Glendale, Ariz.— It could've been the play that continued the Lions' recent run of good fortune.
But Jeremy Ross' spectacular fourth-quarter punt return will be forgotten as the officials waved it off after a challenge by Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.
With the Lions trailing 14-6 with about 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals punted, and Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel caught the ball at the Detroit 1 as he was falling into the end zone.
Bethel tried to pitch the ball back to his teammates, but Ross picked it up and ran it to the Arizona 46 to seemingly give the Lions a great opportunity to mount a comeback.
"That's just knowing the rules of the game," Ross said. "If the defender on the other team touches it, then we can pick it up with no penalty."
Instead, after the challenge, the officials ruled that Bethel had possession at the 1, and the Lions ultimately lost, 14-6.
"When I was watching it, I thought it was all good," Ross said.
Coach Jim Caldwell wouldn't say whether or not he thought it was the right call.
"If they called it, that's what they called and that's what it is," Caldwell said. "Those guys make the final decision. They said he possessed the ball and that was the ruling."
Breaking the rules
The Lions had nine penalties for 80 yards while the Cardinals had four penalties for 35 yards. Arizona didn't commit a penalty until the third quarter, when the Lions already had seven for 60 yards.
Infractions have been a problem for the Lions in recent weeks. In their previous three games, they averaged nine for 84.7 yards per game.
"It's a problem. I don't think there's any question about that," Caldwell said. "We're poor in that area, and we've got to get it better."
Some of the penalties were completely boneheaded. With less than 3 minutes left and trailing 14-6, linebacker Julian Stanford — a game captain — flexed his biceps to Cardinals player following a punt to draw a 15-yard taunting penalty.
Starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew was a late scratch despite being listed as probable with a foot injury. Pettigrew played through the injury in Week 7, sat Week 8 and played through it again in Week 10. He practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday, and even though he was limited Friday, he was expected to play.
Running back Reggie Bush was also out, but he didn't practice this week after aggravating an ankle injury that's slowed him for the past month. With him out, Joique Bell started and had 14 carries for 85 yards and three catches for 30 yards.
As expected, tight ends Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria returned. Ebron started in Pettigrew's place and had four catches for 22 yards, but struggled blocking all game. Fauria played sparingly as Kellen Davis continued to have a role because of his blocking ability against a blitz-happy Cardinals team.
Rookie Travis Swanson started at right guard with Larry Warford (knee) out, and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley started for the second week in a row with Nick Fairley (knee) out.
The Lions' other inactives were wide receiver Ryan Broyles, quarterback Kellen Moore and defensive end Larry Webster.
For the Cardinals, running back Kerwynn Williams, defensive tackle Ed Stinson, defensive end Josh Mauro, guard Earl Watford, tight end Darren Fells and linebackers Desmond Bishop and Glenn Carson were inactive.