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Palmer guides Cardinals to win in home debut

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. - With the game on the line Sunday, Carson Palmer looked at all the fresh young faces in the Arizona Cardinals' huddle and the veteran quarterback could have just rolled his eyes and begged for help from above.

"You wouldn't know it was the game-winning drive," Palmer said. "You wouldn't know we were down by two with probably our last chance to touch the ball in the game.

"But there weren't any wide eyes or scared looks. Everybody just talked about doing their job and trying to score."

That's exactly what the Cardinals did, going 61 yards on seven plays and getting a huge pass-interference penalty to go their way before running back Rashard Mendenhall scored on a 1-yard touchdown run that gave them a 25-21 victory over the Lions at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The win gave Bruce Arians his first victory as the Cardinals' head coach and it was also the first win for Palmer and Mendenhall in their Arizona home debuts.

"It's always special. You never know when you're going to get it," Arians said. "We're going on a really tough road trip and I'm happy we got it at home. We have to win at home. Scratch a few out on the road and you'll be in the playoffs."

The Cardinals had to win this one without star receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, who sat out most of the second half with a sore left hamstring that limited him in practice last week.

But several young players stepped up in relief, including wideout Kerry Taylor, who starred at nearby Arizona State and was signed from the practice squad a day earlier because of Fitzgerald's injury.

"We have such a deep receiving corps, you can plug anybody in at any time at any position," said Taylor, who caught three passes for 40 yards. "We all work to make each other better every single day in practice. We hold each other accountable and it showed today."

Matthew Stafford threw touchdown passes of 72 and 3 yards to All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson and the Lions also got a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown from linebacker DeAndre Levy, but it wasn't enough.

It didn't help the Lions that running back Reggie Bush also injured his left knee late in the first half and wasn't a factor down the stretch.

"I wasn't myself," Bush said. "I probably shouldn't have gone back in, but I went back in and tried to give it a shot. I felt like I could still go, but I just wasn't myself."

Jay Feely was successful on all four of his field-goal attempts for Arizona - hitting from 47, 23, 43 and 33 yards after a shaky preseason and rough season-opener - and the Cardinals' defense rose to the occasion at crunch time.

Arizona allowed less than 100 total offensive yards by the Lions in the second half and applied pressure up the middle while shutting down receiving windows downfield.

"We have a lot of confidence," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "This was one game and it's a tough road game. We didn't make enough plays to win; they did. Last week, it was close in the fourth quarter, too, and we made those plays in the fourth quarter.

"We'll bounce back from it."

The Lions led 14-13 midway through the third quarter when they flushed Palmer, who was 22 of 39 for 248 yards and a touchdown, out of the pocket. Instead of taking a sack, he threw blind and his pass was intercepted by Levy and returned for a score.

Feely made two more field goals, however, and with 2:17 left to play, Lions cornerback Bill Bentley ran into Andre Roberts and was nailed for pass interference at the goal line. That gave the Cardinals the ball at the 1 and Mendenhall snuck through for the go-ahead touchdown. Arizona's two-point conversion failed.

On Johnson's long touchdown, he caught a short pass in the flat from Stafford and raced untouched into the end zone. Cardinals' linebacker Karlos Dansby nearly made an interception on the play.

On Johnson's second touchdown, fellow receiver Nate Burleson helped by running a pick move on cornerback Patrick Peterson. Burleson's defender, rookie Tyrann Mathieu, had nowhere to go on the play and Peterson was forced to backtrack around him, leaving Johnson open in the corner of the end zone.

"I should have known that was coming," Peterson said. "... That's just a play we have to go look back at and see how we can defend it better."

NOTES: The Lions were without starting defensive tackle Nick Fairley (shoulder) and starting right tackle Jason Fox (groin). ... Detroit had lost in each of its previous six visits to Arizona and had dropped nine of the past 12 matchups overall. ... Sunday's sellout was the 76th consecutive sellout at University of Phoenix Stadium, including preseason and postseason games. ... After racking up 191 total yards of offense in last week's win over Minnesota, Bush was held to 25 rushing yards and 44 receiving yards on three receptions.
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