Defense holds down fort until quarterback Matthew Stafford gets Detroit Lions’ offense untracked

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, left, can’t bring in a catch as Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs defends during the fourth quarter in Detroit on Sunday. (AP photo)


AP Sports Writer

DETROIT — Matthew Stafford and Carson Palmer traded early interceptions.

Only Palmer kept misfiring badly, and when he did, Detroit took advantage.

Stafford threw four touchdown passes, and the Lions raced past Arizona in the fourth quarter Sunday for a 35-23 victory. Detroit snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Cardinals and avoided what would have been a dispiriting home loss amid a tough early schedule.

“Just a total team win,” Stafford said. “I mean, it took everybody. It wasn’t pretty, a bunch of penalties, some mistakes, turned the ball over.”

Palmer threw his first of three interceptions on the game’s initial possession, but Stafford’s very first pass was picked off and returned 82 yards for a touchdown by Justin Bethel. The Lions later botched a punt in their own end zone, and Arizona led 10-0 after one quarter — but it turned out the Cardinals had wasted their best chance to take control of the game.

“It should’ve been big,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “It was very concerning because, you know, you are giving away opportunities.”

The Cardinals led 17-15 heading into the fourth quarter before Stafford connected twice for touchdowns with rookie receiver Kenny Golladay. Miles Killebrew put the Lions up 35-17 when he returned an interception 35 yards for a TD.

This comeback was even more emphatic than what the 2016 team did with such regularity.

“No. 1, I know we’re young because we made a whole bunch of young mistakes. No. 2, I think the core guys still have that same sort of fight in them regardless of what the circumstances are,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “They’re looking for an opportunity to get a win and they’ll fight you to the end and get it done.”