Lions vs. Cardinals: Arizona's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 15

Andrew Nordmeier@@AndrewNordmeierContributor IIIDecember 17, 2012

Lions vs. Cardinals: Arizona's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 15

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    For the first time since September 30th, the Arizona Cardinals have posted a win. They dismantled the Detroit Lions, 38-10, at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday afternoon to break their nine-game losing streak. 

    Beanie Wells had a three-touchdown game in the win and has scored five times since coming back off of injured reserve a month ago. 

    Arizona finally picks up its fifth win of the season and improves to 5-9, while Detroit drops to 4-10 with the loss. Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley picked up his first career win and was anchored by excellent defense and special teams play. 

    Start the slideshow and see who the Cardinals' winners and losers were from this triumph over the Lions. 

Winner: Beanie Wells

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    Beanie Wells scored three touchdowns in a game for the second time in his career. Wells was able to rumble in on touchdown runs from one and five yards away in the second quarter. He also broke off a 31-yard run in the fourth quarter that he took to the end zone for his third touchdown of the day. 

    He finished the afternoon with 67 yards on 13 carries, with the 31-yard scoring scamper being his longest run of the day. The yardage totals are still unimpressive, however. If not for the long scoring run, Wells would have averaged three yards per carry and totaled just 36 yards. 

    Wells showed Arizona that he can be the running back the Cardinals need to have at the goal line and is able to pound his way for he tough yards between the tackles. 

    The offense, however, needs to find ways to move the ball without using Wells in the open field. He's still not able to put up big yardage on a consistent basis. 

    But when you get him near the goal line, Wells is definitely the go-to guy for the Cardinals. 

Loser: Larry Fitzgerald

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    Larry Fitzgerald's 2012 season is just about over, and it can't end quick enough from a statistical perspective. 

    Fitzgerald finished with four catches for 22 yards on five targets and didn't record a touchdown for the fifth game in a row. The flux at quarterback certainly hasn't helped by any means, but the Pro Bowl wideout hasn't gotten the job done since the team's Week 10 bye. Just look at his stats to find out. 

    Before the bye, Fitzgerald posted 47 receptions for 563 yards on 89 targets and four touchdowns in the first nine games of the season. 

    Since then, he has racked up 10 receptions for 89 yards on 42 targets and no touchdowns in five games. 

    There has been a definite change in the offense over the course of the season, regardless of who is under center. Fitzgerald is still involved, but defenses are making it tough for him to contribute like he did earlier his season. Add to that the inaccuracy of the passes he's seeing and it makes it an uphill climb for Fitzgerald to play, like, well, Fitzgerald. 

    By comparison, in the Week 3 win against the Eagles, he caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. 

    That was the Fitzgerald Arizona fans have come to know and love. The player wearing the No. 11 jersey since the bye has been almost the total opposite. 

Winner: Rashad Johnson

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    Rashad Johnson had a key interception return for a touchdown late in the first half of the win. 

    Johnson had support over the top, and he broke on a pass intended for tight end Will Heller. Johnson timed it perfectly and ran untouched for a 51-yard touchdown. 

    The play came in the final 37 seconds of the half and gave the Cardinals a two-touchdown lead for the first time since Week 4. Arizona also broke the 21-point barrier for the first time since that game as well.

    The Cardinals defense finally came together, and it allowed for the cornerbacks to take smart gambles. This time they paid off, and Arizona got its first win since September. Johnson's pick-six was a big momentum shifter for the team. 

Loser: Ryan Lindley

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    Ryan Lindley finally got his first win in the NFL as a quarterback when the Cardinals knocked off the Lions. The rookie from San Diego State, however, continues to flounder when it comes to running the offense. 

    This week's stat line wasn't impressive. Lindley finished with 14-of-21 passing for 104 yards and an interception. Lindley still has yet to throw a touchdown in five NFL appearances and has now thrown five picks. 

    Lindley broke triple digits in passing yardage for just the second time in five games. The other time was his first career start against the Rams when he threw for 312 yards and four interceptions on 52 passing attempts. 

