Calvin Johnson; Greg Toler (Getty)
The Cardinals were fortunate to leave Detroit Sunday night with a victory, but players and coaches voiced little concern about how poorly the club performed. In a bottom line business, the bottom line was the Cardinals won and clinched their second consecutive NFC West title. They left Detroit without swollen egos, however.
The Cardinals blew a 17-0 halftime lead and had to score in the final minutes to secure the 31-24 victory.
The offense played poorly in the first half and the defense fell apart in the second. The good news for the Cardinals is that they won anyway and know they have plenty to work on as they finish out the season against the Rams and Packers.
"It was kind of an ugly win, but again, it moves us one step closer to our goal," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "We've got to continue to get better and get polished up for the next couple weeks."
That was the theme established by coach Ken Whisenhunt after the game: enjoy the victory but know there were mistakes that need to be fixed.
"There are a lot of teams out there that have won games when they didn't play their best, and that's what you have to do," Whisenhunt said. "To get nine wins at this point in the season for us is good, and we want to continue to build off that."
--RB Beanie Wells appears ready to assume the role of featured back. He gained 110 yards on 17 carries and provides more big-play ability than Tim Hightower. Hightower could still play a role as the backup and third-down back.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fourth time in his career and for the third consecutive year.
--DT Bryan Robinson drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for arguing a holding call against a teammate, Gabe Watson. And the penalty didn't even count because the Lions scored on the play and declined it.
"It was just conversation with the umpire that went kind of wrong," Robinson said. "I probably said some things he didn't want to hear at that time, and the guy called me for a penalty."
--WR Anquan Boldin has been with the Cardinals through some lean years, so he didn't care Sunday that the team didn't play well. A win is a win, he said, and a division title is a division title. "From the time I've got here, I've been trying to change the culture," he said, "and it's finally getting to that point. You see your hard work coming into play."
--Steve Breaston muffed his first punt in three seasons last Sunday. He had gone through 106 opportunities without a mistake. Breaston is in his third season as the Cardinals punt return and had not muffed one in his NFL career. The 107th went off his fingertips and the Lions recovered.
"Instead of stepping up and getting underneath, it just died on me," Breaston said. "I really wasn't in good position. I'm better than that. I pride myself on securing the football."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--LT Mike Gandy missed the game with a pelvic injury. He has sought more medical opinions and it's questionable when he will return. Jeremy Bridges started in his place.
--K Neil Rackers missed his first game of the year with a torn groin muscle. Rackers was struggling to walk last week but anticipates returning before the end of the season.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald played despite suffering a knee injury the week before. Fitzgerald caught four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown but didn't seem hampered by the injury.
--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions but didn't try to return the first one because of a sore left toe. He has turf toe and wasn't going to aggravate it if he didn't have to.
--LB Will Davis is recovering from a knee injury and could return in a couple weeks. A rookie, Davis was starting to emerge as an effective pass rusher when he went down.