The New England Patriots were 9.5-point underdogs against the Arizona Cardinals since they were playing without QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski, two of the ten most talented players in the entire NFL. The Patriots won 23-21. Here are our winners and losers from the game.
Winner: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo was 24 of 33 (72.7%) on the night for 264 yards and a touchdown. He connected on deep passes, he showed great touch on short passes, he showed poise in the pocket, he avoided much of the pressure, and he even caught his own pass for three yards. While he was strip sacked, the positives far out-weighed the negatives. Garoppolo and the Patriots offense will be fine moving forward.
Winners: WRs Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan
Edelman collected 7 receptions on 7 targets for 66 yards. Hogan snagged 3 receptions, 60 yards, and a touchdown on 4 targets. Both players were extremely involved in the offense as they, along with rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell, led the offensive skill players in snaps. Edelman looked as healthy as ever and Hogan seems like a perfect match with the offense. These two should be fun to watch, along with Rob Gronkowski, for the rest of the season.
Losers: Patriots offensive line
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and company utilized a quick passing attack to compensate for the weak line, but it wasn’t always enough. The line was called for four penalties, tackles Cameron Fleming and Marcus Cannon really struggled with the Arizona pass rush (and Cannon was spotted on a cart after the game), and right guard Ted Karras was benched for Shaq Mason and his broken hand. Joe Thuney was fine, as was David Andrews, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Winner: RB LeGarrette Blount
Blount had an absolutely ugly fumble that never should have happened, and one that could have been a key turning point if the Patriots lost the game. But he picked up 70 yards and a touchdown against a strong Cardinals defensive front and he was running harder than ever before. He’ll be a treat to watch once Nate Solder returns to the line-up and Mason regains his health.
Loser: Turnover margin
The Patriots posted a -2 turnover margin. Teams that lose the turnover margin by 2 or more have only won 13.5% of games over the past five seasons. The offense needs to work on ball security, while the defense needs to work on bringing down the turnover opportunities.
Loser: Finishing drives
The Patriots ventured into Cardinals territory on five of their nine drives. They left with two touchdowns and three field goals. While that’s still a good rate, the Patriots will have to leave with more touchdowns than field goals- although I’m sure the return of Gronkowski will change the calculus in the future.
Winner: ED Chris Long
Long collected two sacks on the day and was a stout run defender. After two years of injury-plagued play, Long appears to have regained his old form and was a dominant asset on the edge of the line. He, along with Jabaal Sheard and Trey Flowers, should cause nightmares for opposing defenses.
Loser: CB Logan Ryan
I don’t blame Ryan for anything, but he was along for the ride for much of Larry Fitzgerald’s spectacular 8 catch, 81 yards, and 2 touchdowns game.
Winner: Patriots 2017 draft picks
I’m thinking way ahead, but this performance should be enough to put Garoppolo on the radar of every team looking for a quarterback after this year- like the 49ers and the Browns. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots were able to land a first round pick for Garoppolo if he puts together another great performance, or two, and there is room for more picks. This was a big day for the Patriots front office.
Losers: Rest of the AFC East
The Bills lost to the Ravens. The Dolphins lost to the Seahawks. The Jets lost to the Bengals. The Patriots, without Brady or Gronkowski, went on the road to face the Cardinals and left with a victory. New England has sole possession of first place in the AFC East. The rest of the division will have to look up and see that they squandered a major opportunity to close the gap while Brady was still sidelined.