Five things to know about Lions’ 26-23 win at Arizona

Matthew Stafford played his best game early this season and he got big-time help from the Lions’ defense which intercepted Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray three times.

The 26-23 win came courtesy of Matt Prater’s 39-yard field goal with the clock running out on Sunday in Arizona. It snapped the Lions’ 11-game losing streak.

“A chance to end the game on offense is what I want, that’s what we all practice for is to go out there and control the game at the end of it and win it,’’ Stafford said. “Obviously a good operation by our special teams at the end to get the win.”

However, it was definitely a team effort.  Mistakes? Sure. Penalties? A few killers. Missed opportunities? Oh yes.

Still the Lions overcame them and got the ball back with 1:52 left, the game tied at 23-23 and lousy field position at their own 9.

Stafford was four of five on that final drive. His 53-yard pass to Marvin Hall looked like a touchdown or at least a catch at the 1-yard line, but a holding call on Halapoulivaati Vaitai negated the play.

“We just had to move on to the next play. It is what it is, we’re all fighting tooth and nail,’’ Stafford said.

They could have folded or shrugged their shoulders, instead they marched down the field with some authority.

Five keys to the win:

1. Matthew Stafford had a good game, looked more like his old self. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns even though he was sacked four times. “I’ve been doing this a long time, I feel real comfortable in that situation, that’s the situation I want,’’ Stafford said. “I hate sitting on the bench and watching another phase trying to win the game for us. I love it. Had an opportunity in week 1 to get it done and got close, didn’t get it done. We had another opportunity today I wasn’t going to let that slip through my fingers.’’ It was his 29th fourth-quarter comeback, the most in the NFL since he joined the NFL in 2009. It was also his 35th game-winning drive, the second most in the NFL since 2009.

2. Kenny Golladay’s return, after missing the first two games with a hamstring, was huge. “Obviously a big weapon for us, made a great play in the red zone,’’ Stafford said. “Just an undersized safety (covering), I just tried to throw one up to a good spot for him, he went up and made a great play and got in which was awesome.’’ That touchdown gave the Lions a 17-13 lead with less than a minute left in the first half.

3. After zero takeaways in the first two games, this was a point of emphasis with the defense preparing for this week. Nice job. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray had been intercepted just twice total in the first two games, but the Lions picked him off three times. Credit to rookie Jeff Okudah, Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon. Collins’ interception led to a Lions touchdown, while Okudah’s in the third quarter led to a Matt Prater field goal which gave Detroit a 20-16 lead. Win the turnover battle and often you win the game.

4. The defensive pressure up front which was lacking in the first two games is what helped with the interceptions. Murray was only sacked once (by Romeo Okwara) but he’s a mobile quarterback who is tough to get down. “You can see how dangerous he is when he gets in space. He’s got unbelievable quickness and acceleration,’’ Patricia said of Murray. Still much work to do on defense, but certainly the group looked better against the Cardinals who are now 2-1.

5. Running back Adrian Peterson got the workload in the running game. He finished with 22 carries for 75 yards and started with a 27-yard scamper on the Lions’ second play of the game from scrimmage. Not bad for a 35-year-old back. Kerryon Johnson had just three carries for 16 yards, but his work on pass protection was huge.

BY THE NUMBERS: Matt Prater kicked four field goals (37, 24, 35 and 39 yards). … Stafford completed passes to nine different guys. … Jason Fox averaged 55.5 yards on his four punts and had a long one of 65 yards. … The Lions were just 2 of 6 in the Red Zone while the Cardinals were 3 of 3. … Each team had seven penalties – Lions for 46 yards, Cardinals for 48. … Tracy Walker led the defense with 11 tackles. Collins and Okudah each had six.

NEXT SUNDAY: The Lions (1-2) play the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field at 1 p.m. e help from the Lions’ defense which picked off Cardinals quarterback Kyler 

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to watch as Lions face Cards, look for first win

If the Lions are going to turn around their young season after an 0-2 start, Sunday at Arizona would be a good time.

