Cards Make Pussycats Look Like Lions, Escape With 30-24 Win

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Cards Make Pussycats Look Like Lions, Escape With 30-24 Win
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Face it, Cardinals faithful. There are some ways, not many, but some, that they’re still the same old Cardinals.

Since I was among the first to suggest that they’re “a very good, solid football team”, I should be among the first to say that what I said before was decidedly premature. In non-media spin, that means I was wrong. WRONG! The big W!

OK, let it be said that the Cardinals did secure a big, fat "W" in Detroit today. In fact, they did so in dominating fashion...if you ended the game at halftime. But as seems to be the Cardinals even wallowing in their recent success, it wasn't easy. I mean, can’t this team ever do anything easily?

OK, so they took advantage of a Lions miscue, a muffed Ben Graham punt that was recovered by 'The Hyphen', LaRod Stephens-Howling at the Detroit 13. Detroit can't stop them, and just like that, Kurt Warner throws Larry Fitzgerald a one-yard touchdown pass.

But even THAT wasn’t easy. Fitz ended up making a beautifully focused grab off a tip to put the Big Red on top 7-0. Most people on earth couldn’t do what he did. It was sweet!

It seemed to ignite an otherwise average at best offense to that point. I mean, I was saying early that Warner was off on his throws. He missed a pretty wide open Anquan Boldin as well as Fitz a couple of times, and even receptions (including the TD) weren’t in the right place to make a play and/or run up RAC yards.

Not long after that score, the recently quiet Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came up with a nice interception that gave the Cards great field position at midfield. A couple of chain-moving plays gave the Cards a third-and-one at the Lions 30-yard line. But Warner was sacked, and the Motor City Madman replacement kicker Mike Nugent made it a 10-zip lead early in the second quarter.

Dante Culpepper and the Lions started moving the ball, but the drive stalled, and Hanson missed what I think was in ill-advised 54-yard FG attempt. This gave Warner and the offense a short field, and RB Tim Hightower scored from a yard out immediately following a nice 30-ish yard reception by TE Ben Patrick to the one-yard line.

Like that, it's 17-0 Cardinals at the half, and I start thinking "Poor Lions", in having to deal with being under-manned and the wrath of a previously beaten Cardinals team.

With two minutes left until halftime, Warner again leads the team down the field. They had a first-and-10 at the Lions 24, the nail just sitting there waiting to be driven home, when Tim Hightower put the ball on the ground.

The highlights and recaps will show that Warner fumbled and the Lions recovered, preventing the "nail" score. But I have a hard time blaming Warner when Hightower absolutely whiffs on a block, making what was at best a seriously weak effort. Warner is hit from behind as his arm was about to come forward, and it’s FUMBLE city all over again!

It must have rattled a few Redbirds heading into the locker room, re-living nightmarish visuals of the debacle in Frisco Monday night because things took a decidedly worse turn in quarter three.

Midway through the third quarter, DRC picks off his second pass of the day, giving the Cardinals the play they needed to bust it wide open. But Warner threw an ill-advised pass into double coverage and behind the receiver, and it too was picked off. Only Detroit safety Louis Delmas returned his pick 101 yards, and instead of it being a 24-0 lead, it was 17-7 with plenty of clock and oodles of Lions confidence brewing.

After a charged up Detroit D three-and-outed the Big Red, Mercury Morris slashed and dashed for a 65-yard touchdown run that conjured up visions of his old days in Miami. Wait...what’s that? That wasn’t Mercury? It was Maurice Morris?  Oh, my bad.

By now, the little kitties from Detroit...the same team that went o-fer in 2008 while the Cardinals went to Tampa, were marinated and saturated in cat-nip, and playing like Lions. Their defense once again 3-and-outs the mighty Cardinals offense, and a few minutes later, a 28-yard Hanson FG tied the game! That’s right! It was TIED as the third quarter was winding down!

But the new "real" Cardinals came back out and, just after the start of the final period, new starting RB Beanie Wells peeled off a gorgeous 18-yard run wherein he broke several tackles and dragged Detroit players into the endzone.

Beanie had a terrific game, and really showed why he’s exactly what the Cardinals need in the fourth quarter. He ended up with 110 yards on 17 carries. Many were what is becoming "signature" Beanie, busting tackles and churning for every possible inch of real estate.

As they were showing Wells on the sideline, I could see DT Darnell Dockett in the background excoriating the defense, trying to light a fire.

But the Lions smelled blood. Or a rare shot at victory. After the fired up defense stymied the Detroit offense, WR/PR Syeve Breaston served up a little pay-back. He muffed the ensuing punt. It was recovered by the Lions inside the Cards 20.

But the Cardinals defense stood tall and stopped Detroit on what I think was another ill-advised call by their rookie head coach Jim Schwartz (who I thought several times was going to have an aneurysm). With just under 10 minutes to go, and down by a touchdown, he chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 in the shadow of the goalpost.

But Dockett and company stuffed that, putting the Warner and the Cards offense back on the field...seemingly taking about eight lives out of the Lions. But their defense didn’t get word, and they once again three-and-outted Arizona’s offense, helped by an intentional grounding penalty on Kurt.

Pro Bowl punter Ben Graham (Yay!) was able to kick from under the goalpost to midfield. A few plays later, aided by a 24-yard pass to afore-unmentioned WR Calvin Johnson, scored on a QB Drew Stanton one-yard plunge away from the now pissed Dockett. The game was tied again with just under four minutes to play.

Highlighted by a 33-yard Beanie Wells run to the Detroit 11 that put him over the century mark for the first time in his career, the Big Red was finally able to put the suddenly big cats to rest. With just under two minutes to play, Warner hit Boldin on that screen coming out of motion, and Q did the rest. He twisted, cut, zigged, zagged,  sliced, diced, and demolished the upset dreams of the Lions faithful in attendance. Both of them.

This shouldn’t have been so hard. I mean, a win is a win and all that. But teams that want to be considered "elite" have to play like it for four quarters. This is the third or fourth game I can think of where their heads were just somewhere else for a quarter, and allowing the otherwise over-matched opposition to be in games late that they have no business being in.

The 49ers/Eagles game isn’t over yet, and too close to say with certainty that the Cardinals have won their second consecutive NFC West Championship at this point. But this is a hell of a way to do it.

After raising doubt last week in a huge game that mattered against a division foe, with the crown as their reward for victory, they laid an egg (and seven fumbles). Now they go into Detroit, against a team that had all of two wins over the past two seasons, and barely escaped with a win.

Its a whole hell of a lot easier being a Cardinals fan these days than at any time I’ve known as a fan. But they’re the Cardinals. And as any longtime fan knows, they just don’t make anything...anything , look "easy".

Oh well, BRING ON THE LAMBS!



You Can Follow Me on TWITTER @cardsblogblitz.

You can also check out my work in the Cardinals section at NFL.com/blogblitz.

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