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Patriots Back On Winning Track, For Now

Bob George
Bob George on Twitter
December 13, 2022 at 12:39 am ET

Patriots Back On Winning Track, For Now(PHOTO: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Dec 13, 2022 12:39
🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Yes, the Patriots won, but you still don’t really feel good about your team.

Let’s say Kyler Murray doesn’t go out with a knee injury after the third play from scrimmage. How differently do things turn out?

Mac Jones was able to find some receivers at times during the game, but it was rushing touchdowns and a defense that fared very well against backup quarterback Colt McCoy that carried the evening for the Patriots. The Patriots moved back into playoff contention with a 27-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night at State Farm Stadium. The Patriots are now 7-6, in third place in the AFC East, and currently hold the seventh and final playoff seed, leapfrogging past the Chargers and Jets in the process.

Both teams were hit by the injury bug in the Monday night game. Murray’s injury, which is feared to be a torn ACL which will end his season, was the most damaging. But Davante Parker left with a head injury after the first quarter, Rhamondre Stevenson left with an ankle injury, and Jack Jones also departed the contest in the first quarter. Other players suffered temporary injuries but managed to return to the game.

The Patriots were left with rookie running backs Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris, and each player scored his first NFL rushing touchdown in the game. Jones finished with 24 of 35 passing for 235 yards and an interception, but zero touchdown passes. He finished with a rating of 75.3. Eight different receivers had at least one catch for the Patriots, with Hunter Henry leading the team with 70 receiving yards thanks largely to a 39-yard right seam pass reception which set up the game’s final touchdown, a three-tard run by Strong.

But overall, Jones still is not in a rhythm, he still has substandard blocking for the most part, was sacked once for a ten-yard loss, and once again was caught on camera yelling at assistant head coach Matt Patricia. Later on, Jones was making nice with Patricia, but Jones is still a frustrated quarterback. The Patriots were able to win by two touchdowns because the Cardinals are a 4-9 team with a bigger injury situation than the Patriots.

Murray’s injury made things much easier for the Patriot defenders, who were able to tee off on McCoy and sack him six times during the game. James Conner and DeAndre Hopkins were basically the entire offense for the Cardinals, and while these two guys are among the top offensive weapons in the league when they are right, the Patriots were able to handle both guys without Murray to worry about.

Hopkins led the Cardinals with seven catches for 79 yards, but one of those receptions wound up turning the game for the Patriots. With 5:32 left in the third quarter in a 13-13 tie, the Cardinals had first and ten at their own 18. McCoy hit Hopkins on a right crossing pattern, but did a poor job in securing the football. Hopkins ran across the formation, then was clobbered by Kyle Dugger and fumbled. Raekwon McMillian picked up the ball and raced in for a 23-yard scoop and score.

To put it in basketball terms, the Patriots went on a 20-0 run to end the game. The McMillian fumble return put the Patriots ahead for good.

Josh Uche led the Patriots with three sacks, followed by Matt Judon (1.5), Daniel Ekuale (1) and Lawrence Guy (.5). Marcus Jones had an interception, with 1:14 left in the third quarter on the drive which followed the McMillian scoop and score.

The only touchdown allowed by the defense was a 10-yard run by Conner in the second quarter, as he was able to drag about three tacklers into the end zone. Conner finished with 85 rushing yards and a 5.7 per carry average. He was difficult to tackle all night long, as he looked much more powerful and physical than he did when he was with the Steelers early in his career.

Strong, meanwhile, led the Patriots with 70 yards rushing on five carries. One of those five carries was a 44-yard run, but that means that he averaged just over four yards a carry with his other four carries. He completed the scoring with a three-yard run in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots had to win this game badly, and did. But they won against a wounded Cardinals team that is not one of the elite teams in the NFL. Right now, the Patriots are giving you occasional illusions of greatness, but their wins this year have mostly been against teams with issues, and that they have had problems with great to elite teams. Their last four games are against Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Miami and Buffalo. The best the Patriots can do is 11-6 if they run the table. Right now, they are one game behind Miami in the AFC East, who lost to the Chargers on Sunday out in California. They get the Dolphins at home on the next to last weekend.

The Patriots will remain in the western USA, then head up to play the Raiders in Las Vegas. It will be the first Patriot game ever in the state of Nevada. The Patriots will get a reunion with beleaguered head coach/former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. They will see how the defense handles the Fresno State connection of Derek Carr and Davante Adams. Jones will probably get introduced to someone named Maxx Crosby.

This is another game the Patriots should, and had better, win. Yes, it is on the road and McDaniels will have a good handle on how to handle Jones and the dysfunctional Patriot offense. But the Raiders have suffered some horrific losses this year. This game may be more about exposing McDaniels once again as nothing more than an offensive coordinator who is miscast as a head coach. And Patriot Nation will be left wondering why McDaniels didn’t just stay put. It pains you the Patriot fan to ponder this issue.

No matter, the Patriots won, and we’re on to Vegas. And worry about the other three opponents when it is the right time to do so.

Five Thoughts Following the Patriots’ Win Over the Cardinals

About Bob George

Covering Boston Sports since 1997. Native of Worcester, Mass. Attended UMass and Univ of Michigan. Lives in California. Just recently retired after 40 years of public school teaching. Podcasts on YouTube at @thepic4139

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