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Big Red Recap: Missed opportunities burn Cardinals in loss to Lions

Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) catches a 6-yard touchdown as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) defends during the first half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

Still stuck in preseason mode or once again affected by the early start time, whatever the reason, the Arizona Cardinals are staring at 0-1 to begin 2017.

They dropped their regular season opener to the Detroit Lions, 35-23.

Matthew Stafford, who the Cardinals picked off three times in their most recent meeting two years ago, threw three of his four touchdowns in the second half, helping the Lions end a seven-game losing streak to the visitors.

Trailing by eight midway through the third quarter, the Lions scored 26 straight points. Twice, Kenny Golladay had touchdown catches with Justin Bethel in coverage, and Miles Killebrew went 35 yards for a pick-six on one of three interceptions thrown by Palmer.

The Cardinals jumped in front 10-0 in the first quarter thanks to Bethel’s 82-yard interception return for a touchdown. The lead, however, was down to 10-9 at halftime.

Stafford rebounded from a slow start. He went 29-of-41 for 292 yards and an interception. Golden Tate was his favorite target, catching 10 balls for 107 yards.

Palmer, meanwhile, struggled all game long. A late surge made his numbers more respectable — 27-of-48 for 269 yards and a late touchdown to J.J. Nelson for the game’s final points.

Meanwhile, David Johnson and the Cardinals running game was non-existent. He rushed 11 times for 23 yards before leaving with a wrist injury. Overall, the Cardinals finished with 45 yards on the ground.

Larry Fitzgerald had six catches for 74 yards to lead the team in receiving.

THE GOOD

End the year with a pick-six. Begin the year with a pick-six. After a 66-yard interception return touchdown in the 2016 season finale at L.A., Bethel recorded an 82-yard score on the second defensive snap to start 2017. It was his fourth career touchdown (three interceptions and one blocked field goal return) and the Cardinals’ 19th defensive score since 2013, the most of any NFL team.

More defense. With the offense struggling in the first half, the Cardinals defense flashed, none more than rookie and first-round pick Haason Reddick. The linebacker showed great pursuit and side-to-side speed, and as a result he had a eight tackles, including six solo. In addition, Chandler Jones recorded a first-quarter sack of Stafford, giving him at least one sack in 10 of the 17 games he’s played with the Cardinals.

So who had backup running back Kerwynn Williams in the ‘Which Cardinals player will score the first offensive touchdown of 2017′ pool? Williams rushed straight up the middle from three yards out to cap a 12-play, 94-yard drive that took 5:49 off the clock on the Cardinals opening possession of the second half. The play increased the visitors’ lead to 17-9 at the 5:37 mark of the third quarter.

THE BAD

On the Lions’ first scoring drive, they converted on third down three times, including a 3rd-and-12 in which Stafford avoided the rush and scrambled for 15 yards. Later, Stafford found Marvin Jones Jr. open in the end zone (Patrick Peterson lost sight of him) for a six-yard score, pulling Detroit to within 10-6 at the 4:22 mark of the second quarter as the extra point was botched.

Though he nailed a 24-yard field goal in the first quarter, Phil Dawson missed a 32-yard attempt late in the second quarter. The snap and hold were good, but the kick hit the right upright, keeping the score 10-6. By the way, the earlier made field goal moved Dawson past Jan Stenerud (1,699) for 14th place on the league’s all-time scoring list.

Despite a 10-6 halftime lead, the Cardinals were thoroughly outplayed in the first half offensively. Palmer (10-of-24 for 103 yards) was picked off twice and nearly had a third interception. In addition, he was off on a number of throws. Johnson, meanwhile, had very little success running the football, finishing the half with 15 yards on nine first-half carries.

Capitalizing on the Cardinals’ third turnover of the game, a Johnson fumble, Stafford threw a seven-yard touchdown to Theo Riddick. The two-point conversion failed (Bethel with the pass breakup), leaving the score 17-15 at the 3:07 mark of the third quarter. Johnson had fumbled earlier in the game, but Jaron Brown made the first-quarter recovery.

STAT OF THE GAME

113.1 vs. 53.2: Stafford’s quarterback rating compared to Palmer’s.

HE SAID IT

“You can’t turn it over and win, especially on the road,” head coach Bruce Arians said, later adding, “I know how this team will react: Spit this one out, watch the film and be ready to roll.”

NOTED

– On the game’s first play, Fitzgerald caught a four-yard pass, the 196th consecutive game with at least one reception.

– Bethel became the first Cardinals player with a pick-six in consecutive games since Marcus Turner way back in 1990.

– In the first quarter, D.J. Humphries hurt his right knee and later was ruled out. John Wetzel replaced him at left tackle.

– In the third quarter, Johnson hurt his wrist and went into the locker room. He was officially listed questionable to return but did not..

– In the fourth quarter, Jermaine Gresham (ribs) and Mike Iupati (elbow) left the game due to injury, and they did not return.

– Among the Cardinals listed inactives were dollar linebacker Deone Bucannon and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

UP NEXT

For the second straight week, the Cardinals hit the road.

They travel to Indianapolis to play the Colts on Sunday, Sept. 17. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.

This is the first meeting with the Colts since 2013, when the Cardinals won 40-11 at home to snap a three-game losing streak in the series.

The Cardinals have not won in Indianapolis since 1984.

All-time, the Cardinals trail 7-8 in a series that dates back to 1961.

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