(Sports Network) - Detroit will take the NFL's No. 1 passing offense into the
desert Sunday to face off with an Arizona Cardinals team which hasn't mastered
the forward pass or won a game since September.
The Lions, who have lost five games in a row themselves, average 307.8 passing
yards per game, and quarterback Matthew Stafford has already surpassed 4,000
yards for the second straight season.
Meanwhile, superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson is on pace to break Jerry
Rice's single-season record for most receiving yards. "Megatron" has recorded
six straight 100-yard games and is 303 yards shy of passing Rice's amazing
mark of 1,848 yards, set with San Francisco in 1995.
The Cards, on the other hand, have gone 0-9 since a 4-0 September and are in
the midst of their worst losing streak since 1943 when the franchise was based
in Chicago and went 0-10.
Any success through the air hasn't translated to wins for Detroit, which has
been unable to finish this season. That theme continued last Sunday at Lambeau
Field as the Lions became the seventh team in NFL history to blow leads of
10-plus in three consecutive contests during a 27-20 setback to Green Bay.
This time Detroit squandered a 14-point advantage as Stafford finished with
264 passing yards and one touchdown but threw one interception and had a
fumble returned for a momentum-altering score.
The Lions haven't won a game in the state of Wisconsin since 1991, dropping 22
in a row.
"It's very difficult to lose in professional sports, in any kind of sport.
It's even more difficult, I think, when the games are so close," coach Jim
Schwartz said. "Sometimes if you get blown out, you can sort of put it off
your radar pretty quickly."
Things were even worse for the Cards in Seattle last Sunday. The Seahawks'
defense recorded four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown
and recovered four fumbles, two of which came on muffed punts and one of those
was returned for a touchdown, during a 58-0 rout of Arizona.
Seattle set franchise records in points for a single game and largest shutout
win. Conversely, it was the worst loss in franchise history and the most
points ever scored by an opponent for the Cardinals.
"Let me just start off by saying, I apologize to our fans, everybody
associated with our organization," Arizona coach Whisenhunt said. "That was
embarrassing today. We owe it to them, our fans, our supporters, to give them
a better product, a better job than what we did today."
"Embarrassing" would prove to be a theme for Arizona.
"Ass kicking," quarterback John Skelton said of the game, "that's the only
thing you can say. For them to come out and dominate the way they did in every
phase of the game, it's embarrassing."
Skelton, who was named the starter for a third different time this season
before the game was picked off four times and also lost a fumble. He managed
just 74 yards on 11-of-22 attempts before getting pulled for rookie Ryan
Lindley, who was benched after a poor performance against the Jets on Dec. 2.
"Part of our struggles have been tied into the inconsistency at that
position," Whisenhunt said. "You've got to have something there that can cover
up some other areas, and we're not getting that. It seems like we're getting
the other direction, sometimes."
The Lions lead the all-time series 31-24-5 but the Cards have won three
straight and eight of 11 overall.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Whisenhunt just can't decide who he wants at quarterback.
The Cardinals coach announced Wednesday that Lindley will start against the
Lions but the rookie out of San Diego State has thrown five picks in two
chances this season and was benched following a historically poor performance
against the Jets in Week 13.
Arizona placed would-be starter Kevin Kolb on injured reserve during the week
and also acquired signal-caller Brian Hoyer off waivers from the Pittsburgh
Hoyer, a Michigan State product, did not play for the Steelers this year after
seeing mop-up action in 13 games with the Patriots the previous three seasons.
Sadly, it's not out of the question that Hoyer could get a look this week if
Lindley falters again.
To avoid matching the franchise's largest losing streak, Arizona needs to
find a cure for its moribund offense, which has averaged just 10.6 points per
game during its nine-game skid, and has failed to reach 200 yards in three of
its last four games.
Skelton, Lindley and Co. managed just 154 yards against the Seahawks and
almost had as many turnovers (eight) as first downs (10).
The Lions' front seven remains imposing at times but the defensive backfield
is a problem even when healthy and it's far from healthy. Safety Louis Delmas
(knee), along with corners Chris Houston (ankle) and Jacob Lacey (foot) are
all questionable for this week.
The trouble on the back end is the main reason Detroit has allowed at least 24
points in five straight games but it's hard to imagine Arizona doing anything
Normally Cardinals Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald might salivate while
thinking about all the opportunities available against the Lions' banged-up
That said, the hard truth for Cardinals fans everywhere is the fact that there
is nobody in Arizona capable of getting Fitzgerald, or anyone else for the
matter, the football on a consistent basis.