The New England Patriots lost the opening coin toss against Arizona and QB Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense elected to receive the kick off. The Cardinals wanted to grab an early lead to force Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo to play from behind.
Well, the Cardinals started the game with a huge score and the Patriots never recov- wait, sorry, never mind, I wrote this before the game started.
The Patriots defense absolutely stuffed the Cardinals offense on the opening drive and Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots offense took over. Garoppolo connected with WR Julian Edelman on 3 receptions for 38 yards, and then dropped an absolute dime to WR Chris Hogan for a 37-yard touchdown reception.
The Patriots defense did another great job of stifling the Cardinals offense to get the ball back to Garoppolo and company on the 8-yard line. Garoppolo hit RB James White for a 21-yard gain and the Patriots offense chipped their way to the Cardinals 29 yard line before stalling out. K Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 47-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead.
The Patriots were 10 point underdogs, which made this lead fairly significant.
Of course, not everything was great. The Cardinals finally put together a good drive (translated: RB David Johnson picked up 42 yards) and made their way to field goal range on the Patriots 32-yard line...but then ED Chris Long registered an 8-yard sack to knock Arizona out of field goal range and force a punt.
Garoppolo led another drive, but was strip sacked around midfield with old friend Chandler Jones recovering the ball on the Patriots 40-yard line. The Cardinals decided to just run the ball against the Patriots, all the way down to the goal line. Palmer connected with WR Larry Fitzgerald for a 3-yard touchdown pass as the Patriots lead narrowed to 10-7.
If there was a positive to take from the drive, it was that the Cardinals needed an incredible 11 plays to move 47 yards. It’s extremely difficult to sustain drives, so even though the Patriots couldn’t conjure a stop, the defense proved stout.
The Patriots started their next drive with 4 minutes on the clock, but a Brandon Bolden fumble- which he recovered- prevented the offense from moving down the field. New England punted the ball back to the Cardinals with two minutes on the clock.
But then the Cardinals decided to throw three straight passes, including one that was beautifully broken up by CB Justin Coleman, so the Patriots got the ball back on the 31-yard line with 1:24 left in the half and three time outs.
To cap off an ugly close to the half, David Andrews and Shaq Mason were flagged for penalties that forced a 3rd and 23 situation where the Cardinals would stop the clock and force the Patriots to punt back to the Cardinals- but the Patriots forced a sack on the very first play and drained the clock to half time.
After a great first quarter, the offense started playing sloppy football with penalties and fumbles galore. Head coach Bill Belichick will need to refocus the offense for the second half.
The Patriots will receive the ball after the half.