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(Sunday, December 20th)
Final Score: Arizona 31, Detroit 24
Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - Anquan Boldin's TD catch with 1:54 to play helped Arizona clinch the NFC West title as the Cardinals battled out a 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
With the win and San Francisco's 27-13 loss to Philadelphia, Arizona locked up the division for the second straight season.
Kurt Warner went 23-for-37 with 233 yards, two touchdowns and one interceptions for the Cardinals (9-5), who bounced back from last Monday's loss to San Francisco. Beanie Wells had the best game of his rookie season as he had 110 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown.
"I'm really happy that we were able to hang in there and get the win today," said Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt. "We had our moments today which were unfortunate. But what I'm proudest of is that our team fought through it. It's a sign of progress for our football team that we were able to make mistakes and were still able to come back and win it."
Drew Stanton, who started the second half in place of an ineffectual Daunte Culpepper, went 10-for-19 with 72 yards, one interception and one rushing touchdown for the Lions (2-12), who have dropped their past four games by a total of 87 points. Maurice Morris had 17 carries for 126 yards and a score in the loss.
"You're not going to win games playing the way we played, particularly in the first half," said Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. "We put ourselves in a hole and were lucky to be down only 17. Until we stop making mistakes we're going to have trouble winning."
Arizona blew two leads in the game as Detroit's score with 3:48 to play made it a 24-all game.
Arizona got a 39 yard kick return from LaRod Stephens-Howling to get the ball to its 42 to start the drive. On the second play, Wells took the ball up the gut for 34 yards to get it to the Detroit 11. Two plays later, Warner hit Boldin over the middle and he took it in from five yards out for a 31-24 lead with 1:54 to play.
Detroit was unable to do anything with the ball on its last possession as Stanton's pass on fourth down went incomplete and Arizona killed the rest of the clock.
"We're excited that we got the win, but disappointed that we didn't play better," said Warner. "It was an ugly win today, but it moves us one step closer to our goal. Sometimes it's not as easy as you hope it will be, but it's still a win and it counts.
Trailing by 17 points in the third, the Lions got a big play from their defense to get on the board.
Arizona was in excellent position to add to its advantage as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's second pick of the day gave the team the ball at the Lions 20. However, on the first play, Warner threw into the middle of the end zone and Louis Delmas picked it off. He threaded his way through the players over the middle then took the ball down the left sideline and into the end zone for a 100-yard score to make it a 17-7 game halfway through the third.
The Lions' defense again stepped up as they held Arizona to a three-and-out and got the ball back at their own 36. On the first play, Morris followed his blockers around the left side and sped his way into the end zone for a 64-yard score and a 17-14 game with 5:10 left in the third.
Arizona continued to struggle and again punted. The Lions then got 30 yards without snapping the ball as Arizona defensive end Bryan Robinson was called for consecutive unsportsmanlike conduct calls for arguing with the refs.
The penalties helped Detroit get a 37-yard field goal from Jason Hanson with 2:04 left in the third to tie the game.
Arizona, though, responded with an eight-play drive that covered 75 yards and was finished when Wells took a handoff through the right side and broke three tackles on his way to an 18-yard score and a 24-17 lead with 13:40 to play.
Detroit was held to a three-and-out and had to punt, but Steve Breaston fumbled the fair catch and Detroit recovered at the Arizona 17. However, the Cardinals defense stuffed a 4th-and-1 attempt to get the ball back.
After forcing another Cardinals punt, though, the Lions tied the game. An eight-play drive that went 58 yards was capped as Stanton pushed into the end zone from a yard out with 3:48 to play.
The offenses struggled early, but Arizona took advantage of a Detroit turnover to take the lead.
On a punt, Dennis Northcutt called for a fair catch, but he muffed the attempt and Arizona recovered the ball at the Detroit 13. Three plays later, Warner threw a fade to the right side that was tipped by a Detroit defender, but Larry Fitzgerald came up with the catch for a 7-0 lead on a one-yard catch with 1:37 to play in the first.
Culpepper was picked off by Rodgers-Cromartie on Detroit's ensuing possession to give the Cardinals the ball back near midfield which led to a 48-yard field goal by Mike Nugent for a 10-0 lead with 13:01 to play in the first half.
The Lions moved the ball on their next touch, but came away empty as Hanson's 54-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
Arizona took advantage of the short field as the team needed just six plays to move 56 yards and Tim Hightower's one-yard push up the middle into the end zone gave the team a 17-0 lead with 3:51 left in the half.
Arizona hosts St. Louis next Sunday...The Lions play at San Francisco next Sunday...Culpepper finished the game 6-for-12 with 64 yards and a pick...Arizona has won eight of the past 11 games against the Lions...The Detroit defense has given up an NFL-worst 437 points on the season...Boldin finished the game with six catches for 72 yards along with the score.
12/20 19:44:42 ET
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