Cardinals 'D' keeps Lions stars in check
With all the talk of the Lions having the top defense in the NFL, the Cardinals provided a top-notch defensive performance, stifling the Lions offense and holding them to two field goals in the 14-6 win on Sunday afternoon.
The win gave the Cardinals (9-1) the best record in the NFL and a three-game lead in the West Division over the 49ers and Seahawks.
The defense, which was rated one of the worst in the league against the pass, was stellar against the Lions' Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, holding Johnson to five catches (on 12 targets) for 59 yards and Tate to two receptions (on two targets) for 41 yards.
Stopping the pair was the responsibility of cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie, who answered the challenge.
"We put it on them every week," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "That's the strength of our football team, and we play to their strengths."
Peterson, an All-Pro, had the primary coverage on Johnson and the matchup lived up to the top billing between two of the best at their respective positions.
"Patrick played an outstanding ballgame. He's been on fire for three weeks," Arians said. "But when we mixed it up, the other guys jumped in and (defensive coordinator) Todd (Bowles) did a nice job of having people over the top and in between trying to confuse (Stafford) a few times.
"But holding him down is a huge, huge accomplishment."
Last week, both Lions receivers had more than 100 yards, with Johnson notching seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown and Tate grabbing 11 for 109 yards. Against the Cardinals secondary, though, there wasn't a repeat performance.
One of the key plays came on a Lions fourth down, when quarterback Matthew Stafford looked to find Johnson but threw it out of his reach, while Tate appeared to be open. On another pass attempt to Johnson, safety Rashad Johnson got an interception.
"That's a heck of an offensive football team; our defense did a great job of applying pressure and not giving up big, big chunks," Arians said. "We hit some, we had some still out there, but overall I was extremely pleased with our entire football team."
The defensive front kept the pressure on Stafford, notching four sacks for 19 yards. They held Stafford to 18-for-30 for 183 yards passing, each a season-low statistic for Stafford.
Joique Bell, though, rushed for 85 yards, the highest total for the Lions in a game this season.
But the Cardinals, who were ranked third against the run and 30th in pass defense, showed up when they needed to make plays, holding down an offense that was looking to get untracked with the return of two tight ends.
Though much of the attention was on the Lions' defense because of the rankings, the Cardinals showed those numbers don't matter. The Lions hadn't been held without a touchdown in five years, but the Cardinals rose to the occasion in making another statement win this season.
"Stats aren't everything. When you play defense, you play with 11 guys," Johnson said. "You play swarming the ball, make turnovers and finish games. I think that' the defense that we are. Our stats may not say that we're the best in the league, but when you turn on the film and you watch it, you're seeing 11 guys flying to the ball…"
Rashad Johnson said keeping the Lions' offense in check was one of the key goals for the defense during practice.
"It was our focus this week. We felt like we had a great game plan. We knew how they were going to try to attack us," he said. "We just felt that if we didn't give up any big plays, that they're not going to be able to move the ball down the field on us to score.
"If you look back, we didn't give up one explosive play."