The Patriots moved to 7-6 on the season after winning on “Monday Night Football” over the Cardinals, 27-13. The victory not only pushed New England back above . 500, but placed it in seventh place in the AFC playoff picture, skipping the Chargers and Jets.
This was a game riddled with a wide range of injuries, but none more noteworthy than Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. He suffered a non-contact knee injury in only the third game of the game and needed to be taken off the field.Murray is feared to have torn his anterior cruciate ligament, which will end his season if/when an MRI confirms. That would push Colt McCoy into the starting position under center as if it were Monday night.
Under duress, McCoy was solid and helped Arizona jump to a field goal before halftime. With back-to-back possessions caught in the first half that yielded field goals, New England nailed things down at 13 early in the second half, but it was largely another stuttering outing on the offensive side of the ball. Patriots.
However, their defense was able to propel them to victory after they hit back-to-back turnovers at the end of the third quarter. The first was a Kyle Dugger forced on DeAndre Hopkins that was caught by Raekwon McMillan and returned 29 yards for a touchdown to go up 20-13. On the Cardinals’ next possession, Josh O’Shea knocked McCoy off his path and he fell into the arms of rookie Marcus Jones. After that, the offense put together a five-play, 63-yard drive, headlined by a 39-yard reception from Hunter Henry to put up two scores on the way to victory.
Mac Jones was 24 of 35 on the night for 235 yards and an interception. With the backfield fumbled, freshmen Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris picked up the slack, each being able to find the end zone. On the Arizona side, McCoy finished with 246 yards and 27 interceptions of 40 passes. James Conner rushed 15 times for 85 yards and a touchdown.
For a more in-depth breakdown of how this game will evolve, check out our takeaways below.
Why did the Patriots win?
For the most part of this game, it seemed like the offense was once again New England’s demise. There were a number of questionable play calls, including a first half with 10 seconds remaining in the first half that nearly resulted in a turnover that would have killed a scoring opportunity. There were also times in this game when Mac Jones was visibly frustrated with how the offense worked.
All that said, it’s amazing how a few key defensive plays can not only turn the script around this game, but also lighten the mood on the New England sidelines. In the second half, the Patriots defense swept Arizona’s offense and put pressure on Colt McCoy. As a team, New England collected six sacks, half of which came from linebacker Josh O’Shea. Matt Goodon has also been a mainstay in the Cardinals’ backyard, adding 1.5 sacks to his already high career totals.
This relentless pressure helped to shut down in the second half and also contributed to one of the key turnarounds in this game. After a forced Dodger fumble on Hopkins and the ball scored by McMillan, Uchi was able to quickly pressure McCoy on the ensuing possession. He came hurling from the left side of the line and hit McCoy just as he was trying to hit Hopkins on a deep left side ball. This deflected the ball and it landed in the arms of Marcus Jones to set up a final drive and complete the 14-point swing. New England has now scored 85 points on its turnover this season, the most in the NFL.
While the offense still needed to get into a better rhythm the entire game, the touchdown drive after an interception by Jones was a promising move. The key play on that drive was Hunter Henry’s uncharacteristically – if welcome – deep kick of 39 yards that put them inside the 5-yard line. If they can start to get more of those deep shots into their offense, it will go a long way in helping New England get into the postseason.
Another note regarding the offense: With Damien Harris (groin) previously ruled out for this game and Ramondry Stephenson (ankle) out of the contest early, New England has seen rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. get big. Both first year running backs found the end zone and totaled 96 yards rushing on a 7.3 yard per carry average.
Why did the Cardinals lose?
Of course, it’s never ideal to lose a quarterback to injury just three games into a game, but this game was winnable for Arizona even with Colt McCoy under the center position. He was able to move the ball against that Patriots defense early, but couldn’t completely put them away, scoring a touchdown on just one of the three red zone drives in the first half.
In the dying seconds of the first half, Cliff Kingsbury continued his theme of being hyper-aggressive on fourth down and kept his offense on the field with 36 seconds left at the New England 32-yard line. McCoy had Trey McBride open in the flat for a first down, but the veteran kicker didn’t get enough of the ball, allowing Patriots’ Jahlani Tavai to turn it over and force a turnover on downs. That gave the ball back to the Patriots, who quickly moved down the field and kicked a field goal to pull within three. This missed opportunity on fourth down at the end of the second quarter did not dissuade Kingsbury from pushing the envelope on fourth down on the team’s next possession, which he also failed to convert.
It was after that point when the Patriots defense put the clamps on the Cardinals and they began producing turnovers that propelled them to victory.
On top of some questionable decisions on crucial runs and poor play along the offensive line, the Cardinals were largely undisciplined. They were called to eight penalties, with a few key plays erased early, including an illegal turnover that removed a third and 13-run conversion by Hopkins on the second possession of the night. The offense effectively killed the drive.
The main swing of this game was no doubt Hopkins fumbled and returned for a touchdown. Just before that, the Cardinals defense forced a three-goal Patriots rushing offense that lasted just over 90 seconds, and felt like New England was flailing on the internal burn. However, this scoop and score from McMillan gave the club new life and sparked a 14-0 run that would allow the Patriots to win.
Hopkins was very sloppy in his handling of the football at the fumble, holding the ball in one hand and extending his arm wide from his chest. This allowed Dugger plenty of room to get it free.
Play the game
James Conner’s 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter might get lost in the heat of defeat, but it was a massive display of strength on the part of the veteran linebacker. He took first and goal from the 10-yard line in the gut, and looked like he was going to be stopped for minimal gain, meeting a group of white jerseys around the line of scrimmage. However, Conner had other plans, and decided to make his way to the end zone, taking Patriots safety Devin McCourty with him.
From here, the Cardinals will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos, who currently have starting quarterback Russell Wilson on concussion protocol. Meanwhile, the Patriots will stay out of the West, as they are scheduled to take on the Raiders in Las Vegas next Sunday.