Cardinals running back David Johnson makes a catch prior to Kerwynn Williams' TD run, just before Johnson hurt his wrist in a 35-23 loss to the Lions.
DETROIT – Bruce Arians was plain, saying "that's not the start we were looking for," and for the straight-talking head coach, he couldn't have been more accurate.
In a game where the Detroit Lions tried to throw away in the first half, the Cardinals wouldn't accept the gift, eventually curdling into a 35-23 loss at Ford Field, The offense started too sloppy, quarterback Carson Palmer threw three interceptions, and injuries undercut them.
"Anytime you lose, you're unhappy," linebacker Markus Golden said. "We just have to go back and grind."
Who will be grinding is a question for now. Running back David Johnson, nine yards shy of 100 yards combined, fumbled the ball away in the third quarter and the Cards nursing a 17-9 lead. Not only did it allow the Lions a short touchdown drive, Johnson hurt his wrist on the play and didn't return.
Arians said there were no injury updates after the game, declining to confirm reports that X-rays on Johnson's wrist were negative. For a team that already lost one running back – T.J. Logan – to injured reserve with a wrist injury. It was unsettling, especially since left tackle D.J Humphries
also left the game earlier with a knee injury and tight end Jermaine Gresham left late after hurting his ribs.
Meanwhile, there was much talk about learning from the loss from most of the locker room. From Palmer, it was self-blame.
"I thought the offense was OK," said Palmer, who finished 27-of-48 for 269 yards, one touchdown and the three turnovers. "I'm just disappointed in myself.
"I didn't make the throws I wanted to make."
The game was ugly early. Palmer's first interception, a throw to no Cardinal in particular, was reciprocated almost immediately by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford threw the ball to cornerback Justin Bethel, who raced 82 yards for a touchdown and the early lead.
The Lions (1-0) could do little in the first half. The Cardinals should've made them pay. They could not.
"We had our opportunities in the first (half) and couldn't get anything going," center A.Q Shipley said. "We got field goals instead of touchdowns, and it set us behind."
Twice in the first half the Cardinals reached the red zone. The first was given to them, after Lions punter Kasey Redfern dropped the snap in the end zone, tried to run it out and was smothered at his own 13-yard line. (Redfern hurt his knee on the play and left the game, leaving Detroit punting to kicker Matt Prater.)
The Cards couldn't do anything. After gaining two yards, Phil Dawson booted a field goal – only to have the Lions penalized for leaping. With an automatic first down, the Cardinals still couldn't score, and ultimately Dawson kicked a 24-yard field goal.
Right before the half, in the offense's lone drive, a first down at the Detroit 14 got no further – but Dawson clanged the 32-yard field goal off the left upright.
"The end of the first half was huge," Arians said.
Palmer and the offense found themselves to start the second half. They marched on a 94-yard touchdown drive, ending on a three-yard Kerwynn Williams touchdown run and a 17-9 lead. Then came a defensive stop.
And then came Johnson's fumble and injury.
The Lions needed only 10 yards to score a TD. And from that point on – and Johnson out of the game – the Lions outscored the Cards, 26-6. The Cardinals' six points came on a last-gasp Palmer TD throw to J.J. Nelson. Stafford, after a poor start, ended up with four touchdown passes.
Arians said the defense was on the field too much, but Golden waved that notion away.
"I wouldn't say that," Golden said. "It's football. When you go out there, you never know how long you'll be out there."
For the second straight year, the Cardinals lost the opener. Last season, a blown chance to beat the Patriots lingered. This one, Arians said, was different. "This one we didn't play well enough to win," Arians said.
Whomever the Cards are able to have in the lineup next week in Indianapolis, they had better find a way to fix that.
"(Next) Sunday can't come fast enough," Palmer said.
Images from the Cardinals' season opener on Sunday afternoon in Detroit