The Lions (2-7) look to beat the Cardinals (1-8) for the fourth time in as many meetings when the teams play Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
While Detroit and Arizona had hoped to end years of futility with big offseason moves—the Lions with the hiring of coach Rod Marinelli and the Cardinals with the signing of running back Edgerrin James—they have remained two of the NFL’s worst teams this season.
The Lions knocked off Atlanta two weeks ago for their second victory in three games but reverted to form last week, losing 19-13 at home to San Francisco.
A season high-tying four turnovers, including two that the 49ers converted into points, kept the Lions from earning back-to-back wins for the first time since 2004.
“That was a winnable game, and I offer no excuses and I have no excuses,” Marinelli said. “What we need to get done is that consistent performance each and every week. That’s what it takes to win championships in this league.”
Detroit’s offense, ranked 14th in the NFL with a 330.7-yards-per-game average, was anything but consistent against the 49ers. After gaining a season-high 435 yards against Atlanta, the Lions managed just 251 on Sunday.
Jon Kitna, fifth in the league with 2,376 passing yards, was 19-of-30 for a season-low 202 yards and one touchdown. The 10-year pro, who signed with the Lions after five years with Cincinnati, averaged 271.8 yards in the first eight games of the season.
“I don’t think anyone is looking at me, and I’m certainly not looking at my performance,” he said. “Of course I could play better.”
The Lions’ poor play on offense Sunday was the result of subpar games from their other top players. Roy Williams, third in NFL with 800 receiving yards, had five catches for 81 yards, but he had had receiving games of 161 and 138 yards in two of his last three contests. Williams caught a touchdown in each of the previous three weeks, but didn’t score against the Niners.
The Lions had averaged 129 rushing yards in their previous three contests, but had only 71 last week. Leading rusher Kevin Jones, who has 628 yards this season, ran for 44 on 13 carries.
Jones, who ran for a career-high 196 yards in a 26-12 win over Arizona in 2004, has just two games in 2006 in which he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
Despite last week’s problems, Marinelli thinks his team has a good chance will rebound this week.
“I believe in this team,” he said. “We’re just ‘that close’ every week. We’ve just got to stay on course—no panic—just keep working straight ahead.”
Detroit has outscored San Francisco 97-57 in taking the last three meetings, including a 29-21 victory last year. The Cardinals, who fell 27-10 to Dallas last week, will be looking to avoid their ninth straight loss. They hadn’t started 1-8 since 1978.
Detroit’s three consecutive wins over Arizona in the last three years, though, came at home. The Lions lost the three previous meetings with the Cardinals, all at Tempe, and the Lions are winless in four road games this season.
Arizona will have to be more prepared and sharp against Detroit than it was against the Cowboys. The Cardinals had an extra week to get ready for Dallas, but surrendered a season-high 434 total yards.
“I just thought we could play better,” Arizona coach Dennis Green said. “I thought we could coach better and play better.”
The Cardinals ran for just 86 yards for the second straight game, doing little to improve a rushing attack that is last in the league with 71.1 yards per game.
James had 68 of those yards on 15 carries. The veteran has been a disappointment since leaving Indianapolis to join Arizona, failing to surpass the 100-yard rushing mark in 2006. James had nine 100-yard games with the Colts last season, but his highest total this year has been 94.
James and the Cardinals will look for a better effort on the ground against the Lions, who allow 127.8 rushing yards per game. James has run for 244 yards in two games against Detroit.
“It’s really a reality check time for us,” said rookie quarterback Matt Leinart, who was 20-for-38 for 206 yards with two interceptions and no TDs last week. “We’ve got to be responsible, accountable for each other. We’re in this together.”