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'Orlovsky gets a big ovation from the crowd': A tale of Lions futility

The Lions are horribly sad under Jim Caldwell, and it's not going to get better.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Miraculously, the Lions were actually leading, 7-0, at the end of the first quarter on Sunday. The Cardinals were at precipice of scoring, granted -- posted at the 14-yard line, one play away from their opening score -- but that was hardly a harbinger. The Lions were 0-4 on the season, but they hadn't lost by more than 12 points in any game and had played tough competition. Sunday's game could have been competitive.

Then everything went wrong.

Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah was yanked after losing a fumble in Cardinals territory and nearly losing another on a kickoff return. Golden Tate lost another fumble late in the second quarter. Matthew Stafford began the day with an interception on the third play from scrimmage. He threw his third pick on the Lions' first possession of the second half and was unceremoniously benched for Dan Orlovsky.

It's hard to pick one moment as the nadir of the Lions' loss, but this is might be as good as any:

The Lions were down 28-7 at that point. Things had gotten so bad that fans cheered a player who last appeared in a Lions jersey during the regular season in 2008, when they went 0-16. Orlovsky infamously ran out of the end zone to commit a safety against the Vikings that season. That's the player that Lions were stoked to see after Stafford's start.

Orlovsky outplayed Stafford, but only barely. He only threw one interception to Stafford's three, and passed for 191 yards to Stafford's 188, but at 5.0 yards per attempt compared to Stafford's 5.8. Evaluating Orlovsky's performance is largely academic, anyway. The Lions almost certainly will not have a good offense under his direction. It's hard to imagine it will get any better.

Stafford and Orlovsky combined to throw 70 passes, which tied an NFL record set by the Patriots in 1994 when they beat the Vikings, 26-20. Unlike the Pats, the Lions threw the ball so often out of desperation. They quickly fell into a hole in the second quarter, and couldn't rely on a turnover-prone running game that averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

For one drive in the third quarter, the Lions appeared functional. Starting at their own 18, Orlovsky moved the team to the Cardinals' 22-yard line before sputtering out. Facing fourth-and-10, down 35-7, the Lions had a chance to at least try to save face. Instead, they kicked.

The Cardinals responded with a 63-yard touchdown run by Andre Ellington. The Lions were done. They gained 11 yards before throwing a pick on their next possession. They went three-and-out and punted on the possession after that.

The Lions had an 85-yard touchdown drive on their last possession, but the Cardinals had long started thinking about next week. Arizona put Drew Stanton in at quarterback, another quarterback who played during the Lions' 0-16 season (along with Jon Kitna, Dante Culpepper and Drew Henson). Finally, the harbinger had arrived.