Detroit Lions: Carson Palmer

Over the next two weeks, we will look at 10 critical plays that shaped the Detroit Lions' season in one way or another.

Not all of them will be bad and certainly, with the way the Lions cratered to a 7-9 finish, will not all be good. And some have been just been fantastic plays.

And as always when it comes to these sorts of lists, this is subjective and are plays, for good or bad, that stuck out to me when I made this list. Agree or disagree vehemently, let’s chat about it.

Oh, and we’ll be going in reverse order from 10 to 1.

When: Sept. 15, 2013

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., during a 25-21 Arizona win against Detroit.

What happened: Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, on a third-and-8 from the Detroit 32-yard line, threw a long pass down the right side of the field for Andre Roberts. Bill Bentley, the nickel back, was beat by a step after a wheel route. But had Bentley turned around, he could have made a play on the ball instead of just running into Roberts, causing the pass interference penalty. He was there and could have been in position to at least get a pass breakup. Had Bentley turned his head, it could have potentially been a no-call as well.

What they said about it: Bentley: “Yeah, they did hurt, but that’s the game. Like I said, man, you can’t win with penalties like that. You know what I’m saying. You’re good enough to be on the field like that, we just have got to make those plays.”

Former Lions coach Jim Schwartz: “In the game, when you talk about pass interference, holding and anything else, it’s generally just a player having either bad technique or being in a bad position. I’m talking blind on Willie (Young’s) (penalty), but I know for Bentley, that was the case.”

How the Lions' season was impacted: In a year where a win or two -- or a play or two -- could have saved Jim Schwartz’s job and pushed the Lions into the playoffs, this play was an early indicator of fourth quarter leads lost to come. Bentley was in position, didn’t turn around and took a penalty to extend a drive. Had he knocked down the pass, the Cardinals would have been forced to kick a field goal, meaning either Detroit would still lead with a miss or trail by one point with two minutes remaining instead of four points. That changes play calls in the final two minutes and what is needed for a win.
Reggie Bush and Carson PalmerGetty ImagesReggie Bush and Carson Palmer have given their respective teams major upgrades on offense.

A lot has happened since the Detroit Lions' most recent trip to University of Phoenix Stadium, last December.

The Arizona Cardinals hired an entirely new coaching staff and enlisted a veteran quarterback to bolster the offense. The Lions, meanwhile, added a shifty new running back by the name of Reggie Bush. In last year’s meeting, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford played poorly, and it allowed the Cardinals to break a nine-game losing streak.

My, how times have changed. The Lions are flying high off a season-opening victory against NFC North rival Minnesota, while the Cardinals are still trying to find their footing in 2013.

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Lions reporter Michael Rothstein discuss Sunday’s matchup.

Josh Weinfuss: A lot has been made of offseason additions on both sides. How has the Lions' offense changed by adding Bush?

Michael Rothstein: It has definitely become much more dynamic. You'll see a lot more screen passes and short passes to get Bush in space and allow him to create. The perfect example came on the 77-yard screen that went for a touchdown against the Vikings. Not sure the Lions had anyone with that kind of speed out of the backfield last season. Add to that Bush's ability to run between the tackles when he needs to, and it creates another dimension for defenses to be concerned about. No longer is it pay attention to Calvin Johnson and make Detroit's other pieces find a way to win. If teams do that, Bush will force them to abandon that strategy.

Sticking with offense, has the addition of Carson Palmer aided the passing game for both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd?

Josh Weinfuss: Without a doubt. Palmer has brought not only stability to a position that's been a hurricane in the three seasons since Kurt Warner retired, but also talent. The proof of that came Sunday when Palmer and Fitzgerald connected for two touchdowns -- one on a 4-yard fade to the back left corner, the other on a 25-yard beauty that dropped into Fitzgerald's hands. Last season, Cardinals quarterbacks targeted Fitzgerald nine times in the red zone and didn't complete any. Palmer is already 2-for-3 in the red zone to Fitzgerald. Floyd also will benefit from Palmer's accuracy. With Floyd being a larger target than Fitzgerald, Palmer can get a little more creative with where he throws the ball, an issue all four Arizona quarterbacks had last season.

Let's switch sides of the ball. After his incident against the Vikings, is Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh becoming a distraction already this season?

Michael Rothstein: Distraction? No. The reason I say that is most people around the Lions have been around this situation before with Suh. If his teammates are telling the truth and indeed accepted his apology, it should be a nonissue for most in the locker room -- for now. Where it becomes a problem, perhaps, is if Suh does something like this again. It should become a distraction or an issue only if he were to be suspended in the future.

Since you asked about Suh, how does Arizona's offensive line deal with him, Nick Fairley and the rest of Detroit's deep, talented defensive line?

Josh Weinfuss: This is a different situation from Week 1, when the Cardinals focused on stopping two very strong outside rushers. With Suh and Fairley coming up the gut, Arizona will have to rely on its guards and center more -- which could be an issue, considering that right guard Paul Fanaika played in his first game in almost two years Sunday. Don't expect the Cardinals to overload the box with blockers. Palmer said he'd rather have less time to throw and more options downfield, but the Cardinals more than likely will keep a running back home to pick up that inside rush and a tight end on the outside to allow the tackle to cheat over and help the guard.

Speaking of the offense, has any team figured out how to slow down Johnson, because stopping him is unlikely -- and if anyone has slowed the stud receiver, how'd they do it?

Michael Rothstein: Kind of, Josh. Kind of. Johnson had four catches for 37 yards against Minnesota on Sunday. While he was targeted nine times -- and missed two touchdowns by not much -- the addition of Bush to the Lions' offense has taken some pressure off Johnson. When Minnesota chose to try to take away Johnson, Detroit focused on letting Bush operate. While I don't think teams will ever take Johnson out of the game while he is in his prime, it wouldn't shock me if he has some games in which Detroit looks to Bush more instead of always featuring Johnson. That, of course, just makes the Lions' offense much more difficult to stop.

I'll wrap it up with a question to you. How much is Patrick Peterson going to be involved in the offense? And can he be a true two-way player, be it this week or beyond?

Josh Weinfuss: Ideally, Peterson would play a prominent role in the offense. And the Cardinals have planned for that, installing a package specifically for him that was, at last check, 60 plays deep. They want him out there, so much so that on cut day, coach Bruce Arians said Peterson would be considered the Cardinals’ fifth receiver. But with all the hype, he played only three offensive snaps. Granted, Peterson’s involvement will always be dictated by the situation, but I think a lot of people were expecting more in Week 1. As to your second question, that’s tough to answer. Peterson is already playing nearly every down on defense and is the Cards’ primary punt returner. He’s young -- 23 in July -- so his body can handle it, but I don’t know whether there’s anyone these days getting significant time in all three facets. He’s more likely to get hurt on offense, but if he can make an impact on defense, special teams and offense, you’re looking at a potential MVP.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer spoke with the Detroit media Wednesday ahead of Sunday's visit from the Lions.

Here, in friendly bullet points, are the highlights of what they said:

BRUCE ARIANS
  • Arians discussed one of the more interesting topics these days for opposing defenses -- how to handle both Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson: "The addition of Reggie has really helped and added to their arsenal of weapons, which is already one of the best in the league. It's a matter of how you want to defend both those guys." For what it is worth, Minnesota clearly chose to try to take away Johnson, which allowed Bush to gain 191 yards of offense.
  • Cornerback Patrick Peterson has been playing some offense for Arizona. He apparently has 60 offensive plays in the playbook for him. Sounds like Arians is going to try to balance his work on defense and offense as much as possible.
  • Of course, Arians was asked about Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and Arians repeated what he said last season -- that he would want Suh on his team. But when it came to the hit on Minnesota center John Sullivan, he had a fairly blunt take: "I thought it was obviously uncalled-for and against the rules. I think he's known since, probably high school football, that after an interception you can't block below the waist. He might have been too concerned about hitting somebody in the head, but it's just poor judgment at that time." Arians added that he does not expect Suh to change how he plays.
  • This is pretty interesting. Arians was asked about the impact of Peterson on drafting his former college teammate, Tyrann Mathieu: "There wouldn't have been a pick if it wasn't for Patrick."
CARSON PALMER
  • He and Larry Fitzgerald worked out as much as they could, including for "a handful of days" in July when they were off.
  • Palmer on Bush, who also went to USC: "I loved it. I remember watching his highlight film when I was in college. They were excited about the guy they were getting, and I was watching his San Diego high school football film saying 'Wow, this kid is something special.' You could tell back then what he was going to be in college. Just a phenomenal college career, obviously."
  • Palmer said Peterson would be a factor in the offense. Couldn't say how many plays, but he will factor in.

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