The Arizona Cardinals came to town and tried mightily to give the Detroit Lions a victory. However, it was not in the cards as the 2-12 Lions lost yet another contest – it was their 35th loss in 38 games.
Arizona produced a wondrous run at an NFL title last season, as it went to its first Super Bowl contest, losing in an exciting game to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As the 2009 season has progressed they have fought hard to show all they were not a fluke. The Cardinals are now 9-5 and are in charge of the NFC West.
The Lions lost yet another contest as they fell 31-24 to Arizona at Ford Field.
Down 17 zip late into the second half, Lions rookie safety Louis Delmas produced a game- changing interception off All-Pro quarterback Kurt Warner.
It was Delmas, who was playing on two bad ankles, who returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter to send a jolt through the smallest crowd in Ford Field history.
“That turned the game around,” center Dominic Raiola said of Delmas’ big interception return. “I mean, the guy’s a game changer. He makes plays and is always around the ball.”
Concurred coach Jim Schwartz: “There’s a reason that we drafted (Delmas) where we drafted him. I know there was a lot of criticism and a lot of questioning about that pick, but those are the reasons that we drafted Delmas. He’s going to make more (big plays). Big plays equal scoring in this league. Maurice (Morris) made a long run; Delmas intercepts the ball and goes 100 yards for a touchdown and all of the sudden we’re right back in the game. It didn’t look like we were going to be back in and that’s the value of big plays.”
Delmas, the Lions’ second-round pick out of Western Michigan, became only the second player in NFL history to implement an interception and fumble returns for touchdowns as well as a safety in the same season. His 100-yard return Sunday is tied for the third-longest in franchise history.
Going into the Lions locker room following yet another loss, when approached by reporters, Delmas threw his chair against the wall and challenged reporter as to why they wanted to talk to him.
“You have to have that emotion,” said Jon Jansen, in his 11th NFL season. “You have to be able to play with emotion and you have to be able to feel with emotion. Delmas plays with passion. He’s an emotional guy. He’s an excitable guy and you see it in his play. He plays hard all the time. You can’t ask for anything more. You have to be able to know when to turn it on and when to turn it off and where to exhibit the emotion, and young guys are learning.”
He later apologized to all and proceeded to talk to the scribes.
“It is frustrating going through this,” he said. “We prepare every week and we work hard. I do not pay attention to our record. If I did I would go crazy. I approach every week one game at a time and I believe every week we are going to win that game. I have no other way of looking at it. Going forward we just need to keep preparing and stick to the coach’s plan.”
It was refreshing to see Delmas’ passion. He wants to win. He is working hard to make it happen, but the team has not collectively been able to sustain a winning season.
“We have some good young players,” Delmas said, “and it is just a matter of time before we put it all together and produce a winning team. I like this team and its players. I see a good base for us to get this thing turned in a winning direction.”
It is no wonder Delmas was frustrated, the losses by the Lions is getting trying for all. No one can forget a 0-16 2008 season, even those that were not on the team. They have to hear it from the fans and reporters over and over again.
“I did not come into this season thinking about what happened last year,” he proclaimed, “but as the season keeps progressing and our record stays negative, I cannot help but hear it. But all we can do is keep fighting and working in practice and prepare ourselves for the next game.
“I think in reflection there were a few games we had a chance to win, but it did not happen. If we had won those games it could have been a whole different season.”
Delmas is proving himself to be a rising star in the NFL. He said the adjustment to the league has been smoother than even he expected it would be.
“I know people will say I’m crazy, but to me the game has gotten slower,” he said. “It is more about technique and studying your opponent. But the biggest adjustment for me is playing 20 games. In college and high school the season ends at 12 games.”
In the end, Schwartz and Delmas said that it was great the Lions showed heart and played the game with passion, but after the clock read zero the Lions found themselves at the end of another loss.
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.