Dave Krieg came back to Detroit with plenty of doubts about his season. He left a winner.
Krieg, who turns 37 next month, was sacked seven times for 49 yards in losses by the Lions, his old teammates. But, he still led the Arizona Cardinals to a 20-17 comeback victory Sunday.A 24-yard pass from Krieg to Anthony Edwards on fourth-and-10 with 2:31 to play capped the comeback from a 17-6 deficit.
"It was kind of fun to come back here, but it didn't mean that much to me," said Krieg, who led the Lions into the playoffs last season after Scott Mitchell was injured. "I didn't have anything to prove personally."
Not to the Lions, maybe. But he had something to prove to Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan. It was Ryan who signed Krieg to a two-year, $3.6 million contract, then benched him just five quarters into the season.
Everything appeared to be forgiven after Krieg took all of Detroit's punishment and still completed 15 of 24 passes for 158 yards. That's the essence of Buddy-ball.
"Dave did a good job," Ryan said. "Any time you win and you play that position, you're doing well."
The Cardinals (1-2) avoided their second straight 0-3 start, in part, because the Lions (0-3) couldn't overcome all their mistakes. Detroit was penalized 15 times for 109 yards and it also lost three fumbles.
The two biggest, and most unexpected, were fumbles by Barry Sanders - otherwise known as Mr. Perfect. Sanders had carried the ball 803 consecutive times without a fumble, since Dec. 6, 1992, to be exact.
Sanders carried 24 times for 147 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown run. But his fourth-quarter fumble was recovered by Arizona's Terry Irving, giving the Cardinals the ball at their own 31 with 5:06 remaining.
Nine plays later, Krieg rifled the touchdown pass to Edwards between two defenders. Krieg's pass to Frank Sanders for the 2-point conversion gave the Cardinals the 3-point lead.
"Obviously, Barry hasn't fumbled in a long, long time, I know that," Krieg said. "But that's the way the ball goes, sometimes."
Detroit, aided by two of 10 penalties against the Cardinals, drove to the Arizona 40. Mitchell hit Sanders with a 3-yard swing pass on first down, but Clyde Simmons knocked the ball loose and Terry Hoage snagged it for Arizona.
The Cardinals ran out the clock as what remained of the 58,727 fans at Detroit's home opener called for the firing of Fontes. "Wayne must go!" they chanted.
"I've overcome it before," Fontes said. "I've heard that tune before. That's the nature of the job. I've heard that tune for seven years, and one day they will run out of quarters."
The San Diego Chargers made the playoffs in 1992 after starting 0-4. But their next three games weren't against San Francisco, Cleveland and at Green Bay. That's what the Lions face.
"That's a very good football team, but they've played themselves into a hole," Ryan said.
Garrison Hearst turned in the first 100-yard game of his NFL career, gaining 121 yards on 22 carries for the Cardinals, who travel to Dallas next week.
Mitchell completed 17 of 26 for 217 yards for Detroit, including a 39-yard scoring toss to Brett Perriman that put Detroit ahead 10-0 in the second quarter.
But, overall, it was a woeful game between two struggling teams. The Cardinals sacked Mitchell twice for 19 yards, but drew 10 flags for 82 yards.
"They had a pretty good scheme, and we weren't smart enough to pick it up," Ryan said. "We pride ourselves on drafting smart players, but some of them didn't play too smart today."
Arizona's Greg Davis kicked four field goals, including a 55-yarder in the second quarter that matched his career-best.