ReFo: Lions @ Cardinals, Week 11
There weren’t many experts that circled this week’s game between the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals as a key matchup in the NFC, but here they were in Week 11 not only battling for playoff implications but also first-round bye status.
The Cardinals got off to a fast start in the first quarter on the strength of two touchdowns from wide receiver Michael Floyd, and after the Lions fought back with two field goals of their own, the scoring came to a screeching halt. Both defenses controlled much of the action, as the running games were stymied and turnovers were forced in the secondary.
Arizona sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford four times, three of which came in the second half to put the Lions behind schedule offensively and thwarted any comeback attempt. The Lions’ final drive stalled after a sack and a miscommunication on an early shotgun snap with 3:01 to go in the game and after a punt, the Cardinals sealed it up with a key third down conversion from QB Drew Stanton to WR Larry Fitzgerald on 3rd-and-11. Here’s a look at his week’s key performers.
Detroit Lions – Performances of Note
Travis Swanson, RG: -4.2 and Rob Sims, LG: -3.2
Breakdown: Both guards struggled for the Lions, particularly in the running game where they graded at -6.1. Detroit managed two big runs that accounted for the majority of their yards, but for the most part, they were unable to get much going on the ground, and it started with poor guard play.
Signature Plays: Swanson was easily shed by Cardinals DT Dan Williams on 3rd-and-1 with 48 seconds to go in the third quarter to force the punt while Sims struggled with stunts throughout the afternoon with the 13:27 mark of the second quarter a good example of his inability to pass off his man and pick up DE Tommy Kelly who got a free shot at Stafford.
Matthew Stafford, QB: -3.7
Breakdown: It felt like an all or nothing type day for Stafford who failed to get into any kind of rhythm. He showed off the arm at times, whether drilling the ball to Golden Tate in between defenders with 13:27 to go in the second or scrambling or hitting Calvin Johnson with a rope on a crossing route that was dropped with 2:48 to go in the second. It was the easier stuff that failed Stafford, whether overthrowing passes in the flat or throwing inaccurately to allow defenders to make plays on the ball. Throw in a couple throws into coverage and it was not a great overall day for Stafford.
Signature Plays: With 4:06 to go in the second, Stafford failed to see CB Jerraud Powers peel off his man and threw a slant that should have been picked off. He later forced one into double coverage with 4:14 to going the third quarter, with FS Rashad Johnson making the catch for the interception on this one.
DeAndre Levy, OLB: +2.5
Breakdown: There were some strong performances on defense for the Lions, but it was Levy’s continued strong play that led the way. He’s now graded positively in nine of 10 games, and other than a bad whiff on RB Andre Ellington in the open field, this was another strong effort. He finished at +3.1 in the run game and led the team with four stops.
Signature Play: With 13:31 to go in the game, Levy made a quick read and beat center Lyle Sendlein to the point of attack to stone Ellington for a 1-yard gain.
Arizona Cardinals – Performances of Note
Dan Williams, DT: +4.3
Breakdown: The Cardinals had a strong defensive line performance of their own, including impressive efforts from Tommy Kelly (+2.3) and Calais Campbell (+1.9). Williams played only 19 snaps, but he made a big impact both against the run (+2.7) and the pass (+1.5).
Signature Plays: Williams dominated C Dominic Raiola on back-to-back plays early in the first quarter. He bullied Raiola right into Stafford’s lap for a pressure with 11:19 to go, then on 3rd-and-1, Williams stood up and easily shed Raiola to make the stop and force the punt.
Drew Stanton, QB: -2.6
Breakdown: Despite the win, Stanton’s second opportunity to replace starting QB Carson Palmer was marred by a few questionable decisions. He was intercepted by LB Josh Bynes early in the second quarter as he threw the post route but failed to see Bynes in underneath coverage who came away with the easy pick. It was more of the same later in the quarter as at the 2:00 mark, Stanton threw a slant right into the hands of CB Cassius Vaughn for his second interception of the day. Stanton later got away with yet another risky throw, this time an inaccurate crossing route that was dropped by FS James Ihedigbo late in the third quarter.
Signature Plays: There was some good for Stanton, whether it’s taking advantage of a free play to throw a jump ball to Floyd for his first touchdown or his accurate out route to Floyd for the second score. Stanton then threw the biggest pass of the game as he hit Larry Fitzgerald on the dig route on 3rd-and-11 with 2:32 to go in the game, a conversion that secured the game for the Cardinals.
Tyrann Mathieu, SS/CB: +1.5
Breakdown: Arizona’s defense has some versatile players on the back end and no one typifies their style of play like Mathieu. Whether lining up at safety or in the slot, blitzing or playing the run, Mathieu is asked to do a lot on their defense. It wasn’t a perfect afternoon, particularly his two missed tackles, but he was once again all over the field making an impact.
Signature Plays: Mathieu did a nice job of side-stepping RB Joique Bell on the first play from scrimmage to get the hit on Stafford, and he closed quickly knock away an out-route to RB Theo Riddick with 4:17 to go in the third quarter.
PFF Game Ball
The entire defensive line did a nice job for the Cardinals, but DE Tommy Kelly gets the game ball for his +2.3 overall grade on 39 snaps while notching a team-high five hurries.
Follow Steve on Twitter: @PFF_Steve