GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Detroit Lions played well on both sides of the ball while building a lead at halftime and still had a chance when they started to struggle in the second half.
A couple of missed opportunities and one big penalty kept them from earning a tough road victory.
Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but Bill Bentley was called for a pass interference call in the end zone to set up Rashard Mendenhall's late 1-yard touchdown run, sending the Lions to a 25-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
"We just didn't execute as well as we needed to in the second half," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "We had some big plays in the first half, played really well. That is a good defense we were playing against. We just didn't execute in the second half. We just didn't take advantage of our opportunities."
Coming off a 34-24 win over Minnesota in its opener, Detroit (1-1) put itself in position for its first road win.
Johnson turned a slant into a 72-yard touchdown in the second quarter and capped a 92-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown catch from Stafford just before halftime. The Lions extended their lead to 21-13 midway through the quarter, when DeAndre Levy intercepted an errant pass by Carson Palmer and raced off for a 66-yard touchdown.
Detroit fell flat after that.
The Lions piled up 232 yards by halftime, but the offense sputtered in the second half after Reggie Bush went out after injuring his left knee. The star of last week's game – 193 total yards – he briefly tried to come back in the second half, but couldn't keep playing.
Without Bush, Detroit had 90 total yards in six second-half drives.
"Obviously, he is a big part of the offense, but that is no excuse," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "We have plenty of guys who can step up and make plays. We just didn't get it done on offense in the second half."
Stafford, who threw for 278 yards on 24-of-36 passing, lost a fumble on Detroit's opening drive of the second half, setting up Jay Feely for the second of his four field goals, a 23-yarder that cut Detroit's lead to 14-13.
With a chance to push their lead to 24-19 in the fourth quarter, the Lions left Justin Bethel unblocked and he raced around the end to block David Akers' 47-yard field-goal attempt.
The big blow came with just over a minute left in the game, when Bentley was called for pass interference while trying to cover Andre Roberts in the end zone. Two plays later, Mendenhall bulled in for his 1-yard touchdown.
Detroit had a final chance after that, but Cardinals rookie Tyrann Mathieu corralled Nate Burleson just short of the first-down marker on a fourth-and-4.
"As an offense, we didn't move the ball as well as we wanted to in the second half," Burleson said. "In the first half, we took what we wanted. I have to give them credit the adjustment we made but we left some stuff out there."
Arizona (1-1) was unable to come through late in its opening loss to St. Louis last week, but sure did in its home opener.
Despite a few breakdowns on both sides of the ball and having to settle for four field goals, the Cardinals made the plays down the stretch they needed to give coach Bruce Arians his first win in Arizona.
"That's all we talk about, finishing games," said Arians, his shirt still soaked after a Gatorade dousing from his players. "Eighty percent of the games are decided in the two minutes at the end of the half and the end of the game. We practice two minutes at a time, we talk two minutes at a time. Last week, we didn't finish. This week, we did."
The Cardinals did it without much help from All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He came into the game with a sore hamstring and spent much of the second half on the sideline.
Arizona made up for his absence by spreading it around, with 10 different players catching a pass, including cornerback Patrick Peterson, who also completed a 17-yard pass.
Palmer threw for 248 yards on 22-of-39 passing and threw a perfectly placed, 36-yard touchdown pass to Andre Ellington in the second quarter.
After some breakdowns in the first half – Johnson's long touchdown catch being a big one – Arizona's defense stiffened in the second half, holding Detroit without a point.
Mathieu added the punctuation mark after Mendenhall's touchdown with 1:59 left, absorbing a push-off by Burleson, then regrouping to pull him down just short of the marker.
"We want to win at home and scratch some out on the road," Mendenhall said. "This is a good step and we're going to continue to build on that."
Notes: After the game, Peterson asked Johnson to trade jerseys and the Lions' star obliged. ... Detroit is the only team Arizona has beaten in the Cardinals' last 14 games. Arizona has beaten the Lions twice and gone 0-12 against everyone else ... Campbell got Arizona's first sack of the season.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org