Lions embarrassed by Cardinals, are 0-5

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Detroit — Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford stood on the sideline with his arms behind his back for much of the second half of Sunday’s 42-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in front of 60,816 people at Ford Field, most of whom left the game bluer than the seats.

Instead of having an opportunity to mount a comeback, Stafford had to watch backup Dan Orlovsky try to lead the Lions offense after the coaches benched the only quarterback to throw a pass for the Lions in the past 49 regular-season games.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, kept starting quarterback Carson Palmer in the game into the fourth quarter, indicating they thought it was still a game despite the Lions’ concession.

“Yeah, if you look at that score and that performance,” Lions safety James Ihedigbo said when asked if his team quit. “I would never say my teammates quit because we fight until the end, but we did not play Lions football today.”

The Lions are 0-5 for the first time since their 0-16 season in 2008. They remain the last winless team in the NFL this season.

BOX SCORE: Cardinals 42, Lions 17

To describe what happened at Ford Field as a football game would be unfair to the people who participated or watched. It was a beatdown, plain and simple. The Cardinals were a heavyweight fighter while the Lions were a featherweight who left his gloves at home.

“You can’t play like that,” Ihedigbo said. “Since I’ve been in the NFL, it’s the worst football I’ve seen — let alone being part of it.”

The Lions' miscues were countless. They lost six turnovers, including three in a second quarter the Cardinals won 28-0. The usually sure-handed Golden Tate lost one fumble, and running back Ameer Abdullah lost another, showing that an issue from his college years might not be resolved. Abdullah would have lost another fumble on a kickoff return had a Cardinals player not touched out of bounds before possessing the ball.

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The Lions also nine penalties for 85 yards, halting progress on multiple promising drives and costing them significant field position on special teams.

Stafford threw three interceptions and finished the game 20 of 32 for 188 yards and one touchdown. He said coach Jim Caldwell told him at halftime that he’d be pulled if he threw a third pick after he threw two in the first half, leading to his benching after the first second-half drive.

“We had nothing going at that time,” Caldwell said of the decision, though he said Stafford will remain the starter. “No spark, no explosiveness, no nothing.”

Orlovsky provided a brief spark, but was 21 of 38 for 191 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Following the third interception, one Stafford threw right to cornerback Patrick Peterson on a fourth-and-3, Stafford had a brief discussion with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, then stood alone on the sideline while Orlovsky warmed up.

As if the continued offensive ineptitude wasn’t bad enough, the Lions lost linebacker DeAndre Levy late in the second quarter when he aggravated his hip injury. He did not return to the game.

Levy’s return hardly had much impact as the Cardinals had an exemplary offensive performance. Quarterback Carson Palmer was 11 of 14 for 161 yards with three touchdowns. The Cardinals also ran for 187 yards at 7.5 yards per carry, including a late 63-yard touchdown by Andre Ellington and a 40-yard run by Chris Johnson.

Believe it or not, the Lions actually led in the game, landing the equivalent of one punch before repeated and more painful blows by the Cardinals.

Late in the first quarter, Stafford threw a beautiful pass to wide receiver Corey Fuller for a 48-yard gain. On the next play. Stafford threw to running back Theo Riddick for a 6-yard touchdown, putting the Lions up, 7-0, with 2:21 left in the quarter.

After that, it was all Cardinals. On the ensuing drive, Palmer threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Fells.

Stafford’s second interception — the first was on the third play of the opening drive — was right to Cardinals defensive end Cory Redding, who returned it to the Detroit 4. Rookie running back David Johnson scored on a 4-yard run on the next play, giving the Cardinals a 14-7 lead with 10:56 left in the second quarter.

The Lions did not turn it over on their next drive, but even a Sam Martin punt that gave the Cardinals the ball at their own 1-yard line couldn’t help Detroit. On the second play of the drive, Palmer threw a 49-yard pass to John Brown, who made the catch against Lions cornerback Darius Slay. Two plays later, running back Chris Johnson ran for a 40-yard gain, and after that, David Johnson scored on a 2-yard run.

It was a five-play, 99-yard drive that gave the Cardinals a 21-7 lead and broke the spirit of a Lions defense that looked good at the start of the game, sacking Palmer twice on the opening drive.

The next turnover came from Tate, who had the ball knocked loose by safety Tony Jefferson — who forced the fumble Abdullah lost, too. Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson recovered it, and three plays later, Palmer hit Brown for an 18-yard touchdown. Tate’s fumble was just the fifth of his career and the second time he’s lost one.

Ultimately, besides Stafford’s benching, the second half was nothing more than a scrimmage.

“It’s unacceptable, and it’s my job to get it fixed,” Caldwell said.