GLENDALE, Ariz. — It was the kind of moment that had stymied the Detroit Lions so many times during their 11-game losing streak: A potential game-winning play, a gut-punch penalty that reversed it and the realization that nothing was going to come easy.
But Matthew Stafford has seen a lot during his 12 seasons in the NFL. He wasn't going to let this opportunity slip away.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Stafford said. “I feel real comfortable in that situation. I love it.”
Stafford calmly led a drive in the final minutes that was capped by Matt Prater's 39-yard field goal as time expired, and the Lions won for the first time in 11 months by beating the Arizona Cardinals 26-23 on Sunday.
The Lions looked like they would take the lead with about two minutes left when Stafford completed a spectacular deep pass to Marvin Hall at the 1-yard line, but the play was called back when offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai was flagged for holding.
For a moment, it felt like another Detroit disaster was in the works.
Not this time. Prater made his 15th game-winning kick with less than 2 minutes to play in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“I’m happy for him. He’s as clutch as they get," Stafford said. “He loves that moment. That moment has Matt Prater written all over it.”
It was also a big win for embattled coach Matt Patricia, who is now 10-24-1 record in two-plus seasons. Patricia's defence made life tough for Kyler Murray, who had three interceptions.
“I’m really proud of the players," Patricia said. "Give all the credit to them.”
Murray threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score. DeAndre Hopkins caught 10 passes for 137 yards and Andy Isabella had two TD receptions.
“There is going to be adversity every game. That is part of it,” Murray said. “We understand that. Obviously I feel like if I don’t turn the ball over three times today, we put ourselves in a better chance to win that game.”
Arizona (2-1) pushed ahead 23-20 near the end of the third quarter when Murray connected with Isabella from 4 yards out for the pair's second score. The 5-foot-9, 188-pound Isabella had a slow start last season as a second-round pick out of UMass but has become an important piece of the offence this year.
Duron Harmon, Jamie Collins and rookie Jeff Okudah had Detroit's interceptions.
“Our defence played outstanding, getting three turnovers for us. We should have scored 40," Stafford said.
Detroit (1-2) took a 17-13 lead on Kenny Golladay's 15-yard TD catch with 31 seconds left before halftime. Golladay, who led the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns last year, missed the first two games of this season with a hamstring injury.
Golladay's catch capped an entertaining first half that saw the teams trade the lead five times. Murray had another highlight-reel touchdown run, juking past Detroit's Okudah for a 1-yard score and a 13-10 lead.
“You can see how dangerous he is when he gets out in space,” Patricia said. "There were a couple plays, we had a couple missed tackles on him. He’s got unbelievable quickness and unbelievable acceleration. Obviously, it was a big priority for us to make sure that we did the best we could to stop him.”
A first-half interception by Murray gave Detroit the ball at the Arizona 27. Six plays later, the Lions took a 10-7 lead when Stafford hit Jesse James for a 5-yard score.
“We didn’t play particularly well. I think you can see that,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "It starts with me not getting them ready to play. I didn’t call a very good game. We turned the ball over three times. They didn’t turn it over any. Twelve men on the field, things of that nature.
“That is what will get you beat and that is what happened today.”
Adrian Peterson had a 27-yard run on his first carry of the game to push Detroit into Arizona territory, leading to a field goal. The 35-year-old Peterson, who is in his 14th NFL season, played six games for the Cardinals in 2017.
The Cardinals went ahead 7-3 when Murray's perfectly placed, high-arcing throw went over two Detroit defenders and into Isabella's hands.
FACES IN THE CROWD
The Cardinals allowed family members and friends of players and coaches to watch the game at State Farm Stadium. The crowd was limited to less than 750 people and was spaced out behind the Cardinals' bench.
The Cardinals stayed in the locker room for the national anthem for a third straight week. Most of the Lions lined up along the end zone, with some kneeling and others standing.
Cardinals: S Budda Baker (thumb) played with his right hand wrapped. NFL Network reported that Baker is expected to have surgery on the thumb next week and will likely miss at least one game. ... S Chris Banjo (hamstring) left the game early in the second quarter.
Lions: Host the New Orleans Saints next Sunday.
Cardinals: At the Carolina Panthers next Sunday.
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David Brandt, The Associated Press