By Ashley Scoby
Somewhere in a dream world, the Lions could have theoretically led the Arizona Cardinals by a couple of touchdowns early on Sunday. Detroit’s defense forced two early three-and-outs. The offense rebounded from two quick turnovers for Matthew Stafford to lead them down field for a seven-play, 82-yard touchdown drive (and a 7-0 lead). The team had found a way to play through the mistakes, to still be competitive. Right?
But these are the Lions. And the Lions are known for finding creative ways to lose football games in spectacular fashion. Sunday was no different: The Lions’ 42-17 loss to Arizona was an all-systems failure, a dysfunctional mess of a football team embarrassing itself in front of what few fans remained at Ford Field at the end.
“It really took a turn for the worse, and we just could not get ourselves out of that tailspin,” said head coach Jim Caldwell. “Almost in every phase we had issues. … It’s unacceptable and it’s my job to get it fixed.”
Boos rained down early after Stafford’s first interception; he finished with three before being relegated to baseball-hat status on the sidelines, watching as backup Dan Orlovsky attempted to salvage some semblance of the Lions’ dignity. By the time Orlovsky trotted out to the huddle, midway through the third quarter, Detroit had turned the ball over five times and faced a 35-7 deficit.
“He (Caldwell) told me at halftime if I threw another interception, I’d be pulled out of the game,” Stafford said. “So, obviously, threw one. Wish I wouldn’t have.”
As poorly as Stafford played (20-of-32 for 188 yards, a touchdown and three picks), the blowout wasn’t just on him. Abdullah fumbled on the Lions’ second series. Golden Tate fumbled in the second quarter.
The defense, after marked improvement last week against Seattle, imploded. After forcing two three-and-outs on the Cardinals’ first two possessions, they allowed an inexplicable five-yard, 99-yard touchdown drive that included a 49-yard Carson Palmer pass to John Brown, then a Chris Johnson 40-yard run. The ensuing touchdown made it 21-7. Two minutes later, it was 28-7 after Tate’s fumble gave Arizona a 22-yard field.
Thousands of unsparing fans booed. The Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu gleefully raised his arms and cheered on the anger flowing from the stands.
“It was fun,” he said. “I didn’t know what the Detroit fans expected. Maybe they expected us not to show up today.”
The crowd sarcastically cheered when Orlovsky took the field. Hardly 20 percent of the seats were filled by the time the clock mercifully ticked down to zeroes. It was an ugly scene at Ford Field, and was not unlike a scene of a team that’s quit.
Most of those in attendance certainly quit, streaming to the exits and enjoying the rest of their day in the 70-degree weather outside the dome.
“When we win, we all win together as a city, as an organization, as a state,” Tate said. “And when we lose, we all lose together. Today I felt like at times our fanbase kind of turned their back on us. We have a lot of confidence in our fanbase and we can’t do this without our fanbase. We expect them to be with us a little bit better next week.”
And the Lions don’t exactly have answers that would inspire confidence in a dwindling – and already cynical – fanbase.
“I’ve got to pick through myself,” Caldwell said. “That’s probably about the only thing that needs pick-through. I’m not doing a very good job right now.”
Said Lions safety Glover Quin: “Are we doing everything we can to prepare mentally? Are we studying enough? Is everybody taking it serious enough? I don’t know. We’ve got to find it out.”