In a shocker the Arizona Cardinals came into Gillette Stadium and walked away with a 20-18 win over the New England Patriots. It was the first home opening loss in Gillette Stadium history, but as a silver lining the last time the Patriots lost a home opener was 2001, a year they won the Super Bowl. Despite looking out of sync on offense all game long, Stephen Gostkowski had a 42-yard field goal with one second remaining to give the Patriots the win, but he missed it wide left.
Here are five observations from the game:
Poor play calling
After what was an outstanding Week 1 for Josh McDaniels, he was not very good in Week 2. There were plenty of puzzling calls including runs on third and short in the fourth quarter even when the Patriots were trailing by double digits. The run-pass wasn’t as balanced as last week against Tennessee, but a lot of that can be attributed to the Patriots trailing the majority of the game. In 74 total plays there were 46 passes and 28 runs. The offense was clearly out of sync for most of the first three quarters. When the unit started going to more of a hurry up, fast paced tempo things seemed to be pick up, but then a draw play would be mixed in slowing everything down. It was very confusing seeing numerous running plays considering they were having trouble running the ball and have such weapons as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker in the passing game. A more passing focused attack, might have given the Patriots a better chance of winning the game.
The Patriots now have to adjust to life without Aaron Hernandez. (FILE:USPresswire)
How valuable is Aaron Hernandez?
The Patriots offense looked outstanding last week, but then once Aaron Hernandez went down with an apparent ankle injury early in the first quarter things took a turn for the worse as the offense looked completely out of sync until late in the fourth quarter. Obviously Hernandez was a major part of the game plan and the Patriots needed to adjust on the fly, but it took almost three and a half quarters for them to fully adjust. On third and short plays that normally would be targeted towards Hernandez, were runs and were not very successful. Overall on third down the Patriots were 5-for-15, which does not meet Patriots standards. Another player who may have been affected was tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski only had one catch for two yards until the fourth quarter. Having Hernandez on the field at the same time could certainly help free up Gronkowski, but does Hernandez really make that much of a difference that he only had one catch in the first three quarters before finishing with six for 75 yards and a touchdown? Early reports are indicating Hernandez will miss about six weeks with a severely sprained ankle, so the Patriots will need to find a way to win without him for sometime.
Don’t blame the defense
For those looking to blame the defense for the Patriots’ 20-18 loss to the Cardinals, don’t even think about it. While the group wasn’t as dominant as last week against the Titans they certainly played well enough to win and kept the Patriots in the game. Look at starting field possession for the Cardinals on their scoring drives. Two of the four scoring drives covered ten yards or less following the Tom Brady interception in the first quarter and then the blocked punt in the third quarter. The defense only gave up 245 yards of total offense, 140 passing and 105 rushing. Jerod Mayo once again led the defense with nine tackles followed by Brandon Spikes who had a very good all around game with seven tackles. He also forced the fumble under a minute to go, which gave Gostkowski the chance at the game-winner. Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower both delivered solid performances in their second career NFL games finishing with five tackles apiece.
Offensive line not as impressive as Week 1
After having a very good opening week to the season the offensive line may have taken a step back in Week 2. The Patriots ran for 90 yards on the ground, but what hurt them most was the failure to convert on running plays from third and short. Some of the blame on those plays has to go to the offensive line. The right side of the line struggled especially, which was Donald Thomas at guard and Donald Thomas/Sebastian Vollmer rotating at tackle. Tight end Michael HoomanawanuiÂ can also be added to the list as he struggled blocking as well. Brady was under pressure most of the game with most of the rush coming thru the right side of the offensive line. Brady was sacked four times and was hit six. The constant pressure got into Brady’s head as he did not look very comfortable in the pocket all game long, sometimes ducking in the pocket when he didn’t need to and had very happy feet while searching for open receivers. Brady finished the day going 28-of-46 for 316 yards while throwing one touchdown and one interception. It was Brady’s first ever loss in a home opener and is now 35-2 all-time as a starter at Gillette Stadium. The poor offensive line play had a lot to do with Brady and the Patriots’ off day.
The Patriots deserved to lose
Following the game many people were quick to blame Gostkowski for the loss as he missed the game-winning field goal, but what people are forgetting is he made four of five field goals including ones from 51 and 53 yards and also the Patriots really should never have gotten the ball back in field goal range. Ryan Williams’ fumble with less then a minute remaining was a miracle for the Patriots as all the Cardinals needed to do was run the clock down which would have meant punting and giving the ball back to the Patriots with about 20 seconds remaining in their own end. The same people have expressed their displeasure for the officials after a Danny Woodhead touchdown was called back for a holding penalty on Gronkowski with less than a minute remaining. After seeing the replay it definitely could have been called holding. While worse things have gone uncalled, it was a holding penalty nonetheless. For how badly the Patriots played for the first three quarters, they had no business winning the game. They have had games like this in each of the previous seasons including the 34-31 loss to the Bills last year and the 34-14 loss to the Browns the year before. The Patriots will bounce back and will use this game as motivation for the rest of the year.