Lions Fall Short To Cards


Next time, maybe Lions coach Bobby Ross should go for the sure one, not the risky two.

After a decision to go for a 2-point conversion came back to haunt Detroit, the Arizona Cardinals held on for a 23-19 victory Sunday to snap the Lions' four-game winning streak.

"I decided to go for two points because I felt we were going to play it to win it. I thought it through. It wasn't a spontaneous decision," Ross said. "I could probably look back on it and kick myself in the teeth, but I'm not going to do that because I thought it through."

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Game Summary

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  • Detroit trailed most of the game, but Terry Fair returned Michael Pittman's fumble 35 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 23-19 with 5:26 to play. To the amazement of the Cardinals, Ross decided not to kick the extra point, and Gus Frerotte's pass was intercepted by Ronald McKinnon on the conversion attempt.

    "There was no one open," Frerotte said. "I kept moving and moving, trying to find somebody."

    The Lions drove to the Arizona 11 in the final minutes, and would have had a chance to tie the game with a short field goal if they had kicked the extra point moments earlier. Instead, they were forced to go for the touchdown.

    Frerotte threw three consecutive incompletions, the last one through Germane Crowell's fingers with 1:08 to play, and the Cardinals ran out the clock.

    The second-guessing got to Ross in the post-game news conference.

    "A lot of people are going to jump on this football team, and I don't give a damn," he said. "And I tell you what, this team is not going to quit."

    Then he stormed away.

    The loss cut Detroit's lead over Minnesota in the NFC Central to a half-game. The Cardinalended their three-game losing streak.

    "We needed a win in the worst way," Arizona quarterback Dave Brown said. "It was ground zero for this team. The morale was pretty low."

    Pittman, a second-year player making his first pro start, rushed for 133 yards in 23 carries, including a 58-yarder for a touchdown and the fourth-quarter fumble, and also caught two passes for 44 yards.

    "This is a dream come true for me to be a starter in the NFL," Pittman said. "I was so geeked up before the game, I almost passed out."

    He was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Adrian Murrell in an attempt to give some life to a ground game ranked last in the NFL.

    "Michael Pittman gave us a running game," coach Vince Tobin said. "He had some great runs."

    Pittman's scoring run, Arizona's longest in three years, put the Cardinals up 23-7 with 11:11 left in the third quarter. On Detroit's next play, Frerotte connected with Crowell on a 77-yard touchdown play to cut the lead to 23-13. The 2-point conversion try failed.

    Arizona (3-6), which had averaged 67.9 yards a game on the ground, outgained Detroit 159-42 in yards rushing.

    Frerotte, who came on as a backup to rally Detroit to wins over Minnesota and St. Louis, started Sunday because of Charlie Batch's bruised right thumb. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 375 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked five times, twice by Eric Swann.

    Brown, starting in place of injured Jake Plummer for the third straight game, was 16-of-30 for 209 yards. He credited a lecture from the team leaders in a players-only meeting on Monday for getting the team ready to play.

    Chris Jacke kicked field goals of 35, 35, and 49 yards in the first half as Arizona built a 16-7 lead at the break.

    Going into the game, the Cardinals averaged 229 yards a game to rank 29th out of 31 NFL teams. They had 244 by halftime and finished with 343.

    The difference, Brown said, was the Cardinals' decision to throw deep early. That loosened up everything else.

    The Lions (6-3) took the opening kickoff and went 61 yards in five plays. Johnnie Morton stretched out for a diving fingertip catch of Frerotte's 46-yard pass to set up a seven-yard scoring pass to tight end David Sloan.

    Brown's 40-yad pass to David Boston set up Jacke's 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 with 7:59 left in the first quarter.

    Detroit drove deep into Arizona territory late in the quarter, but Crowell fumbled and Aeneas Williams recovered at the Cardinals 16. Arizona went 84 yards in nine plays for the go-ahead touchdown.

    Notes

  • Swann's sacks were his first since returning after being out a year with two knee operations.
  • McKinnon had 10 tackles for the Cardinals, along with his interception on the 2-point conversion.
  • Batch had hoped to be available as a backup, but was ruled out before the game.
  • A Frerotte pass bounced off the face of receiver Brian Stablein, knocking him embarrassingly off his feet.
  • Arizona's 23 points were its most since scoring 25 in its season-opening win over Philadelphia.

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