Lions running back Zach Zenner makes most of his 12 carries in win at Cardinals

Scored first touchdown in 14 monthes

Zach Zenner snapped his 14-month scoreless streak when he ran in from 1 yard out for a touchdown in Sunday’s 17-3 win over the Cardinals at Arizona. His last touchdown had been on Oct. 5, 2017, in a loss to Carolina.

It’s not that the Detroit Lions running back gets many opportunities. Typically he does not. In the other four games he’s played on offense this season he’s had a combined four carries. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Zenner’s dozen carries on Sunday were the most for him since the 2016 season when he had three games with 12 or more touches. In the final two regular season games that year he had a combined 32 carries and three touchdowns. In the playoff loss at Seattle he had 11 touches.

Seven of his 12 carries at Arizona came in a four-minute, fourth-quarter drive where the Lions were trying to eat up the clock. Zenner was responsible for 42 of the 75 yards on that drive and the touchdown that put the game out of touch for the Cardinals.

“I think Zach, again, he’s one of those guys that does a phenomenal job of just preparing and being ready to go, whatever the situation is. He goes out and plays a lot of special teams for us and he does a lot of different things that can help us win or can help us win in special teams and also on the offensive side of the ball,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on his Monday conference call. “So, certainly he had an opportunity to go out and have a couple plays, which he did really well.’’

Zenner also plays on special teams where he was in on 71 percent of the special teams snaps on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

An undrafted free agent signed in 2015, he was let go with an injury settlement in early September this year. When he wasn’t working on getting his back healthy, he was studying for his medical school entrance exam and hoping for a phone call. When his back was healed and he was ready to go, the Lions brought him back.

Good thing, since Kerryon Johnson has missed the last three games due to a knee injury. Zenner is not LeGarrette Blount or Theo Riddick, but he can be effective when he gets a chance. Funny how that goes.

Five reasons Detroit Lions beat Arizona Cardinals, 17-3

Detroit’s effective run game was key

Yikes. It was not pretty, but the Detroit Lions snapped their two-game losing streak with a 17-3 win at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Detroit’s defense was key, holding Arizona to a field goal.

When the Cardinals came within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Lions ran downfield, eating up clock and finishing with a Zach Zenner touchdown run.

Neither offense could get much going. The Lions finished with 218 total yards while it was 279 for the Cardinals.

The Lions are now 5-8 in Matt Patricia’s first season, while the Cardinals drop to 3-10.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. The injury-riddled defense was solid, holding the Cardinals to just a field goal and rattling rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. Larry Fitzgerald was held to five catches (77 yards) while running back David Johnson had just 15 carries for 49 yards. The Cardinals managed just 73 yards of offense in the first half. Detroit linebacker Jarrad Davis was a standout with a sack, two tackles for loss, one pass defense, one quarterback hit and eight tackles.

2. Cornerback Darius Slay’s interception and return for touchdown in the third quarter, gave the Lions a 10-0 cushion. It was Slay’s first career pick-six and his third interception this season. He also broke up a potential touchdown catch by Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter. It was one of his three pass defenses.

3. Matthew Stafford (15-23, 101 yards) played just well enough to win, but it was the effective running game that was key. The Lions had 122 rushing yards — led by Zach Zenner with 54 yards and LeGarrette Blount with 33 yards. Stafford’s aching back limited him in practice last week. It didn’t affect his arm strength — he threw deep downfield, but couldn’t connect on one longer than 17 yards.

4. It must say something that the Lions could win despite an incredible number of injures, most forcing players from the game. That includes Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), Da’Shawn Hand knee), Bruce Ellington (hamstring), Charles Washington (hamstring), Marcus Cooper (back), Rick Wagner (concussion), Nick Bellore, Luke Willson and Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Next man up, indeed.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. It was a win. It was kind of ugly (really dreadful in the first half) but the Lions hung in there so there’s something that should be said for it.

NEXT UP: Lions (5-8) at Buffalo Bills (4-9), at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16.

Five things to watch as Lions face Cardinals in Arizona

Cardinals coming off win at Green Bay

ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions have lost five of their last six and are out of the playoff picture. They will face the Cardinals, who are coming off a big 20-17 win at Green Bay, at Arizona at 4:20 p.m. on Sunday.

So that’s the Lions (4-8) against the Cardinals (3-9). Try not to get too excited.

Give credit to the Lions who have marched on this week just like any other week this season trying to put themselves in the best position for a win.

Arizona has been dealing with several injuries including wide receiver Christian Kirk and along the offensive line. It makes preparation more difficult for the Lions.

“You have to try to plan for things that you’ve certainly seen first and foremost off the tape and through their history of whatever games they played and situations they played that may be similar to the situations that they have now,’’ Detroit coach Matt Patricia said. “But there definitely are elements that can come up that you’re not going to have seen or have ready from a game-plan standpoint. You’re going to have to be able to adjust once you get into the game.’’

Here are five things to watch:

1. Take advantage of Arizona’s depleted offensive line. Offensive tackle DJ Humphries was just placed on injured reserve. The Cardinals now have none of their projected offensive line starters from training camp. “They’ve been able to block it up, use some extra guys in protection, been able to run the ball. Obviously, (they) just have a great back in David Johnson, have a great player in Larry Fitzgerald. The quarterback’s mobile, so he kind of can buy some time there, also. And I think they’re just using their strengths to their advantage in that situation to make up for whatever, maybe, deficiencies they have,’’ Patricia said.

2. Don’t take the Cards lightly. They’ve won seven of the last eight meetings with the Lions and have won eight straight against Detroit in Arizona. Quarterback Josh Rosen may be a rookie (the 10th overall pick) but he’s gaining experience each week. His numbers are less than gaudy with a 54.2 completion percentage and more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10), but he was able to keep the chains moving at Lambeau Field.

3. Grab an early lead while the grabbing is good. The Cardinals have been outscored 181-92 in the first halves of their first 12 games. “We always want to start fast, you know? Especially on the road. They’re a good football team,’’ Matthew Stafford said. “Obviously, got a really good win against Green Bay at Green Bay, which is tough to do. A bunch of talented guys, a bunch of early-round draft picks, high-price, free agent type guys on that team have been good for a long time. So, we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

4. Set the pace in tune with Stafford’s abilities. The quarterback has usually been better running a two-minute drill, so step it up a bit. The Lions’ offensive line should be able to give Stafford time although the Cardinals do have a pass rush that ranks fourth in the NFL.

5. Running back Kerryon Johnson will miss his third straight game but the Lions have to stay with the run game. LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner each has his strengths so make the best of them. Although calling a draw on a third-and-19 perhaps is not the right time to stay on the ground.

PREDICTION: Cardinals 24, Lions 17