Patriots Stun Cardinals, Garoppolo Shines in Debut

Sep 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) celebrates after beating the Arizona Cardinals 23-21 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) celebrates after beating the Arizona Cardinals 23-21 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots kicked off their 2016 regular season Sunday night with a shocking upset over the NFC West powerhouse Arizona Cardinals with a 23-21 victory, due to a late game 47 yard field goal miss from Arizona kicker Chandler Catanzaro.

No Tom Brady, no Rob Gronkowski, no Nate Solder, no Rob Ninkovich, no problem, right? Every analyst, insider out their covering the NFL had New England losing this game, and not just by a small margin, they were given no chance. This was a New England Patriots team that entered the game as 9.5-point underdogs, their biggest margin since Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. The Cardinals, if preseason predictions are an indicator, are one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Leading by example was Patriots Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been questioned of his ability and leadership since Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension was reinstated this summer, “Can he lead this team in these first four games, or are we going to suffer from not having Brady?”. Garoppolo did just what doubters said he couldn’t do, he was 24-for-33 with 264 yards passing and a 37 yard strike for a touchdown to Patriots WR Chris Hogan to take the lead in the 1st quarter.

“This is awesome,” Hogan told reporters after the game. “I don’t even have words to express what this probably means to the whole team. Coming out here, playing on the road in a tough environment against a really good team, we were able to really execute out there and just battle the entire four quarters. I am just happy for everyone in here and Jimmy. This is huge.”
Garoppolo’s most impressive drive was his last of the night, with the Patriots down 21-20 with 9 minutes left on the clock we really saw what the 3rd year quarterback out of Eastern Illinois was truly made of. The biggest play of the night was a 3rd & 15 at the Patriots own 20, where if this play doesn’t happen then the probability of the Patriots grinding out a win would have been very slim.

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Garoppolo all night seemed very comfortable in the pocket, he rolled out couldn’t find anyone and made a last second decision and hooked up with Patriots WR Danny Amendola for a 32-yard gain, and more importantly another Patriots 1st down. This play helped New England get into field goal range, where Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski drained a 32-yard FG which more importantly was the deciding factor of the game.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was just the headline of the Patriots success in Sunday night’s opener, their were a lot of good things to come out of the first win of the season.

Offensive Line

The Patriots offensive line Sunday night featured two backup tackles, two rookie guards, and an undrafted center. The note of expectations for this O-line wasn’t a thing Sunday night because their were none. When it all came down to it, they were the deciding factor; they gave Garoppolo plenty of time to pass and have an opportunity to run when nothing was their. Also, they gave RB LeGarrette Blount plenty of room to run when he wasn’t running over people himself. Players who contributed to this offensive line include Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras, David Andrews, and Joe Thuney.

LeGarrette Blount

This guy has been the most consistent running back for the Patriots in the last 3 years, whenever his name is called upon he always delivers. Blount is a very passionate runner, who will run anyone over and attack gaps with aggression when called upon. Outside of a 3rd quarter fumble Sunday night, Blount had a good game to help balance out the offense with 70 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. The man has been committed to this Patriots offense since walking off (literally) the field as a Pittsburgh Steeler back in 2014. Blount eventually was reacquired by New England and won a Super Bowl that year as the starting halfback, he’ll do whatever Coach Belichick tells him to do.

Defensive Line

The question in the first quarter was who is DT Vincent Valentine? Valentine had a huge game up front, with three tackles and a key sack on Arizona QB Carson Palmer. It felt like every stop the Patriots made on defense Sunday night, Valentine was always in the middle of it. Perhaps maybe another one of Belichick’s great finds, but only time will tell. Patriots DE Chris Long, also had a big game. “First and foremost, we had to stop the run,” Long told reporters after the game.

“Maybe we didn’t do that all the time, but we were able to come through and make some big plays when it counted. They’re a really explosive football team, they’re a great football team, and we expected it to be tough, and it was. Long really controlled the Cardinals to stay inside and contributed with 3 tackles and a big sack in crunch time.

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The New England Patriots played a great 60 minutes Sunday night, but with every game their are things to improve on. In terms of ball security, they fumbled the ball three times (Garoppolo, Blount,Bolden) and lost it twice. They lost the turnover battle 2-0 and more then less you usually lose the game if that happens, but their defense bailed them out and that is what great teams do.

Lastly, I know it was Garoppolo’s first career start but when you play a team like the Cardinals you can’t settle for field goals and expect to win big games such as this one. Gostkowski kicked three field goals, and I felt on two of those drives they should of capitalized and scored touchdowns then the game wouldn’t have came down to a last minute field goal try.

The Patriots will now travel back to Foxboro where they will be home next Sunday afternoon against AFC East rival the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins lost a last second heartbreaker to the Seattle Seahawks 12-10, so you know they will be coming in guns blazing as no team wants to start the season 0-2.

Next: Boston Red Sox End Road Trip with a Blast

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