On Sunday, the Lions jumped to an early lead against the Cardinals, an encouraging sign for an 0-4 team that had suffered through a Monday night loss in Seattle that many thought Detroit should have gone the other way but for an officiating blunder.
The Lions carried the lead into the second quarter. But on the first play, the Cardinals pulled even. Then, an interception by Arizona defensive lineman Cory Redding returned inside the Detroit five set the stage for the go-ahead score. Not long after that, the Lions lost their fight.
And that’s the assessment not from the outside, but from a pair of Cardinals defenders who were on the field.
“Early in the game you know the guys had a lot of fight to them,” Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio on Monday. “Once we got the opportunity to go 14-7, we got another turnover at that point. You could kind of see the fight kind of die out of them. They weren’t as excited, as motivated, as enthusiastic as they were earlier in the game. And I think that’s just something they’re struggling with right now. When adversity hit them, they haven’t been able to respond and fortunately for us we were able to catch them at this moment and get a big win for us. They’re a talented team. It’s tough to see a talented team like that give up pride.”
Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson, appearing on Tuesday’s PFT Live, agreed that the Lions lost their fight.
“They definitely did,” Jefferson said. “I think they lost it once their fans started booing them. It was kind of weird. They started cheering when they sat Matthew Stafford. . . . I don’t think fans understand how important they are to us. They’re very important, they play a big role especially in the fourth quarter. . . . Sometimes I don’t think the fans understand how important they are.”
For the Lions to regain their fight, they’ll need to regain their fans. But their fans won’t be in the mood to support the team until the team does something worth supporting. It’s a bizarro chicken-and-egg proposition that could make it much harder for the Lions to win any games at home this year.
Meanwhile, Jefferson said he’s seeing more Cardinals fans show up for road games. And he thinks there will be even more Cardinals fans if they get more prime-time games.
At the rate the Cardinals are going, they’ll have plenty of prime-time games, possibly through the flexible scheduling system that could put them on NBC late in the year.