Cardinals offense like 'Bombs over Baghdad'

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Larry Fitzgerald

Allen Park — The Lions know the M.O. of Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, but even if the players didn’t know about his affinity for a downfield passing attack, safety Glover Quin said it wouldn’t take much film study to realize how aggressive Arizona plays.

“It’s ‘Bombs over Baghdad’ around here,” Quin said of the Cardinals’ offense, referencing the popular Outkast song from 2000. “They’re throwing that thing out, so, hey, you just better be ready. They’re going to put the ball in the air.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer ranks fourth in the NFL with 22 attempts of 20-plus yards from the line of scrimmage. Fortunately for the Lions, the Cardinals have completed just six of those 22 passes, and two of them were interceptions.

Regardless of Arizona’s efficiency, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said it’s easy to see why the Cardinals take so many shots downfield.

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“Have you seen their receivers?” he said. “They have a bunch of them. They have a lot of good, quality receivers. The line is doing a good job protecting for Carson, and Carson is delivering the ball.”

Led by the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have variety of options for Palmer. There’s also John Brown, the 5-foot-11, 179-pound speedster, and the physical Michael Floyd at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds.

“No. 12 (Brown) is as fast as I don’t know what,” Lions cornerback Darius Slay said. “He’s a fast guy and can take the top off the defense without a problem.”

With 30 catches for 432 yards and 10 catches of 20-plus yards, 32-year-old Fitzgerald is on track for his first 1,000-yard season since 2011 when he had his fifth straight.

Brown, who ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the combine in 2014, is second on the team with 19 catches for 222 yards, including two 20-plus yarders. Lions coach Jim Caldwell admired Brown, a third-round pick last year, coming out of Division II Pittsburg State (Kan.) after learning about his relationship with his brother, who was shot to death in 2010.

“The superlatives are unending because the guy is so fast,” Caldwell said of Brown’s play in his second season.

The Lions defense showed improvement in Week 4 against Seattle, but still allowed six pass plays of 20-plus yards, though some were on broken plays. Against the Cardinals, the Lions have to cover receivers closely because 35-year-old Palmer has looked good after missing 10 games last year, ranking in the top seven in yards, touchdowns, passer rating and yards per attempt.

“Now that the arm is fresh, he’s got the cannon now,” Quin said.

From the Lions’ perspective, though, the Cardinals testing them downfield will create some opportunities if the defensive backs play well.

Asked if he looks forward to playing a team that throws it deep, Quin said, “Only if I can get to some of them.”