Everybody knows the Detroit Lions love and sometimes exclusively depend on airing out the ball with the passing game, but doing that Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals could prove incredibly difficult.
In 2012, despite a tough year, the Cardinals, led by Patrick Peterson, had the fifth best pass defense in the league, only allowing 201 yards per game. Stunningly, Arizona gave up less touchdowns through the air (20) than interceptions they collected (22). Having an elite talent like Peterson locking down the opposition's best receiver certainly helps this out.
The Lions should be very familiar with these facts. In their now infamous 38-10 loss to the Cardinals last December, Matthew Stafford was frustrated all day long, tossing three critical interceptions while throwing no touchdown passes. As a team, the normally potent Lions only collected 228 passing yards against Arizona, 121 of which belonged to Calvin Johnson. That was Detroit's second lowest aerial output of the season, only surpassed by a more dismal 214 yard effort against San Francisco.
This year, through game one at least, that beat went on for the Cardinals. The team didn't let the St. Louis Rams cross the 300 yard barrier, only allowing 299 yards passing with the bulk of those yards being collected by tight end Jared Cook (141). That was similar to last year's meeting with the Lions. Last week, meanwhile, Detroit put up a cool 357 yards passing against the Minnesota Vikings.
Meaning? During this week's matchup, the Cardinals' practice of letting one player go off while completely limiting everybody else will have to be matched by someone other than Johnson stepping up for the Lions. Whether it's Reggie Bush, Nate Burleson or Brandon Pettigrew, one of Detroit's cast of characters will have to do what Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Lance Kendricks couldn't do; find a way to provide some depth to their passing offense.
During Sunday's game, the critical match up to watch will be the second-rated passing offense from 2012 take on the Cardinals, who've proven dutiful at shutting off such attacks in the past. As the experts like to say, this time around, something's gotta give.
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