    Lindley hasn't been giving the Cardinals a chance to win games in the NFL with his passing numbers, and there's no doubt this is a pass-happy league. John Skelton hasn't been much better, and Brian Hoyer is waiting in the wings after being claimed off waivers midweek. 

    Yes, he got the win, but will Lindley get a chance to make it a winning streak next week in the home finale against the Bears

Winner: Greg Toler

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    Greg Toler missed the 2011 season with a torn ACL. Toler worked hard to get a spot in training camp and faced a struggle to get back on the roster. 

    That struggle and sacrifice all paid off for him when he turned in a franchise-record 102-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Lions. 

    The Lions were trailing 24-10 and heading toward making it a one-score game with around five minutes left in the fourth quarter. That was until Toler intervened. 

    Toler picked off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford two yards deep in the end zone and ran the ball back the other 100 yards for a back-breaking touchdown and a 30-10 lead. Toler had support and took a chance at getting the ball. With a convoy of blockers down the sidelines, there was no chance Stafford was going to bring him down, and it was an easy score. 

Winner: Patrick Peterson

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    Peterson said during the week he was up to the lofty challenge of covering All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and he certainly showed it on Sunday. 

    Peterson played his best all-around game of the season against the Lions. He recorded seven solo tackles and a pair of pass defenses. His five punt returns totaled 54 yards and his long was 16 yards on the day, so he helped Arizona get good field position to start drives. 

    Peterson also had an interception and returned it 31 yards to set up Beanie Wells' second touchdown of the game. Peterson picked off Stafford at the 34-yard line and ran it back to the Detroit 3. Wells bashed it home two plays later. 

    This was the kind of game Cardinals' fans had come to expect from Peterson after his rookie year. Hopefully, he has another great effort up his sleeve for next week. He's likely to get the call to shut down Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who is among the best in the league (101 catches, 1,342 yards, 9 touchdowns). 

Loser: Arizona's Offense

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    Despite the 38-10 score, the offense continues to sputter. Arizona put up just 196 yards of offense on the day, and they were nearly evenly split between rushing (97) and receiving (99). 

    The Cardinals went 2-of-12 on third downs against Detroit. Add to that a 4-of-14 performance in the shutout at Seattle, and the goose egg in 15 tries against the Jets, and you get a team that can't convert a third down to save its skin. That's 6-of-41 over the last three games, and that's not getting it done. 

    When Wells scored in the second quarter, it was the first time in 11 quarters that the Cardinals found the end zone. The last time they did was also when Wells hit paydirt three games earlier against the Rams. 

    Arizona hasn't recorded a passing touchdown since Week 9 at Green Bay, which was the last time Larry Fitzgerald scored. 

    It won't get any easier with games against Chicago and San Francisco to close out the season. 

Winner: Arizona's Defense

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    Arizona's hallmark last season was its defense, and the Cardinals played up to that as a unit against Detroit. 

    They posted three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Add to that a couple sacks of Stafford and the Lions had a rough day hitting on 24-of-50 passes. Arizona also recovered a fumble on the day. 

    Peterson's kick returns were able to get the team going, and they put forth a good effort in limiting Calvin Johnson to 121 yards on 10 catches. Yes, those numbers look awfully large, but no other Lion had more than 36 yards receiving or three catches on the day. 

    The team posted seven tackles for losses and recorded eight quarterback hits. Arizona was getting the pressure on the Lions offensive line and made it a tough day for the opposition. 

Winner: Punter Dave Zastudil

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    Punters are people too, or so the shirt says. For the Arizona Cardinals, Dave Zastudil is certainly more than your average punter, and his effort against the Lions was pivotal. 

    Zastudil punted nine times and averaged 44.2 yards per kick; one went inside the end zone for a touchback. 

    More impressively, he dropped six of them inside the Detroit 20-yard line. Only once in 16 possessions did the Lions start a drive outside their own 30-yard line. 

    Zastudil won't grab the headlines in the paper, but there's no doubt he was a key player in the Cardinals' first win since September 30.