Published November 20, 2014
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 Steelers.
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 about it.
Normally Cardinals Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald might salivate while thinking about all the opportunities available against the Lions' banged-up secondary.
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.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Lions 21, Cards 10