The question facing the Arizona Cardinals heading into Week 5 was how would they respond after their first defeat of the season.
The answer: Quite well, thank you.
Carson Palmer passed for three touchdowns, David Johnson rushed for two scores and the defense forced six turnovers in a 42-17 win at Detroit, putting to rest any concerns that may have surfaced in last week’s loss against St. Louis.
With the win, the team’s sixth straight over the Lions, the Cardinals (4-1) take a two-game lead in the NFC West.
Palmer was nearly perfect, finishing with as many incompletions as touchdowns. He was 11-of-14 for 161 yards before being removed in favor of backup Drew Stanton early in the fourth quarter.
Of the six takeaways, four were interceptions, including two by Rashad Johnson. Cory Redding and Patrick Peterson also picked off Matthew Stafford, who was pulled midway through the third quarter for Dan Orlovsky. Combined, Stafford and Orlovsky attempted 70 pass, completing just 41 for 379 yards.
The Lions (0-5) took an early 7-0 lead and then watched the Cardinals score 35 unanswered points, going a perfect five-for-five inside the red zone, an area they struggled in the week prior.
This marks the third time this season that the Cardinals, the highest scoring team in the NFL, scored 40 or more points.
– After failing to get a single turnover last week — the first time all season the defense went without a takeaway — the Cardinals forced two in the Lions first two possessions of the game. First, Rashad Johnson picked off Stafford and then Josh Mauro recovered an Ameer Abdullah fumble caused by Tony Jefferson. For Johnson, it was his second interception of the season and the eighth of the year by the Cardinals.
– Just call him Mr. Touchdown. David Johnson capped back-to-back second-quarter drives with rushing touchdowns of four and two yards, respectively. They were his fifth and six scores of the season, tying the franchise record for touchdowns in a player’s first five career games, joining Ollie Matson (1952) and Bob Shaw (1950). By the way, the first Johnson score was setup by a Redding interception, the second of his career.
– In the first half, Palmer targeted just three receivers — Fitzgerald, Darren Fells and John Brown — completing 6-of-8 attempts for 108 yards and two touchdowns. His longest pass went 49 yards to Brown and preceded a Chris Johnson 40-yard run two snaps later. Both plays were part of a 99-yard scoring drive, the Cardinals first since Oct. 14, 2001 at Chicago when in the fourth quarter Jake Plummer hit Frank Sanders with a seven-yard touchdown.
– With his first-quarter 12-yard reception, Larry Fitzgerald now has caught at least one pass in 168 straight games, extending both the NFL’s longest active streak and franchise record. His second catch, a 26-yard grab, moved him past Art Monk for 17th place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list. And on the very next snap, Fitzgerald caught a two-yard touchdown, his league-high sixth of the season, for a 35-7 lead with 6:27 to play in the third quarter.
– With his fourth-quarter seven-yard run, Chris Johnson went over 100 yards rushing for the second time in three games and the 38th time in his career. He finished with 103 yards on 11 carries. As a team, the Cardinals finished with a season-best 187 yards — aided by Andre Ellington’s 63-yard score in the fourth quarter — giving them at least 110 yards on the ground in each of their first five games for the first time since 1988.
– Sacked four times last week, Palmer was dropped twice in the first quarter, both coming on the Cardinals second possession of the game. Jonathan Cooper was beaten by Jason Jones and two plays later Mike Iupati failed to block Ezekiel Ansah, who sacked Palmer for a seven-yard loss, forcing the Cardinals to punt and a second straight three-and-out. After their initial two drives, the Cardinals had -1 total yards.
– Catching the Cardinals offsides on 1st-and-10 at the Lions 46, Stafford took advantage of the free play and aired it out, throwing a 48-yard pass to Corey Fuller. On the very next play, Stafford found Theo Riddick for a six-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 2:21 to play in the first quarter. Redding was the player offsides.
– When they weren’t scoring touchdowns, the Cardinals offense was going three-and-out. Four times in their first nine possessions, not counting the kneel down to close out the first half, the Cardinals ran three plays before giving way to punter Drew Butler, who averaged 36.8 yards with one kick downed inside the 20. The four three-and-outs matched their total through the season’s first four games.
STAT OF THE GAME
6: The Cardinals forced six turnovers and were plus-6 winning the turnover battle
HE SAID IT
“They always come in bunches,” head coach Bruce Arians said, referring to the takeaways
– The Cardinals lost the coin toss for the first time this season with the Lions opting to receive the opening kickoff.
– Tyrann Mathieu missed two snaps and was replaced by Chris Clemons after landing on his shoulder in the first quarter.
– Frostee Rucker and Justin Bethel each had first-half sacks wiped away by penalties called on Patrick Peterson.
– Clemons’ return was called questionable after he suffered a left hamstring injury in the second quarter.
– Kenny Demen’s return was called doubtful after he suffered a left knee injury in the fourth quarter.
– Alex Okafor was ruled out of the game after he suffered a right calf injury in the fourth quarter.
– Palmer finished with the second-best passer rating of his career (154.2) and second-best in franchise history.
– The Cardinals improved to 19-4 against non-division opponents and 4-0 against the NFC North under Arians.
– Among the Cardinals inactives were linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, receiver J.J. Nelson and guard Ted Larsen.
The Cardinals stay out east for a second straight road tilt.
They travel to Pittsburgh, Arians’ former club, on Sunday, Oct. 18. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
As the offensive coordinator, Arians helped guide the Steelers to a 27-23 victory in Super Bowl XLIII at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 1, 2009, when Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes for a six-yard touchdown with 35 seconds to play. Cardinals fans remember the play all too well because it came at their team’s expense.
The Cardinals have lost two straight and four of five to the Steelers, including the most recent meeting, 32-20, at University of Phoenix Stadium on Oct. 23, 2011. That afternoon, Roethlisberger passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns, while Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace each had 100-yard receiving days.
This will be the Cardinals first visit to Heinz Field since 2003.
Overall, the Steelers hold a 33-23-3 advantage in a series that dates back to 1933.