At one point it looked the Lions would comfortably pull this game out and improve to 2-0 on the season. A third quarter pick-six of Carson Palmer put them up by eight, but otherwise the offense never got going in the second half. While the Cardinals had their own share of trouble reaching the end zone, they found enough field position to rack up a few Jay Feely field goals. Those field goals turned out to be enough to keep Arizona in the game, and with the help of a timely defensive pass interference penalty they were able to punch it in with two minutes to go to give Bruce Arians his first win as a head coach.
Let’s take a look at how it happened.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Another Big Day from Suh
Ndamukong Suh followed up his +5.3 performance with a similarly strong +3.9. For the second straight week it was his pass rushing that got the job done, as he accumulated five pressures and two hits on Carson Palmer in 39 rushes, all from either nose tackle or the right side of the offense. He spread his work out between Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika, and Eric Winston.
As good as he’s been as a rusher so far this season, his run defense has been more interesting, though he only graded at +0.1 in that facet. As is common with Suh, he too often gets sealed out of the point of attack, which Fanaika accomplished on a few plays. However, he’ll also flash some of the same dominance that he displays as a pass rusher as he did on his two stops on the day. Check out 13.39 of the second quarter, where he completely blows up Arizona’s trap play. He’s just too explosive to pull a lineman in front of him, leaving the center with far too much lateral distance to cover. Likewise at 5:28 3Q, the Cardinals again attempted a trap play, but again Suh wrecked the play as the pull blocker was too far away and just couldn’t match his speed off of the LOS.
Rookie Edge Rusher
After playing just 27 snaps a week ago, Ezekiel Ansah (+2.8) logged 53 this week – all of them on the defensive right side as he showed off some of the potential that made him a top 10 pick in April. He picked up a hurry and two hits in 32 pass rushes, all of them coming against Levi Brown as he bested the veteran with both an outside move and bull rush. Ansah showed equally well with some strong work at the point of attack in run defense, on one play beating Paul Fanaika’s pull block for a tackle for short gain and later beating tackle Nate Potter inside to force a cut. It certainly helps to be playing alongside players such as Suh and Nick Fairly (who missed here due to a shoulder issue), but nevertheless this was a good start for the rookie after grading well in preseason and a decent game in Week 1. We’ll be watching his snap count in coming weeks.
Offensive Line On Tap
Despite Detroit’s inability to rush the ball, especially through the A-gaps with a 1.1 yards per carry average, center Dominic Raiola put on a clinic in avoiding the negative play en route to a +4.0 grade with a clean sheet in pass protection and a number of seals in the run game. He wasn’t matching up with Arizona’s big bodies too much, mostly going against linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Yeremiah Bell with rarer blocks against bigger players such as Dan Williams or Calais Campbell. Still, Raiola took what was in front of him and had a field day against the smaller Arizona back seven.
Another lineman that played well was left tackle Riley Reiff, who gave up just one pressure in 40 pass blocking snaps, which was enough to cover a couple of negative plays in run blocking. Despite the loss, it was a good game by the Detroit front which allowed a single sack and pressure on only 18% of Matt Stafford’s drop backs – through two weeks, Stafford has been pressured a league low 22.9% of the time.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
Peterson vs Johnson
A big question coming into this game was how Patrick Peterson would handle covering Calvin Johnson while tracking him across the field. Peterson’s team came away with the victory, but it’s safe to say that Johnson got the better of him a few times. Johnson caught four-of-six targets with Peterson in coverage, including two touchdowns. The first of which was a terrible play by the corner, as he allowed Johnson to take a short slant 72 yards for the long TD. The second one, however, which occurred at 1:55 of the second quarter, was rather a case of the pass simply being indefensible – or close to it – as few defensive backs can match up with Johnson on a well thrown end zone fade.
Coverage wasn’t the only role Peterson played, as he played a few snaps on offense, including one play where he threw, and completed a pass for a first down. It will be interesting to see how Bruce Arians uses Peterson going forward, given that his five offensive snaps were more than his three in Week 1, a small increase, but still worth keeping an eye on
With Rob Housler out, some focus has been on how tight end Jim Dray (-4.0) will fare as a replacement and weapon for Carson Palmer over the middle. After playing reasonably well a week ago, Dray took a nose dive this week. As a receiver he caught a team-high five passes for 31 yards, but looked out of sync with Palmer at times, most notably on the pick-six play at 7:16 of the third quarter. On the play, Dray stopped short on his crossing route while Palmer led him and ended up throwing it straight to a Lion defender. It was unquestionably a terrible throw under pressure, but could the tight end have done more there to prevent the interception?
As far as his blocking, Dray allowed two pressures in just eight snaps in pass protection, while in the run game, he was beaten to the inside for two fourth quarter stops by Willie Young.
After some underwhelming play from Arizona’s running backs in recent years, it was exciting to see rookie Andre Ellington (+2.6) show some much needed athleticism. He played just 21 snaps, but made his presence felt, with a game-high 5.0 yards per carry on his 4 carries, including two forced missed tackles. That number would have been better had he not been the ball carrier on both of the aforementioned trap plays that Suh blew up – something that no RB would have avoided on those plays. Ellington was also impactful as a receiver, as he took his two catches for 42 yards, including a 36 yard touchdown on a second quarter wheel route. Let’s see if the rookie can command more playing time going forward.
– Rashean Mathis allowed just 3-of-9 targets into his coverage to be completed for 28 yards.
– The two teams combined to average just 2.9 yards per carry on 45 rushing attempts.
– No QB used play action less often than Matt Stafford this week; he executed a play-action fake on just 2 of his 38 dropbacks versus Arizona.
PFF Game Ball
Andre Elllington had Arizona’s lone touchdown through the first 58 minutes and ended the game with a team-high +2.6.
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