The Arizona Cardinals won their sixth straight game, defeating the Detroit Lions 14-6 to improve to 9-1 on the season. Their two touchdowns came in the first quarter, but it was enough, as the defense held Detroit to two first half field goals.
Here is what we learned in the win.
Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie beat Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate
The much ballyhooed matchup was easily won by the Cardinals secondary. Peterson covered Johnson most of the game. Johnson was targeted 12 times and had only five catches for 59 yards. One throw to him was intercepted. Tate, who has the best receiving numbers in the NFC, had two catches for 41 yards.
Head coach Bruce Arians said Patrick Peterson "played an outstanding ball game" and that he has "been on fire for three weeks."
Those numbers equal a passer rating of 43.8 for Matthew Stafford when targeting his two best receivers.
Matthew Stafford said Arizona has "one of the best secondaries, if not the best secondary we have seen all year."
The terrible Arizona Cardinals pass defense isn't so terrible
Arizona held the Lions to 183 passing yards. That is the third straight week they have held an opponent to under 200 passing yards. It is the fourth time in their last five weeks.
They allowed 309 yards per game in the air in their first five games. Over their last five, they have given up an average of 221 yards, and that includes over 400 yards to the Eagles.
Why? They are getting better pressure on quarterbacks and Patrick Peterson is healthy.
Arizona sacked Stafford four times, giving the defense 10 sacks in their last two games after eight total in their first eight games.
Peterson has looked like the top tier corner he is expected to be for three weeks and the defensive numbers look better.
QB dropoff? Maybe, but it didn't matter
Drew Stanton led the Cardinals to two touchdowns in their first two possessions. He threw for over 300 yards in the game and was not sacked. He did get picked off twice, but those turnovers didn't hurt. Look at the stat line: 21/32, 306 yards, two TDs and two INTs. That looks like a Carson Palmer stat line from 2013. The Cardinals can win like that. Preferably, there will be fewer interceptions than touchdowns.
Arians noted Stanton "was over 60 percent on third down" and "he moved the chains for us."
He also had some words for those who doubted Stanton could lead the Cardinals to a Super Bowl.
"The must not have watched September football, because he played damn good in September, too," he said. "This is not the first time he jumped out there. This is the fourth game. He's 3-1 as a starter and didn't finish the other, so I think they should notice him."
Pass protection was great, run blocking was not
The Arizona Cardinals did not allow a sack. It was the first time all season the Lions did not sack an opposing quarterback. The run blocking was a different story. Taking away four Drew Stanton kneeldowns, Arizona rushed 22 times for 50 yards. Detroit did have the best rush defense entering the ball game, but Andre Elllington, outside of one 17-yard gain, had 18 carries for 25 yards.
Arians trusts the defense, as he should
Arians had the chance to have the Cardinals kick a 53-yard field goal to put them up by 11 points, but elected to punt it away and let the defense hold the Lions, which they did.
Arians would have gone for the kick if it were an attempt inside of 50 yards. He explained, "(Detroit) had a lot of pressure on the extra point and there was no way we were going to attempt a 53-yarder there, even though I wanted to ice it and allow them to block it."
"Our defense had been plating extremely well, and the crowd was as great as they've been all year," he continued. "We knew that we'd feed off that energy and stop them."
A heady special teams play and a smart challenge
There was a strange sequence of events in the fourth quarter. Arizona punted the ball the ball was deep in Detroit territory. Special teams ace Justin Bethel kept the ball out of the end zone and tossed the ball to a teammate so he wouldn't get the touchback.
The ball was not fielded cleanly and Detroit's Jeremy Ross picked up the ball and ran 49 yards with it into Arizona territory. It was a huge momentum change.
However, after a brief delay, Bruce Arians challenged the play saying the play should have been dead.
The delay came because Arians said he had to clarify as to whether or not he was able to challenge the ruling.
Bethel said he told his coach he thought he was in the end zone for the touchback. "Then I said, 'Oh, darn, my good feet. Ohh," he explained to reporters after the game. In any case, he knew he had possession of the ball.
"I told (Arians) I had possession, but first I thought I was in the end zone, so I'm like, 'they have to bring it back somehow,'" Bethel said. "But I knew I had possession and that's what it comes down to."
That drive for Detroit, which started at their own one-yard line after the challenge overturned what happened on the field, ended with a turnover on downs.
The Cardinals hold tie breakers over everyone
With the win, the Cardinals improve to 7-0 in the NFC. They hold head-to-head tie breakers against the Cowboys, Eagles and Lions and because of their perfect conference record, also hold one over Green Bay, who is 5-3 in the conference, if the Packers were to catch the Cardinals.
Arizona has wins over San Francisco and St. Louis in the division, so they are up on both teams head-to-head and also by nature of their 2-0 division record. The only team that could possibly gain a head-to-head advantage is Seattle. They play the Cardinals twice in the final six games.
Taking care of business has put the Cardinals in a great situation.
Notable milestones met during the game
Larry Fitzgerald, with his first catch of the game, reached 12,000 career receiving yards. He became the second-youngest player to reach that plateau. Only Randy Moss reached it faster.
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro, with his first extra point, set a team rookie scoring record. He has 75 points on the year.
To buy tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.