After giving up the first 10 points of the game and trailing 17-9 late in the third quarter, a sixth season-opening victory in the past seven seasons seemed out of reach for the Detroit Lions especially against the favored Arizona Cardinals. Behind the NFL’s highest paid player, quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Lions rallied to score 26 straight points as Stafford threw three of his four touchdown passes in the game’s final 18 minutes. Two of those touchdowns went to rookie Kenny Golladay as Detroit won 35-23.
It was an eerie start for head coach Jim Caldwell’s Lions as they spotted the Cardinals 10 first quarter points. Stafford, who signed a five-year $135 million contract just prior to the beginning of the 2017 season, got off to a bad start. His first pass attempt was intercepted by Arizona’s Justin Bethel who promptly returned the pick 82 yards for a touchdown.
The Lions kept it close though with a defense that applied pressure to Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer all game long. Detroit sacked Palmer just once but continuous pressure forced Palmer into three interceptions. When Lions kicker Matt Prater nailed a 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half, Detroit trailed just 10-9.
Just as they did last season – the Lions set an NFL record by winning eight games in which they trailed in the fourth quarter – Detroit put together a late-game comeback. Stafford would finish 29-for-41 for 292 yards and the four touchdowns. Golden Tate was on the receiving end of 10 of those passes for 107 yards. Golladay, a third-round draft pick out of Northern Illinois, caught four passes for 69 yards and the two scores.
The Detroit Lions defense did a number on Arizona running back David Johnson, who led the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage last year. Johnson had just 23 yards rushing. He caught six passes for 68 yards but was limited in what he could do after suffering a wrist injury. Detroit punter Kasey Redfern was also injured suffering a knee injury when he bobbled a snap in his own end zone and attempted to run it out.
The Lions will face the New York Giants (0-1) next week on Monday Night Football.