Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald celebrates his second touchdown during Sunday's 31-21 victory over Detroit at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Cardinals preached making plays, and, for the first time in a few weeks, the Cards made more than the other team.
The Cards preached getting turnovers, and, for the first time in a month, the Cards forced more than they made.
The Cardinals also knew that losing Sunday's home game against Detroit had a good chance to torpedo the season – which is why there were many smiles and a certain amount of relief after the Cards beat the Lions, 31-21, in front of 64,753 fans at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"The thing is, it is kind of, I'm not going to say it was a nerve-wracking or panic week, but when your back is against the wall you are always in somewhat of a panic mode," Cardinals linebacker Calvin Pace said. "We responded, and that's what good teams do."
The Cardinals (4-5) snapped a three-game losing streak – and broke the three-game winning streak of the Lions (6-3) – thanks to a dominating defensive performance and a resuscitation of an offense that had scored 39 points total the previous three games.
"Anytime you have a team with young players it is going to be a question of how they respond," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "If you want to get to where we want to go to then you have to respond and our guys did. That excites me about the next seven (games)."
The Lions were held to minus-18 yards rushing, fumbled away the ball three times and threw two interceptions. The rushing total was the second-best effort in franchise history, trailing only the minus-24 yards the Cards allowed to, coincidentally, the Lions during a game in 1946.
In a possession chart that echoed the Cards' own offensive futility the previous week in Tampa Bay, the Lions were held to three plays or less on each of their seven first-half drives.
"That was the first time in my career I was a fan," said strong safety Adrian Wilson, whose blitz forced the first interception of the game before he was sidelined with calf cramp. "Watching (the defense) play is very exciting."
Linebacker Karlos Dansby returned after missing two games and was dominant, making two interceptions, forcing a fumble, deflecting two passes and making four tackles.
Lions quarterback Jon Kitna had 294 yards passing, but had two of the fumbles, threw the two picks and his second touchdown came late in the game when it had been all but decided.
"You watch that team defensively and … they are 3-5 and all that stuff," Kitna said, "but defensively teams have had a hard time running on them in general. We knew it would be tough."
The only bad news for the Cardinals defensively was the loss of defensive end Bertrand Berry with a potentially serious left triceps injury. Whisenhunt said Berry will be re-evaluated with an MRI Monday.
The Cards' offense had an inauspicious start – again – with quarterback Kurt Warner throwing an interception on the game's first drive (which led to a Detroit touchdown) and the Cards failing to score a touchdown later in the first quarter after a first-and-goal from the Detroit 2.
But buoyed by some impact returns in the kicking game by rookie Steve Breaston, including a 46-yard punt return to set up the Cards' first TD, Warner righted himself.
In the end, Warner tossed two touchdowns to receiver Larry Fitzgerald and one to tight end Leonard Pope. Pope also caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Rattay, inserted once again in the goal-line offense because Warner has trouble handing off in close quarters.
The Cardinals also ran it 28 times, and while they gained just 73 yards, it was enough balance to churn out the second-highest point total of the season.
"That's what we need to do, we need to change it up," Warner said. "We need to put the ball in all three receivers' hands. I think we have enough guys that do different things well. I think it's important we spread the football around and do things to keep teams off balance."
Warner finished 26-of-36 for 259 yards, with the three touchdowns and one interception. Fitzgerald continued his Pro Bowl season with eight catches for 74 yards, and he doubled his touchdown total for the season.
The Cardinals are now a half-game out of first place in the NFC West, pending the outcome of division leader Seattle's (4-4) game against San Francisco Monday night.
"We needed it bad, man," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "The way we are looking at it now, we are 1-0. We ain't counting the first eight games, so we are 1-0. We are trying to knock out these next seven games.
"We are going to enjoy this, but we have to start getting our mind on Cincinnati. We've got to be focused. It's good to win, but it don't mean nothing if you don't win in Cincinnati."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 11/11/07