Tramaine Brock’s drop among Cardinals’ missed chances vs. Lions
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Optimistically, the Arizona Cardinals remain undefeated, Larry Fitzgerald pointed out.
For most of the Cardinals, a 27-all tie with the Detroit Lions to open 2019 felt weird.
Objectively, it also felt fitting.
Arizona had earned a shrug of a finish after a putrid offensive start ahead of a promising rally from 18 points down. Detroit probably doesn’t deserve a W having blown a 24-6 lead in just a quarter.
“It’s never as good as you think it is, it’s never as bad as you think it is,” Cardinals outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “Defensively, we left some plays out there.”
The most egregious came in overtime.
With 11 seconds left in overtime and Detroit backed up in Arizona territory, quarterback Matthew Stafford slung a ball right into the mitts of Cardinals cornerback Tramaine Brock Sr., who dropped a would-be interception thinking about a big return.
“I seen the ball coming to me,” Brock said. “I see an opportunity to make a play. I didn’t focus enough.
“I was thinking run it in (or) get out. It could’ve been a big play on my behalf.”
Instead, the clock struck zero with a tie.
Brock’s missed play, of course, wouldn’t have mattered if he hadn’t made a huge play just minutes earlier.
Detroit had the ball on 3rd-and-7 at the Arizona 15-yard line and trailed by a field goal in overtime when Brock knocked down a potential game-winning pass in the end zone to 6-foot-4 receiver Kenny Golladay — a Lions penalty on the play was declined and forced Detroit to tie the game with its own field goal.
Still, Brock’s late overtime drop hung heavy over a team that fought back from a three-possession deficit.
“Those guys fought their tails off,” Kingsbury said of the defense. “Obviously, (Brock) wishes he would have made it, but that happens. There were a lot of other plays we could have made, no question.”
What else was a potential swing play?
— The Cardinals special teams unit thrived in Week 1. Kicker Zane Gonzalez hit all four field goal attempts, punter Andy Lee dropped three of his eight kicks inside the 20-yard line while averaging 47.5 yards per punt and Dennis Gardeck blocked a Detroit punt.
The biggest special teams play came late in the first half, when gunner Trent Sherfield recovered a muffed punt that put Arizona on the Lions 8-yard line. Though the Cardinals got to the 2-yard line within a play, two pass plays that followed resulted in nothing but a field goal.
“Looking back on it, should I have just handed it off to David (Johnson)? Probably,” Kingsbury said, “but I liked the call just based off how aggressive they are. They brought in their goal line front, and they sniffed it out and made a great play.”
— Should Arizona have gone for the win?
The Cardinals had a 2nd-and-7 on the Detroit 46-yard line with 1:19 left in the overtime period and the game tied. A deep shot from quarterback Kyler Murray to Larry Fitzgerald fell incomplete before a short pass to Christian Kirk over the middle wasn’t converted.
On 4th-and-7, Arizona elected to punt, nearly ensuring a tie.
“I felt like we had good play calls there. We just didn’t hit it on 3rd-and-7,” Kingsbury said. “On 4th-and-7, they got Matt Prater, who holds the NFL record (for the longest made field goal). If you don’t convert there, it’s pretty much game over.
“I felt like with Andy (Lee), he’s so good at pinning them back, something good can happen, which it almost did (with Brock’s pick). We had an opportunity there to make a play, whether it was to get a safety or them turn it over. That was a decision we made.”
Defensive ups, downs
For Arizona’s defense, the 2019 debut for defensive coordinator Vance Joseph included many more hits and a number of misses.
The Cardinals trailed 17-3 at halftime because of two busted coverages.
Lions slot receiver Danny Amendola snuck free for a 47-yard touchdown catch-and-run after Stafford escaped a pass-rush early in the second quarter, putting Detroit ahead, 10-0.
Then, with 3:38 left in the first half, Golladay caught a 9-yard touchdown pass completed uncontested.
Otherwise, Arizona’s defense quietly went about its business as its offense scuffled.
Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, the unit’s biggest offseason addition, stuffed two runs and used a blitz up the middle to make for brief Lions possessions early on. Chandler Jones recovered a strip-sack of Stafford in the first quarter as well, while fellow outside linebacker Suggs finished with two sacks, one of which caused a fumble recovered by Detroit.
Rookie corner Byron Murphy survived in lone man coverage on deep balls, as did second-year pro Chris Jones, who appeared opposite Murphy at the cornerback slot in nickel packages (Brock moved into the slot in nickel).
Arizona allowed the Lions’ two main running backs, Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson, to average just 3.1 yards per carry.
The red flag on the night came against an unknown factor.
The Cardinals defense allowed Detroit tight end T.J. Hockenson, the eighth overall pick, to catch six balls for 131 yards and a score, as he set a rookie record for a tight end in Week 1.