Lions vs. Cardinals: 3 keys to an Arizona Week 2 win over Detroit

USA TODAY Sports

Three keys to the Cardinals success this Sunday and a matchup to watch against the Lions.

The last time these two teams met, then-Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells and Ray Horton's defense carried the team to a 38-10 shellacking of the Detroit Lions.

Wells rushed 17 times for 67 yards (3.9 YPC) and three touchdowns. Safety Rashad Johnson and cornerback Greg Toler returned interceptions for touchdowns.

It was the last win of the season and ended a nine-game losing streak for Arizona. What must happen for a repeat performance?

Efficient short passing game

As good as the St. Louis Rams' defensive line is, Detroit's may be even better. Ndamukong Suh will play despite speculation he could be suspended for yet another cheap shot to an opposing player, this time to Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan.

Suh was fined $100,000 for the illegal hit but will not be suspended, according to ESPN.

Last Sunday, quarterback Carson Palmer completed 12 of 17 (70.6%) from within nine yards of the line of scrimmage for 96 yards and an 84.4 passer rating. That is solid, and he must once again get the ball out on shorter routes to counter Detroit's stout defensive front. The Lions' secondary has issues, so this could be a good day for Palmer if given time to pick them apart.

But that is the key: Having time to throw.

Levi Brown will be facing off against rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah, and while he is not yet the kind of player Robert Quinn of the Rams is, he is talented in his own right and could be a problem all day.

The play below was executed perfectly by the offense in St. Louis. It's just a simple waggle play, but it went for 13 yards and a first down.

Larry Fitzgerald starts in the slot right and comes in motion, stopping behind tight end Jim Dray. At the snap, the defense reacts to the play-action fake to running back Alfonso Smith.

Meanwhile, Fitz sneaks behind the line to the right, where he is free to catch the ball and run. At the moment he catches the pass, the closest player to him is linebacker James Laurinaitis, who is fast for his size, but he's not nearly fast enough to catch a sprinting Fitzgerald.

Rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree makes the stop, but not until Fitz is past the first-down marker.

The play took just 2.28 seconds to develop fully and turned into an intermediate gain for the Cardinals. While plays like this cannot be used all the time, it's just one example of how the short passing game can be utilized to neutralize Detroit's burly defensive line.

Seal cutback lanes

Lions running back Reggie Bush is obviously a talented player -- that will never be in question. He is one of the most athletic players in the league today, and he can break a long run or screen pass on any given play.

But he cannot consistently hit open running lanes with authority.

The former top-five pick rushed 21 times for 90 yards (4.3 YPC) and caught four passes for 101 yards (25.3 YPC) against the Minnesota Vikings last week, including taking a screen pass 77 yards for a touchdown. He gained nearly 200 yards from scrimmage, but he left countless more yards on the field because of his problem hitting open lanes.

The play below is baffling. Bush avoids a wide-open A-gap to make a sharp cut to his right. With no linebacker in his path, he could have turned this 2-yard gain into a big play.

For the most part, Minnesota did a solid job leaving Bush with nowhere to go when he missed an open lane (there were roughly five missed holes, give or take a hole). He gained the bulk of his 90 rushing yards by doing his job and taking lanes his offensive line provided for him.

But he loves those cutback lanes. He will burn a fundamentally inept defense, so everyone in Cardinal Red must play assignment football and not get overzealous in pursuit of Bush.

Contain Brandon Pettigrew

Last week, we all witnessed why inside linebacker Daryl Washington will be sorely missed while he serves his suspension. Before the game, tight end Jared Cook had only two 100-yard performances (in 48 games) and had yet to record two touchdowns in the same game.

After a seven-reception, 141-yard, two-touchdown afternoon, it is painfully clear Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby cannot hang with the better tight ends of the NFL.

It is a similar situation this week with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. He has three career 100-yard performances in 56 games and has never had a two-touchdown game.

It really does not matter who it is, but someone has to be planted on Pettigrew Sunday. Amazingly, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford did not target Cook on third down once. Had he, the game may have slipped away from the Cardinals sooner, as they had no answer for the athletic tight end.

Stafford did target Pettigrew once on third down against the Vikings, though it failed miserably when on 3rd-and-9, the big tight end gained just a yard before fumbling the ball away. But Pettigrew on third down this Sunday could be a theme if the Cardinals cannot defend him.

Matchup to watch: Darnell Dockett vs. Larry Warford

Rookie right guard Larry Warford was outstanding in his NFL debut last week. He kept Vikings defensive tackle Fred Evans out of the action most of the game and was the sixth-highest-rated guard for Week 1, earning a +2.9 grade from ProFootballFocus.

Darnell Dockett, on the other hand, has experienced an epic fall from grace since Ray Horton took over the defense in 2011. Everyone thought No. 90 would be back to his dominant self with Todd Bowles tweaking the 3-4 a bit, but -- and it is just one game -- Dockett was pitiful in St. Louis.

Another sorry performance from the 10th-year veteran and it should be about time to make a change. Matt Shaughnessy was very good last week, and he could take Dockett's place. Or, as was the case when in the nickel a week ago, Shaughnessy could play on the right side and Calais Campbell could slide over to the left.

Either way, expect Dockett to be manhandled up and down the field by Warford Sunday.

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