GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When the highlights are replayed, the Arizona Cardinals' last stand on defense will receive all the attention.
As it should. It was a gritty series that lasted just five plays and brought back memories of last year’s final stand in the Cards’ home opener against Seattle. This year’s opener had its own defining stop. Rookie defensive back Tyrann Mathieu bottled up Detroit Lions receiver Nate Burleson on fourth-and-4, stopping him after three yards to give the ball back to the Cardinals.
That play clinched the first win of the Bruce Arians Era, but the Cardinals’ defense put their stamp on Sunday’s 25-21 victory as soon as they came out of halftime.
Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles picked up on what the Lions were doing in the first half and made the necessary adjustments for the third quarter. And like clockwork, Detroit didn’t change a thing.
The Cardinals held the Lions to 13 yards on just eight plays in the third.
“If they were incomplete on first down, they were coming back running on second and pretty much stayed true [to that] the whole game,” safety Yeremiah Bell said. “Once we got there we just kind of hunkered down and kinda knew what they were going to do from there.”
In the third quarter, the Cardinals gave up seven yards on the Lions’ first drive before Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford fumbled and defensive end Calais Campbell recovered. On the Lions’ next possession, the Cardinals forced a three-and-out without allowing a yard. Detroit’s last series of the quarter yielded just six yards in four plays.
“We came out [in the] third quarter and gave everything we got,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “The fourth quarter, we kept fighting.”
Arizona surrendered 77 yards in the fourth for a total of 90 in the second half total.
“Our defense," Arians said, "was lights out in the second half.”