Stafford’s 4 TDs lead Lions over Cardinals
DETROIT — Matthew Stafford’s first pass attempt of the season could be filed under “Worst Case Scenario.” Not only did Stafford’s throw get picked off, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel returned it 82 yards for a touchdown as Stafford got blocked to the turf.
“I’m not fired up trying to make a tackle on the first pass I throw. Not fun,” he said. “Shoot, anything’s better than that.”
From that point, things went more according to plan for Stafford and his Detroit Lions teammates.
Stafford threw four touchdown passes, two to rookie receiver Kenny Golladay, and the Lions snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Cardinals with a 35-23 season-opening victory on Sunday at Ford Field.
Detroit rallied from a 17-9 third-quarter deficit.
“You want to win pretty, but you want to win more than anything,” said Stafford, who completed 29 of 41 passes for 292 yards. “We won a little bit ugly today. We had some highlights, some big plays, and the defense did a heck of a job. It took us a while to get going and hopefully next week we’ll start a little bit faster.”
Golladay, a third-round draft choice, caught four passes for 69 yards.
Lions’ wideout Golden Tate caught 10 passes for 107 yards and safety Miles Killebrew scored on a 35-yard interception return for Detroit, which forced four turnovers.
“When you hustle to the ball, when you do what you’re supposed to do and execute, you make plays like that,” said safety Glover Quin, who had one of the Lions’ interceptions. “I try to preach all the time that interceptions don’t come from doing something spectacular. Nine times out of the 10, if you do your job and just be in the spot you’re supposed to be in and hustle, interceptions will come to you. We were in perfect spots today and ready to make some plays.”
Cardinals star running back David Johnson left the game late in the third quarter with a wrist injury, which he suffered during a fumble. He was held to 23 yards rushing on 11 carries and caught six passes for 68 yards.
Quarterback Carson Palmer completed 27 of 48 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown, but was picked off three times.
“You can’t throw that many interceptions,” Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s trying to force one in there on that pick six. It hits (running back) Andre (Ellington) and that’s just bad luck. But the first one was just a poor throw. He was hurrying everything.”
The Cardinals took a 17-9 lead with 5:37 left in the third quarter on Kerwynn Williams’ 3-yard run. That capped a 94-yard, 12-play drive.
Lions rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis picked up Johnson fumble and returned it to the Cards 10, setting up Stafford’s 7-yard scoring pass to running back Theo Riddick. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Arizona in front by two points.
Detroit took a 21-17 lead with 9:27 remaining. Golladay beat one-on-one coverage by Bethel and gathered in Stafford’s 10-yard scoring toss. Once again, the two-point try failed.
Golladay beat Bethel again on his second touchdown. Golladay made a diving catch and rolled into the end zone to complete the 45-yard scoring play.
Killebrew’s 35-yard interception return on a deflected pass moments later gave Detroit a 35-17 lead with 4:03 remaining.
“Obviously not the start you’re looking for,” Arians said. “You’re not going to beat anybody turning the ball over that many times. It’s hard to win on the road, but it’s really hard when you play that poorly.”
Bethel’s interception gave Arizona a 7-0 lead just 3:46 into the game.
The Cardinals tacked on a 24-yard Phil Dawson field goal after a special teams gaffe by the Lions. Punter Kasey Redfern bobbled the snap in his end zone, then got tackled shy of a first down at the 13-yard line. Redfern injured his knee on the play and did not return.
Quin picked off Palmer in the second quarter, leading to Detroit’s first score. Stafford found Marvin Jones on a 6-yard play with 4:22 left in the half. The conversion attempt failed after a bobbled snap.
Matt Prater’s 58-yard field goal on the final play of the half cut Arizona’s lead to 10-9. Prater replaced Redfern and averaged 34.8 yards on four punts.
NOTES: LB Deone Bucannon (ankle) and DT Robert Nkemdiche (calf) were among the inactives for the Cardinals. CB Teez Tabor, a second-round pick this year, and RB Zach Zenner were healthy scratches for the Lions. ... Detroit’s last victory over Arizona was a 29-21 home triumph on Nov. 13, 2005. ... Arizona LT D.J. Humphries suffered a first-quarter knee injury and did not return. ... Detroit QB Matthew Stafford started his 100th consecutive game. ... The Cards are now 2-3 in five openers under head coach Bruce Arians.