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Finish Doesn't Match Start For Justin Bethel

Posted Sep 10, 2017

After pick-six and impressive first three quarters, cornerback struggles in fourth

Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (left) celebrates his interception return for a touchdown with safety Antoine Bethea.

DETROIT – Justin Bethel believes he can be a capable complement to Patrick Peterson at cornerback this season.

He showed it for three quarters in Sunday’s loss to the Lions, but some late struggles left him wanting more.

Bethel returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to stake the Cardinals to a 7-0 lead and continued his stellar play for much of the afternoon. A pass defensed on a two-point conversion attempt in the third quarter kept the Cardinals clinging to a 17-15 lead as it looked like the team might escape Detroit with an ugly win.

But the team’s fortunes turned along with Bethel’s in the fourth, as he allowed a pair of touchdown catches to Kenny Golladay as the Lions ran away with a 35-23 victory.

"As nice of a play as (the pick-six) was, we still lost the game, and I think did enough bad things in the fourth quarter that – I gave up two touchdowns, so it cancels out my pick,” Bethel said. “I’ve got to go back and watch some film, watch the little things I did wrong, and come back for next week and play four quarters like I played the first three quarters.”

This was Bethel’s first game as a full-time starting cornerback, as he hopes to solidify the biggest question mark in a secondary which includes stars Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.

Coach Bruce Arians was pleased with his performance. Golladay made impressive catches on both scores, and Arians put the second one, a 45-yard bomb with 4:13 left to make it a two-possession game, on the pass-rushers.

“We’ve got to get pressure before,” Arians said. “He covered him long enough. That’s on the defensive line.”

The Cardinals’ defense was in a tough spot early when quarterback Carson Palmer threw an interception that started Detroit at the Arizona 26. Bethel quickly erased that, swooping in for an easy pick on Matthew Stafford’s first pass attempt.

He streamed down the left sideline and picked up enough blocking along the way to glide into the end zone. Stafford still went after him often after that, which will be a common occurrence this season with Peterson and Mathieu guarding other options.

Bethel only gave up one completion for 18 yards on four targets in the first half and continued the strong play for another quarter. While acknowledging Stafford’s talent and the emergence of a talented wideout in Golladay, Bethel was smarting at the result.

“All it takes is a couple of big plays, and it gives them that chance they need,” Bethel said. “I definitely think we showed some good things out there. We just didn’t finish like we should have.”

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