Cardinals vs. Lions: The good, the bad and the ugly

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back at the win, but with a critical eye.

The Bruce Arians era is officially underway.

Sure this wasn't game one of the season, but it was the first win of his head coaching career when the team was under his identity and his vision, and that means something to every coach.

The game wasn't perfect in anyway, but it was perfect in its result.

The good, the bad, and the ugly from the Cardinals first win of 2013.

The Good:

Welcome to the win column, and competing in the NFL again.

While last year the results were head scratchingly good to start the season, there was always this wait for things to fall apart, and it did eventually, this year it seems like this team can compete with anyone on any given Sunday.

Carson Palmer hasn't won much in his career, but he exudes the confidence of a career winner, and he believes in himself and his abilities.

He has taken control of the team in a way that we haven't seen from a quarterback since Kurt Warner, and you see the confidence and trust from his teammates as well.

This isn't anything more than just a good for the franchise, as the Cardinals fell apart without a quarterback the team could lean on, and while Palmer struggled mightily in the game, this one was more about his veteran leadership showing through than his skills.

The other good of this game was Coach Todd Bowles defense.

Bowles came through with an exceptional game plan, and executed that with precision in moving Yeremiah Bell to a "linebacker" position and taking coverage liability Jasper Brinkley off the field.

In fact, Brinkley only saw 17 defensive snaps and Tony Jefferson was the benefactor of his decreased role, and that was a huge boost for the Cardinals in coverage (It probably didn't hurt that Reggie Bush, the linchpin of the Lions offense, was basically incapacitated the second half).

Jefferson was excellent in run support, and was a big step up from Bell and Brinkley in coverage.

Speaking of Bell, his play wasn't great, but he is a HUGE upgrade to Brinkley in coverage of running backs out of the backfield, and against teams like Detroit and next week's opponent New Orleans, that is a necessity.

The Bad:

Maybe this will be an unpopular sentiment to have, but if Larry Fitzgerald is hurt, this receiving core becomes very guardable.

The Cardinals future Canton inductee was visibly hobbled on Sunday, and it didn't take the Lions long to figure that out, and take advantage.

The leading receiver for the game was Andre Ellington, who did most of his work on a single touchdown reception on a beautiful route, and better throw.

Michael Floyd caught one ball when Fitzgerald wasn't on the field for an 11 yard gain on the game winning drive, and was held in check by a pretty bad Lions secondary.

Andre Roberts, coming off his eight receptions and 97 yards versus the Rams was responsible for the biggest play of the game, on a catch he didn't even make.

Robert finished with only three catches and 36 yards receiving.

This can't happen when you have as much invested in the wide receiver core as the Cardinals do.

A former first round pick and third round pick cannot fail to produce, even in the absence of a future Hall of Famer.

The Ugly:

The offensive line was better in certain terms: They yielded only one sack during the game, and opened up numerous running lanes to help provide a balanced and efficient offense between the 20's on Sunday, but they still gave up way too many quarterback hits.

While ProFootballFocus.com only had the Cardinals down for six total quarterback hits (sacks and hits) I charted eight total (two from plays that were penalties and those still count as hits absorbed by Palmer to me).

That's not far off from the week one totals of hits absorbed by Palmer, as he took ten in week one.

The problem is twofold:

1. The Arians offense asks the quarterback to hold onto the ball for an inordinate amount of time in order to get the ball deep.

2. This line struggles with speed on the edge, and both Winston and Brown were beat multiple times by speed rushers.

Putting those two together is a recipe for getting the quarterback hurt, and we all saw what happened last year when the best quarterback on the roster was hit that much it took the team down with him.

The Cardinals have allowed 18 quarterback hits thus far, resulting in six sacks in the first two games.

In 2012 the Cardinals allowed 12 quarterbacks hits resulting in four sacks in the first two games.

The offensive line is upgraded, I don't know anyone that would argue that, but the combination of deep pass plays and trouble with speed on the edge is a recipe for disaster if things don't get better.

This was a great step in the Arians era, and the defense that Todd Bowles has dialed up has been supremely impressive thus far, but the Cardinals have a ways to go, but at least getting there will be fun to watch this season.

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