December 17, 2012 at 1:00 am

Chris McCosky

Chris McCosky's Four Downs: Lions down to fighting for their dignity

First down

The Lions are back to where they were in 2010, fighting to wrestle some dignity out of a disappointing season.

"You look across the board at teams that have success and they play as a team," middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "Right now we're not really doing that. We have to find a way to get back on track like how we were last year.

"Everyone believed in what we had going on. We'll do that. I know coaches and the general manager upstairs will find a way to address that and find a way to get back on track."

This was the sixth straight loss for this team and the first that was this lopsided. The anger and frustration were more obvious after this one. The Lions public relations staff cleared out several reporters from the interview room, which was located next to the locker room.

Clearly, they didn't want anyone hearing the shouting from within.

"It's tough," linebacker Justin Durant said. "I don't know. We just have to figure out what's going on. I thought we had a good game plan. We came out ready and guys were energized. I thought we were going to come out and have a good one, and we just didn't play well."

Second down

When you get beat as badly as the Lions got beat Sunday, you don't make excuses. And, to their credit, the players and coaches wouldn't make any or take any.

Here's the pure reality of the situation: Matthew Stafford played a bad game. The offensive line played maybe its worst game of the season. And against a good defense — make no mistake, the Cardinals' defense is solid — that's a losing combination.

But this is the first game where all the injuries and upheaval at the receiver position caught up to them. They have been without Nate Burleson and Titus Young for a while, but they went into this game without tight end Brandon Pettigrew, as well.

When the Cardinals chose to double-team Calvin Johnson all over the field, there was nobody left to make them pay. Johnson had 10 of the 24 receptions, and 17 of the 47 targets.

Tony Scheffler had three catches. The rest — Will Heller, Stefan Logan, Kris Durham, Brian Robiskie, Mike Thomas — six catches.

"They took the approach to get Calvin out of the game," coach Jim Schwartz said. "That left four other players one-on-one. ... It's on us to make them pay. We have to protect the passer and somebody has to get open. It's an ideal situation.

"But we could not get that done."

Third down

What happened on the muffed punt in the second quarter?

Pat Lee lost his bearings while blocking downfield and ran into Stefan Logan as he was trying to fair-catch a long punt. The lack of awareness on Lee's part was inexcusable.

But the officials initially ruled that it was Lions' ball, that it hit a Cardinals player first. But they quickly flipped the ruling and gave the ball to the Cardinals at the 5.

"Originally they ruled it was our ball and the onus would have been on the opponent to challenge and there wasn't conclusive proof," Schwartz said. "We had one of those on Thanksgiving where it was basically the same thing. The onus is on the team making the challenge.

"My question was, how come it went from that to flipping it and saying it was their ball."

Schwartz wouldn't say what response he got from the officials. Replays clearly showed the ball hit off Logan's hands.

Schwartz might have been better off arguing about the subsequent touchdown run by Beanie Wells. It appeared he fumbled before crossing the goal line, but replays were not conclusive.

Fourth down

The Cardinals didn't rush for 100 yards (99). They barely threw for 100 yards (104). Their two offensive touchdown drives were of 5 and 3 yards.

And they won the game by 28 points.

"It tastes great," said cornerback Patrick Peterson. "Actually, it tastes like filet mignon. It was something that we definitely needed."

The Cardinals snapped a nine-game losing streak.

"Christmas came early here in the desert," receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "Santa made a delivery at University of Phoenix Stadium and we are all happy with the gift we received today."

At least the Lions made somebody happy.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz was angry after Sunday's loss, and not just at the players who made turnovers. / Daniel Mears/Detroit News
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