Cards Won't Go Down Without A Fight

For anyone that believes the Detroit Lions will breeze to an easy win in this Sunday's home contest against the Arizona Cardinals, think again.

ALL TIME: LIONS LEAD 29-21-5 in one of the NFL's oldest rivalries dating back to the Portsmouth Spartans vs. the Chicago Cardinals.
NOTABLE: Lions quarterback Joey Harrington threw three touchdown passes including two to rookie Charles Rogers to offset Anquan Bolden's early heroics (10 catches for 217 yards receiving). A close 28-21 game was blown open when Eddie Drummond returned a punt 57-yards for a touchdown and Dre' Bly put the capper on the win with a 48-yard interception return of Cardinals starter Jeff Blake for a touchdown.

INJURY REPORT: ARIZONA - RB Emmitt Smith (toe) is questionable. T Leonard Davis (knee), DT Russell Davis (foot), DE Darnell Dockett (groin) and S Adrian Mayes (hamstring) are probable. DETROIT - LB Boss Bailey (knee) and WR Eddie Drummond (shoulder) are out. DE Jared DeVries (groin) is questionable. TE Stephen Alexander (ankle) and WR Az-Zahir Hakim (hip) are probable.

(ALLEN PARK) - If anyone believes that the Detroit Lions will breeze to an easy win in this Sunday's home contest against the Arizona Cardinals, think again.

The Cardinals have stockpiled talent on defense for the last three years and now with offensive minded head coach Dennis Green at the helm, they are quickly revamping their offense and could be a playoff contender soon.

Arizona (rank 13th in the NFC in defense) has been especially stingy against the pass, allowing just thirteen touchdown throws this season in the NFC West.

Meanwhile Detroit seems to have lost confidence in quarterback Joey Harrington's ability to lead the offense. Several players in the locker room have griped about the third-year veterans inability to hit the receivers in stride and his lack of leadership. Even head coach Steve Mariucci appears to be hedging on Harrington's status.

When asked if Harrington would start on Sunday, Mariucci was less than emphatic in his response. "That's our plan right now. (The plan is similar to what it has been the last two weeks.) We'll plan each practice and each day as it comes. All of the activity that we're doing today is rehab, weights and conditioning. In meetings tonight we'll plan practice on Wednesday and determine exactly who gets (how many snaps). It'll be similar (to the past two weeks)."

Expect Harrington to get the start and a short leash. If he struggles early, Mariucci may go to McMahon, who played his best football to date, going 11-of-15 in relief of Harrington.

WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE FOOTBALL The Cardinals will give rookie John Navarre (Michigan) his first career start in an effort to jump start and offense that has struggled under Josh McCown and Shawn King. Navarre is a stationary quarterback who is accurate throwing deep, but has trouble when pressured. Lions defensive end James Hall (8.5 sacks, third in the NFC) is no doubt licking his chops when he sees the statue-like Navarre behind center.

However, since there is no film on Navarre available (except preseason action), Detroit will rely on watching Arizona's offensive tendencies as a whole to see what to expect from the Cardinals offense.

"You watch what you can watch in terms of preseason games and that sort of thing, but then you defend the scheme. We don't anticipate a lot of offensive changes because of a new quarterback. You watch the film, you watch the scheme and you practice against the scheme. He fits into that," said Mariucci.

With rookie Larry Croom starting for the injured veterans Emmitt Smith and backup Marcel Shipp, the Cardinals may elect to throw the ball around. If they can protect Navarre, he has some weapons offensively. Tight end Freddie Jones is second all-time among active tight ends in receiving yardage to only Kansas City great Tony Gonzales. Jones (33 catches for 311 yards) will likely be matched up against improving Detroit strong side linebacker Teddy Lehman. Lehman has played well against some of the NFL's best tight ends and at other times has struggled.

Navarre will also have a talented trio of wideouts in Anquan Boldin, rookie first round pick Larry Fitzgerald and former first round pick Bryant Johnson. These could pose problems for Detroit's struggling safety tandem of Brock Marion and Bracy Walker. Both possess speed and big play ability. Boldin torched Detroit's secondary for 10 catches and 217 yards receiving in a loss a season ago.

Look for the Cardinals to pass first, run second and try to keep Detroit defense on the field. Detroit has shown itself to be subsceptible to fatigue if it loses the time of possession battle. Expect the Cardinals to try to throw between the Lions linebacker and their safeties, an area where Detroit has been vulnerable all season.

A steady diet of Kevin Jones would appear to be the cure to what ails the Lions. Too often Detroit has relied on the erratic arm of signal caller Joey Harrington, only to be let down when he has an off day. Of Detroit's five straight losses, three were winnable if Harrington had only been able to string together an average performance. Meanwhile Jones has had two 100 yard performances (OK one of those was 99 yards). Running behind Detroit's powerful duo of right tackle Stockar McDougle and guard Damien Woody, the Lions have sprung the run game.

Detroit would be well served to give the ball to Jones 20-25 times in this one and set up for play action passing because Arizona can mount a strong pass rush. Defensive end Bertrand Berry, a free agent that the Lions passed on (10 sacks, leads the NFC) and fellow end Kyle Vanden Bosch form a solid duo who have been disruptive to opponents passing attacks.

Detroit would be better served to let Jones carry the mail and then dump off to Shawn Bryson and tight end Stephen Alexander until the Cardinals walk the eight man into the box. Then allow Harrington to take a few shot behind the Cardinals linebackers. Ronald McKinnon has proven to be strong against the run, but not as good defending tight ends and running backs in his zone. Fellow linebacker James Darling has also struggled against the pass while rookie Karlos Dansby has been the most impressive dropping off the line of scrimmage.

However, Arizona has a solid secondary led by free agent signee Duane Starks (two interceptions and seven passes deflected. With rookie Roy Williams underachieving the last few weeks, the running game would appear to be the way to go.

AT 4-7 Detroit still has a faint shot at being in the playoff race, so why does it already feel as if the season has been a failure? After starting 4-2, Detroit has lost all momentum that it had and now has its back against the wall. Can you imagine the outcry if the Lions lose this one? The pressure continues to mount on quarterback Joey Harrington to prove he can be a leader and effectively run the offense. Backup quarterback Mike McMahon's time appears to be right around the corner. McMahon comes off the bench to lead Detroit to a come-from-behind win after being down late in the fourth quarter.


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