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5 instant observations from Patriots 23-21 victory over the Cardinals

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Here’s what we learned from the Patriots stunning victory.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo can carry this Patriots offense

Garoppolo played without TE Rob Gronkowski, without LT Nate Solder, without a healthy right guard, and he looked good against a great Cardinals defense. Garoppolo finished the day 24 of 33 (72.7%) for 264 yards and a touchdown. He was decisive, he was smooth in the pocket, and he was calm in the clutch. AND HE DID IT WITHOUT THE BEST SKILL PLAYER ON THE PATRIOTS ROSTER. Garoppolo is well on his way to netting the Patriots a first round pick (or two) next offseason.

RB LeGarrette Blount is a great runner, again

Blount collected 70 yards and a touchdown, but it was his energy that stood out to me. He was playing with strength and quickness that he did not show last year. He was bouncing outside to pick up extra yards, like he always does, but he was also lowering his shoulder and driving through the defender in between the tackles. If he can play this well for the rest of the season, then the Patriots will have a viable rushing attack.

The offensive line is still struggling

Rookie left guard Joe Thuney might have been the only player not to stand out, which is a good sign for his performance. Both tackles Cameron Fleming and Marcus Cannon struggled with the Cardinals pass rush, while the right guard position struggled as Shaq Mason took the field over rookie Ted Karras. David Andrews was fine, but he was called for a bad tripping call. The return of Solder should fix some problems, but this group still needs a lot of work.

The defense needs to force more turnovers

The Cardinals forced two turnovers, while the Patriots forced zero. That was the whole difference. Garoppolo, Blount, and Brandon Bolden all put the ball on the ground, which is unacceptable, while Bolden was able to fall on his drop. These plays can’t happen, especially when the margin of error is so slim. The Cardinals collected two turnovers on the Patriots side of the field and managed to score on both of them.

On defense, the Patriots managed to get their hands on a few footballs, but they were unable to bring them in. They’ll do some hands drills this week.

Larry Fitzgerald is a freak

Fitzgerald picked up 8 catches for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns, including 46 yards on the Cardinals’ final drive. The Patriots matched Logan Ryan up on Fitzgerald for most of the night and, honestly, Ryan did a great job. There were just things that couldn’t be stopped, like a rub route in the end zone, or a fade with Fitz on his back, or crossers with Fitz diving towards the sideline. You just have to respect his game.