Chapter One: Lions 35, Cardinals 23
All stories have a beginning. Every great novel or film has the first chapter to set the tone. For the 2017 Cardinals, that beginning included a visit to Detroit for a road game against the Lions. The season opener brought with it high hopes for the Cardinals and their fans. It brought the expectation that 2017 would provide vindication for a disappointing 2016. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll take a look at four pivotal games of the 2017 season for the Cardinals. Today we take a look back at the first game of the season. It was the opening chapter in a long and injury riddled season.
The Cardinals got out to an early 10 point lead on a pick-six by cornerback Justin Bethel. A Phil Dawson field goal ended the scoring for the first quarter. The Lions jumped back into the game with 10 points of their own in the second quarter, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford. The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, first by Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams, then by Lions runner Theo Riddick.
Cardinals Lose Johnson
The score by the Lions came after a fumble from David Johnson. Johnson fractured his wrist on the drive, an injury not known at the time of the fumble. The game entered its final chapter with Arizona ahead 17-15. This is where the game truly got away from the Cardinals.
The lack of Johnson handcuffed the offense. The Lions struck first with another Stafford touchdown pass. Just minutes later a third touchdown throw for Stafford put the Cardinals in an even deeper hole. Quarterback Carson Palmer fought to bring his team back but was intercepted by Miles Killebrew. The Lions safety returned the interception for a touchdown. By then it was a 35-17 deficit for the Cardinals. A late pass from Palmer to J.J. Nelson made the final scoreline a bit more respectable.
The 12 point loss to start the season was not what the Cardinals had in mind. The loss began the narrative of injuries making an already difficult road even tougher. Johnson was placed on injured reserve and did not return in 2017. Even with the injury to Johnson, the offense had opportunities to make plays but mistakes and turnovers closed the door on that.
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It was just the first chapter of the season and already the story looked bleak. The most dynamic player on the roster was lost for the season. What had started as high hopes quickly faded to doom and gloom. The Cardinals would go on to pick up veteran Adrian Peterson to replace Johnson. A few weeks later the team would suffer another major injury that would impact the season. That is another chapter for a different day.