It wasn’t just the biggest win of the Detroit Lions’ season, it was a statement, even though coach Dan Campbell wouldn’t call it that.
The Arizona Cardinals (10-4) , arguably one of the NFL’s best teams, had not lost on the road this season. But on Sunday that record fell as the Lions (2-11-1) stunned the Cardinals, 30-12, at Ford Field.
No one gave the Lions much of a chance to win with a few big exceptions including Detroit’s coaches and players.
“We knew we could win this game, we feel like that every week. We knew we could but we knew we had to play a certain type of game,like any week if we can execute the game plan,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “… We knew to win this game it was going to be a dogfight and it was going to come down probably to the last possession. Well it didn’t this time. I don’t see it as a statement. In this league anybody can win, anybody can lose. I know this, our guys were prepared and that was a good win.’’
That’s a bit of an understatement. It was a full team win in all three phases. Glimpses have been shown all season of the possibilities, but it’s been tough to put them together for wins. Sunday may have been a look into the future.
Five things to know about Sunday’s win:
1. Campbell and GM Brad Holmes have had a game plan to build a team with high character players. The coach thinks it showed on Sunday. “We’ve got the right guys, we really do. And as far as guys you want character wise and what they’re made of. We don’t have guys who are worried about themselves or complaining about this or it’s somebody else’s fault,’’ Campbell said. “We have guys who just want results and how can I help? That always gives you a chance.’’
2. Aside from character, the win was what they have been trying to achieve all season. “I’d say it was a lot closer. To be able to feel like you have control of the game. They were playing our game, we weren’t playing theirs,’’ Campbell said. “That’s what we need to be able to do.” The Lions got the ball first and ate 8:50 off the clock on a drive that ended with a field goal. The defense held the Cardinals to three-and-out, then the Lions came back with a drive finishing with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown very early in the second quarter. So it was 10-0 to start. That’s key. Plus they just held on. They didn’t know they weren’t supposed to win.
3. Jared Goff had his best day in a Lions uniform, throwing for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. “He made some outstanding throws today. The first one to St. Brown was unbelievable, he had to step up, release it quick. The throw to (Josh) Reynolds right before halftime, a huge play,’’ Campbell said of the 22-yard touchdown pass. “(Goff) got us the right play, I thought he maneuvered well, he took some hits, he bounced back. I thought he played outstanding.’’
4. The losing season has tested Goff but he said his love of the game kept driving him. “It does test you and that way it has strengthened. Then you win a game today against arguably the best team in the league. On paper we don’t match up with them, on paper we don’t,’’ Goff said. It was next man up at so many positions.Goff mentioned safety Will Harris who played corner. Running back Craig Reynolds who got his second start and rushed for 112 yards. The offensive line has been playing musical chairs all season due to injuries. But on Sunday, everyone who played executed his job and it showed.
5. The Lions defense was phenomenal. (Don’t think I’ve typed that sentence in many years). The Cardinals didn’t score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. They didn’t pick up a first down until the second quarter. Campbell said he couldn’t find the right words for defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn who put together a masterful gameplan especially considering he was without so many key players. Linebacker Charles Harris was on fire with 1.5 sacks, a dozen tackles, three tackles for loss and a partridge in a pear tree. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye’s interception in the fourth quarter set up a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jason Cabinda on the next play. Campbell said those two plays shifted the momentum back to the Lions who held a 24-3 lead at that point.
NEXT UP: Detroit Lions at Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 26, at 1 p.m.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)