Since 1980 only 3.4 percent of NFL teams that have started 0-3 have made the playoffs.

Coach Matt Patricia, the coordinators and players this week seem focused and certainly not panicked or despondent.

“We treat everything as a one-game season. I mean, that’s what it is. We have 16 one-game seasons from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said in a Zoom conference call on Friday. “We reset. We do a good job here I think of resetting every Monday and making sure that when we get done with the game from the previous week, that we push forward, and we understand what we have to do to improve, and we go to work.”

The Cardinals are off to a 2-0 start, defeating San Francisco and Washington.

Five things to watch: 

1. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay is expected to make his season debut after being out with a hamstring. Of course, he’ll add another dimension to the offense which has struggled with the deep ball. He’s not Superman but he should help spark the inconsistent offense. “We’ve got a lot of really good skill players out on the field. Just one guy doesn’t make the entire team – everyone else has to go out and execute at a high level,’’ Patricia said. “We have full confidence in those guys to do that – maybe in different forms or different positions. We still expect those guys to go out and perform.”

2. Matthew Stafford hasn’t played his best so far. It is not all on him, but the offense needs him to be almost perfect. “I think he’s been solid, but I do believe that there’s some plays that we’d like to have back and we’re continuing to work on those things,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He’s his own hardest critic, which is always good, particularly at that position, but we can play better.”

3. The run defense needs to take a step up after two pitiful performances giving up 149 rushing yards to the Bears and a whopping 259 yards to the Packers. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching it, and we’ve got to do a better job executing it. That’s it,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “We could go round and round and talk about what’s disappointing or what I saw – it doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s my job to get in the meeting room, point it out. It’s my job to get the players to believe in it and go out and execute it better.’’

4. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is red-hot. He’s completing 66.7 percent of his passes and has rushed for 159 yards in two games, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He converted a third-and-17 on the ground against the 49ers. “When you have that ability on your call sheet because the players that are on the field, that is a whole other level of difficulty that you have to try and defend against,’’ Patricia said. “I mean, third-and-17, you’re thinking you’re walking off the field and making them punt, but not with him. He’s too dangerous.’’ Of course, the Lions quarterback pressure is lacking (I’m being nice) so Murray will pose a huge challenge.

5. For a few years the Lions run game has been pathetic, but they’ve taken a step up in the first two games this season. The addition of Adrian Peterson is huge. Rookie D’Andre Swift will just get better and Kerryon Johnson looks healthy. In the opening losses the Lions have rushed for 138 yards against the Bears and 89 at Green Bay. Peterson, who has 138 rushing yards and 6.4 yards per carry, has been beneficial so far.

Prediction: Cardinals 41, Lions 27

Lions Reggie Ragland: All that separates the NFL is from the neck up

Reggie Ragland knows a little about winning. The Detroit Lions linebacker is coming off the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl win in February. In 2012 he won the national championship playing for Alabama.

The difference between winning and losing?

“All that separates this league is from the neck up, it ain’t nothing else,’’ Ragland said on a Zoom call on Monday.

The Lions (0-2) are coming off a 42-21 loss at Green Bay and no one, including Ragland, is happy.

“I’m not used to it, I’m not going to lie,’’ Ragland said. “We’ve got the pieces. It’s a long season, we’ve got to go out there and just play. It ain’t about how you start it’s about how you finish. We’ve got the pieces to finish strong and have a good team. We have to believe that as a whole, we can’t unravel.’’

While fans and pundits seek answers for the 11-game losing streak and setting an NFL record with four straight losses after leading by double digits, Ragland seems to think the solution is relatively simple.

“Nothing is missing. We’ve just to go out there and play (expletive) ball, we’ve got to stay together, we can’t unravel when things are not going our way,’’ Ragland said. “We’ve got all the dag-gone pieces, we’ve just got to go play. Excuse my language, we’ve got the pieces. People that say otherwise they aren’t in here, we’ve got the pieces we just have to go show it.’’

Detroit plays at the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday.