- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Putting his headphones on the top of his head and packing up his bag, Willie Young paused for a second to contemplate the question and took in a deep breath.
Even in a 25-21 loss at Arizona, the strength of the Detroit Lions' defense, the defensive line and linebackers, handled themselves well. They pressured Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer six times. Sacked him once.
Held the Cardinals to 87 yards rushing and under four yards per carry. And he wasn’t the only Lion who seemed pleased with the way the front seven played.
“I think we did a pretty good job,” linebacker Ashlee Palmer said. “Our job was to stop the run and I think we did a good job as far as stopping the run. A couple mistakes, maybe one or two runs that leaked out.
“But other than that, I think we did a pretty good job.”
It is a sentiment not everyone shared. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz wasn’t as happy with the way his team defended the run. Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall averaged 4.4 yards a carry. His backup, Andre Ellington, averaged five yards a carry.
Those numbers are not great.
“I don’t think we stopped the run as well as we can,” Schwartz said. “They were getting it up in there a few times. We threw them for some lost-yardage runs, but I think we can play better up there. They were throwing the ball awful quick. It was tough to get to them.
“I thought we affected the pass a couple times. The interception, (Ndamukong) Suh was bearing down on the quarterback and he threw quick and we ended up making that play. So there were some good things, but we can also play better up there.”
The positive parts of the line are part of an effort likely not noticed because Detroit lost. Yet Young had Detroit’s lone sack. Suh had two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and pressured Palmer into an interception for linebacker DeAndre Levy, who actually was able to hold on to his return for a touchdown this week after his pick-six against Minnesota was negated a week ago by a Suh penalty.
It is a group that has depth -- Nick Fairley was inactive with a shoulder injury and the Lions still created pressure -- and talent. Schwartz said they were prepared for Fairley potentially being unable to play, and worked with that possibility all week.
Even without Fairley, the importance of the Lions’ front seven is simple. For Detroit to have success, it needs the defensive line to dominate. On Sunday it came close, and that brings it back to Young’s answer.
He exhaled and said what some could say about the Lions as a whole Sunday.
“Pretty good. Obviously not good enough,” Young said. “Collectively we have to figure out how to get the win. That’s it. That’s it.”
11hEric D. Williams