On a day when many thought the Patriots would use the energy from Troy Brown’s induction into their Hall of Fame to play inspired football and continue an NFL best 10-0 home opener-winning streak, they simply left more to be desired.
Even before Patriot's short-footed kicker Stephen Gostkowksi shanked a 42 yard field goal way wide left with seconds remaining in the game, you had to feel uneasy about New England's chances to pull out a win, let alone an expected blow out win. The Patriots looked overmatched from Arizona’s opening drive when they impressively marched 13 plays for 60 yards in 6 minutes 17 seconds to score the game’s first points, a 38-yard field goal by Jay Feely.
The Cardinal's opening possession was nothing flashy, but it was a statement they would attack and be physical early. They wanted to grind the Patriots into submission. And although the drive produced only 3 points, Belichick and his star-studded offense had to loathe watching the Cardinals eat up 6 minutes of clock while their own star quarterback, Tom Brady, paced the sideline to stay loose.
Give the Cardinals an immense amount of credit. They won by collapsing New England’s pocket on multiple occasions, sacking Brady 4 times for 19 total yards, successfully disrupting the rhythm of their receivers and a late Steven Ridley ground game, and creating key defensive stops whenever Brady’s offense finally began to gain some momentum. Although the statistics tell a far different story, Wes Welker and the offense never seemed to obtain rhythm. (Although congrats to Welker for becoming New England's all-time leading receiver with 562 receptions by surpassing Patriot's Hall of Fame receiver Troy Brown.) Zoltan Mesko punted 5 times and his blocked kick deep in Patriot territory helped cement a Cardinals touchdown.
While watching this game, you had to wonder why the Patriots didn’t turn to their no huddle offense more often as many of their successful late game drives seemed to come from this attack. (The answer, however, could lay in both a stout Cardinals defense, as well as the Patriot’s offensive inability to capitalize while driving down the field earlier in the game...stop me if I'm stating the obvious, yet again.)
Cardinals Have Some Talent
Not many teams have the defensive personnel to collectively shut down New England’s offense and the offensive weapons to provide themselves with enough scoring opportunities to win. The Cardinals certainly are not as talented as the Patriots, and the jury is still out on what kind of season they will produce with two sub-par quarterbacks, but their playmakers took advantage of a flat New England team today.
Belichick warned that players such as Daryl Washington (13 total tackles), Calais Campbell (10 total tackles, 2 sacks, 3 QB hits), Sam Acho (1 sack, 2 QB hits) Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald could be game changers. He also warned that Arizona's special teams could present a challenge. With the exception of star players Peterson and Fitzgerald, whom the Patriots successfully contained, the rest of this list made an immense impact.
The Patriots, however, did have their missed opportunities, which some might use to validate the loss. (e.g., Brady missed on a deep connection to Rob Grownkowski to put the Patriots up 13-6 at half time and on a two point conversion to tie the game, as well as two late hit penalties against the Patriot's defense that helped set up a Cardinal's score.) However, Arizona made a strong case for winning this one on their own.
The Patriots simply didn't deserve to win and with an 8:20 pm date with the Ravens next Sunday, in Baltimore, they better kick their play into a higher gear.
The Good and The Bad
The good: The Cardinals are not a divisional or AFC opponent. If you are going to lose, lose early in the season to an NFC team that will have no significant impact on your playoff standings (e.g., the Cardinals).
Fun fact: The last time the Patriots lost a home-opener was in 2001 to the Jets 10-3. The end result of their season was a Superbowl victory in the same place the Superbowl will take place this year...New Orleans.
The bad: How will the always steady Stephen Gostkowski respond in Baltimore to his late game missed field goal?
How hurt is their multidimensional weapon Aaron Hernandez? And to think how the “experts” thought the Patriots were stocked with too many Tight Ends…you can ever have to much of a good thing.