DETROIT – Fifteen weeks into the season, Dan Campbell’s vision for the Detroit Lions has finally come to life.
The Lions played their most complete game of the season on Sunday, controlling the game with a demoralizing rushed offense and troubling one of the NFL’s best offensives with a relentless passing run to shock the Arizona Cardinals, 30- 12, at Ford Field.
“Today was really the first day we really saw what our football brand is,” Lions fullback Jason Cabinda said. “Smash-mouth, run the ball (to) open the pass, the defense is just playing the ball. So that was great to watch.”
The training team, running back Craig Reynolds, playing in place of Andre Swift (shoulder) and Jamaal Williams (COVID), ran 112 yards in his first career start and Jared Goff threw three touchdown assists in arguably his best game of the season as the shorthanded Lions won for the second time in three weeks.
The Lions opened Sunday with a 15-play, 63-yard run that chewed 8 minutes and 50 seconds behind and never trailed against a Cardinals team that could have clinched a playoff berth with a win.
Instead, Arizona fell to 10-4 and is now in danger of losing first place to NFC West.
At 2-11-1, the Lions can no longer claim the worst NFL record, something they’ve held at least a share all season. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who fell to 2-12 with a Sunday loss to the Houston Texans, now control the No.1 pick in next April’s draft.
“It was fun,” Campbell said. “We knew what we needed to do today and we did it, really in all three phases across the board. The minute it looked like something could go wrong, we were able to bring it back in our favor. . I was proud of these guys. “
The Lions scored in their first two possessions on Sunday, kept Arizona’s powerful offense off the scoreboard in the first half, and displayed a resilience that Campbell said had taken months.
Leading 10-0 at the end of the first half, the Lions stopped Arizona on four goals to go from inside the 7-yard line, then pushed back 97 yards for a touchdown. The Cardinals were flagged for two harshness penalties against the passer on the route, and Goff left briefly after curling his left leg.
He returned after a game, to cheers from the sparse crowd at Ford Field, and lasered a 22-yard touchdown at Josh Reynolds four snaps later.
“It was cool to be able to come back and finish this ride,” said Goff. “I think so far I’ve learned that you can’t play a quarterback in this league if you can’t fight a little, not an injury, but a pain I guess. Especially for that. team and this city, it’s important to be that guy. My knee hurts a little bit, but it will be okay.
Surpassed 238 yards to 84 in the first half, the Cardinals threatened to make a match early in the third quarter.
Murray led Arizona on a long field goal campaign to start the second half, and Godwin Igwebuike lost his second fumble in his many weeks in possession of the Lions that followed.
The Cardinals took over on their own 44-yard line, but Amani Oruwariye made a diving interception on a Murray pass to AJ Green two games later and sent the turnover back to Arizona 6.
Goff followed with his third touchdown pass of the game, 6 yards to Cabinda.
“That’s what winning teams do.” said Goff. “That’s what good teams do. If you look around the league for teams, you call it turnaround points, that’s a good stat to watch. Score yourself when your team gets a number of. business and vice versa do you shut down the team when your attack makes a turnover? We had the best of both worlds there.
“Unfortunately Godwin got the fumble, but Amani having the interception and brought it all the way down, that’s how you win games. That’s how you change the momentum, that” is how you make big games and Amani sort of makes them all. It was exciting to watch him grow up too.
Goff, who improved to 8-1 against the Cardinals in his career – and 8-0 since his rookie season – finished 21-for-26 passing for 216 yards. He had his best one-game passer rating (139.7) since week two of last season, when he was with the Los Angeles Rams.
Craig Reynolds, who is awaiting promotion to the 53-man squad if the Lions place Swift on the injured reserve, played a workaholic in the Lions backfield with 26 runs, and Josh Reynolds (6 catches, 68 yards) and Amon-Ra St Brown (eight catches, 90 yards) had big receiving days.
Murray was 23 for 41 passing 257 yards for the Cardinals, who entered the week undefeated on the road and owning the NFL’s fourth-highest offense; their only touchdown came on a 26-yard Murray pass to Christian Kirk with 4:40 left.
“It was a fun day,” said Lions forward Taylor Decker. “It was fun to see it all come together and sort of dominate in all phases.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions shock Arizona Cardinals, lose track on No.1 pick