. But ... it could prove valuable in the NFC North if the race is as tight as most people think it will be.

The Packers won the 2013 NFC North title with a record of 8-7-1. They won a final-game showdown with the Bears, who finished second at 8-8.

It’s a long way until Dec. 29, when the Lions and Packers meet in the final game at Ford Field. The tie might mean something then – but not as much as it would right now if the Lions were 1-0 – like they should be.

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