PHOENIX - Typically, we would start out by noting that the Cardinals are a vastly different team than the outfit that hosted the Lions last season. Specifically, the Cards would certainly contend that they’re a much improved team after suffering through a 9 game losing streak in 2012.
Here’s the thing – Arizona destroyed Detroit last season 38-10 in Week 15. So, how much might that figure into the Cardinals home opener on Sunday? Uh, not at all.
For example, Lions QB Matthew Stafford was 24 for 50 for 246 yards and no TDs with three interceptions in the loss to Arizona last season. This season, Stafford has running back Reggie Bush, who amassed 191 total yards in his Lions debut, including a 77-yard TD catch in a season-opening win against the Vikings last week.
Even so, if you’re the Cardinals defense, you start your game plan by circling Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson, who had more than 1,900 yards receiving last season.
Then you assign Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson to match up against the weapon known as “Megatron.”
But maybe it’s not just cornerback Patrick Peterson who’s drawing motivation from matching up against Johnson.
Consider that Bruce Arians called the player known as Megatron “the best receiver in the league.” Larry Fitzgerald, who actually has more TD receptions than Calvin Johnson since 2008, was asked for his thoughts on the comparison.
“Calvin is the best,” Fitzgerald said. “You look at his numbers. It is what it is.”
Of course, none of this matters if the Cards don’t accomplish a couple of things.
First, the Cardinals must keep Carson Palmer clean against a fierce Lions pass rush that comes in with a reputation for being (borderline) dirty. Last week, the Lions sacked Christian Ponder three times while the Rams got to Carson Palmer four times (a trio of sacks by Robert Quinn – the NFC Defensive Player of the Week).
Conversely, the Cardinals defense has been stressing the importance of putting pressure on the QB with a pass rush that failed to register a sack of Sam Bradford in St. Louis.
And, finally, there’s this bit of history to heighten the urgency: since the 16-game regular season started in 1978, teams that start (0-1) to begin a season only make the playoffs 23.7 percent of the time.
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