Rushing Offense: F
One has to wonder whether Harold Goodwin is as over-rated as his veteran offensive linemen. With one of the best RBs in the NFL to block for, this offensive line laid an absolute egg in the running game.
Passing Offense: F
Very reminiscent of Carson Palmer's performance in the 2015 NFC Championship game when he hurried his throws and was picked off left and right. This has become an alarming pattern for Palmer since that game. When your veteran QB turns the ball over as carelessly as he did and with a 10-0 lead, it affects the confidence of the whole football team and it gives the opponents ample belief that this is their day.
Ball Security: F
During BA's tenure as head coach, the Cardinals are 26-2 when they win the battle of turnovers. For some strange reason, BA cannot seem to impress the critical importance of protecting the ball to his veteran QB and in this game also to his star RB, who fumbled twice, the 2nd of which led to a scoop and run TD that let to 26 unanswered points for the Lions. Part of the disconnect between Arians and his QB and RB may be tied to Arians' high risk spread offense which more often than not provides minimal protection for the QB. However, the familiar excuses of Palmer not having enough time in the pocket and his WRs running the wrong routes aren't going to cut it any more. Time to fix it or nix it.
Rushing Defense: A-
The Cardinals defensive line did an excellent job of walling off the play side and taking away the cutbacks.
Passing Defense: D
The Cardinals pretty much deserved an A for their pass defense until the Lions last drive of the first half, following Phil Dawson's shank doink off the goal posts from 32 yards. From that point on, Matthew Stafford got into a groove (more on how this happened in the coaching section) and had repeatedly open targets in Golden Tate, TJ Jones and rookie Kenny Golladay (2 TDs). Patrick Peterson held Marvin Jones in check, but did commit a holding penalty on a 3rd down and did surrender a TD to Jones off a Stafford scramble.
Pass Rush: F
As Harry presciently forecasted, pressuring Stafford would be a key to this game. Unfortunately, the Cardinals were not up to the task. Chandler Jones recorded a coverage sack, but was not a factor otherwise. Markus Golden was uncharacteristically quiet. And the interior pass rushers were stuck in mud and could not collapse the pocket, nor could they disengage to tackle Stafford when he bolted the pocket. One begins to question why the Cardinals kept 9 defensive linemen last year and not a single one of them has shown inside pass rushing ability. Highly talked about rusher Olsen Pierre was invisible in this game, as was every other DT. Clearly, this team thus far has had no answer to the loss of Calais Campbell who recorded 3.5 sacks for the 1-0 Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday. Robert Nkemdiche, the brightest hope, remains sidelined by a calf strain.
Andy Lee was excellent in his Cardinals' debut. The coverage was not as swift as necessary, but Elijhaa Penny was the first man to the ball on every cover team.
Phil Dawson got good hang time and the cover team was good, helped in part by some shaky decisions by the Lions' kickoff returners. Again, Penny was the primary tackler. Rudy Ford nailed one too. Dawson's on-side kick was kicked perfectly --- too bad the kickoff gunners looked unprepared.
Kicking Game: D
It's very difficult to understand how a veteran like Phil Dawson can clank a 32 yarder (despite a perfect snap and hold) and thus perpetuate the Cardinals' kicking woes. That led to the defense once again giving up points right before the half, and it created a 6-point swing. Dawson was good otherwise, but the 32-yard miss was as bad as each one of Carson Palmers "palmovers."
LB Haason Reddick---he was on RB Ameer Abdullah like glue. Timed and stuck his tackles well. Added much needed aggression to the pass rush when called on.
RB Kerwynn Williams---ran hard and delivered on the TD run.
LB Josh Bynes---like Justin Bethel, good first half.
P Andy Lee---superb.
ST Elijhaa Penny---was consistently there to make stops.
Winning in the NFL is all about making adjustments. Last year the Cardinals lost many close games because critical adjustments were not made. This game was taken over my Matthew Stafford, with the help of OC Jim Bob Cooter's preparation and adjustments. Stafford opted to go without a huddle so he could read the defensive alignments and predict where the blitzes were coming from. What he did was use a couple of hard counts to see which LB’s and S’s would jump.
He caught Tyrann Mathieu jumping a couple of times and audibled plays away from the blitzes with adjusted protections. Even worse, on the Cardinals' part, on one play where it was clear that Mathieu was blitzing from Stafford's blind side, for some inexplicable reason Bettcher called a loop stunt (DE/DT exchange) to Stafford's strong side...which meant Badger was rushing in from behind while on the other side Golden was crashing down inside, while Chandler Jones was looping...which meant a wide open escape route for Stafford to his right where he created a wide open passing lane and converted the 3rd down, thanks to a nice catch from TJ Jones.
On the flip side...did we ever see Carson Palmer use a hard count or make key audibles on the line? The only hard count we've seen in two years was from Drew Stanton in the Falcon pre-season game which gave him a free play that he threw the TD to John Brown on. Why is it that Palmer does not try at all to keep the defense off balance? The pass rushers are teeing off. One of the biggest plays of the game took place at the start of the 4th quarter. the Cardinals had the ball near mid-field and were faced with a 3rd and 4. Perfect time for a hard count, right? The offense had the whole quarter break to discuss the play. Also, if they were going to use the spread (0 backfield), why not at least chip the blind side DE to John Wetzel's side? You know, just to make sure Palmer gets an extra second or two? Why is that so difficult to comprehend?
Also, how is it that James Bettcher has Antoine Bethea playing centerfield? Bethea played well in underneath coverage...but he lacks the range and speed to play FS. There is no way the Cardinals should have given up that TD bomb to Golladay. Plus, Mathieu on Tate wasn't working. Throw some confusion in there. Put Peterson on Tate and bracket Marvin Jones with Bethel and Branch. Do something. Adjust.