A few thoughts on both the good and bad performances from the Patriots 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Positives:

Run defense, front seven – For the second straight week, the front  seven was tremendous for the Pats. Holding the Cardinals to only 68 yards off 26 carries. Rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower continue to make an impact. The line backing trio of Jerod Mayo, Hightower and Brandon Spikes showed why they could be a force to be reckoned for opposing offenses this season. 

Devin McCourty - The defensive captain played outstanding during Sunday’s contest. Along with him, Sterling Moore and the safeties did a phenomenal job against Fitzgerald; who was held to one catch for 4 yards.

Even though they have faced Jake Locker, Matt Hasselbeck and Kevin Kolb through the first two games – Hasselbeck coming in for Locker after being injured in week one – the unit looks to have improved a bit from last season.

Along those lines, the improved front seven may be a big reason and also, there was really nowhere to go but up from last year’s 31 ranked pass defense. They should be tested against Joe Flacco in Baltimore next Sunday night.


Aaron Hernandez’s ankle injury added salt on the wound to the Patriots 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. (FILE:USPresswire)

Stevan Ridley – He wasn’t sensational, but Ridley was an underrated bright spot in the game. While some thought he played bad, I felt he maximized a large majority of his opportunities, without much help from the offensive line, and continued to illustrate what kind of dynamic presence he brings to the offense. It would have been hard to out do his week one performance, but he flashed for the second week in a row and, more importantly, did not fumble.

Negatives:

Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels - I put this loss on the coaches more than anything. I could rant, but instead I will keep it short and sweet. The leaders of this team didn’t deliver today. Bad decision making, poor preparation and the play calling was atrocious. I expect more from a great offensive mind in McDaniels and arguable the greatest coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick.

Offense – Along with the coaches, I put a large portion of this loss on Tom Brady. For a second week in a row, he didn’t “wow” like one of the league’s best should. As the signal caller and captain, I thought he was very underwhelming. He was 28-of-46 for 316 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he did complete 11-of-15 passes for 125 yards and one score in the Pats’ final three drives. Too little, too late.

After a poor pre-season, the offensive line had a lot to prove when the season started. After a solid week in Tennessee, the line was terrible against the Cardinals. Nearly no push for Ridley, poor protection for Brady and just were manhandled by a very good Arizona defensive line.

Special Teams Unit: The Cardinals are known for a strong special teams unit, but not many people expected them to make an impact like they did on Sunday. While Stephen Gostkowski’s missed game-winning field goal was huge, Arizona linebacker Quentin Groves blocked a punt attempt by Zoltan Mesko in the end zone in the third quarter that was very costly and resulted in a touchdown a few plays later.

Aaron Hernandez’s Ankle: The injury was another tough pill to swallow for Patriots fans. Hernandez was injured on the New England’s third offensive play in the game. While blocking on a screen pass to Julian Edelman, he was hit from behind and was landed, rolled up on. It did not look good when the replays were shown.

He reportedly left the Stadium with crutches and a walking boot on his injured right ankle. He did not comment to the media after the game. While x-rays were negative, early diagnosis is a high ankle sprain which could sideline him from 2-8 weeks. Too early to tell at this point.

Stephen Gostkowski -

As Gostkowski put it post-game, ”As kickers, we know what it’s about when we sign up for this.” After kicking four beautiful field goals from 46, 34, 51, 53 yards to start the game, Gostkowski pulled a 42-yard field goal with one second remaining on the clock.

By no means put this game on him, but the play seemed rushed and perhaps he was feeling too confident. Certainly a glaring mistake, but one of many made by the team Sunday.

Following the game, Gostkowski said, “You get opportunities like that not very often, and I’ve got to do a lot better job of coming through for the team,”. “We had a chance to win, and it came down to me, and I didn’t pull through. It stinks, and I feel bad for the fans and my teammates.”

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