New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played well enough to lead the team to victory against a strong Arizona Cardinals roster. He wasn’t perfect- he’d love to have a few overthrown passes and his strip sack back- but it was an inspiring first game for a player with a world of pressure on his shoulder.
But don’t ask his teammates or coaches if he exceeded expectations.
Garoppolo "played well enough to win the game,” according to wide receiver Danny Amendola.
“He did his job,” wide receiver Julian Edelman added. “We didn’t turn the ball over necessarily with him, maybe on that sack but, we were able to control the game so that was good.”
When asked about Garoppolo’s poise in the pocket, Belichick gave a patented one-word response: “Good.” When asked to expand, Belichick said that Garoppolo “made some good plays. It's not perfect, but he made a lot of good plays. Like I said, it's a tough place to play and it's a good defense.”
Garoppolo went 24 of 33, for 264 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions, and a 106.1 passer rating against one of the NFL’s top defenses. He didn’t set the league on fire, but was 20 of 26 for 216 yards and a touchdown when he wasn’t pressure, per Pro Football Focus, which is a testament to his ability and to the Patriots game plan.
Belichick also wanted to make it clear that the Patriots didn’t try to oversimplify the offense for Garoppolo.
“We ran what we thought we needed to run to win,” Belichick replied when asked if they coaches watered anything down for Garoppolo. “I don't know what you're talking about. We try to put a game plan together and come down here and win, and that's what we did.”
“There were times when we moved the ball well and executed crisply,” Belichick added. “There were times when we didn't. We just need to be more consistent on that. That's everybody. That's the entire offense, the entire defense. It's early in the year. I'm happy to win. Fortunate to win here tonight. We're going to need to play better next week and succeeding weeks, so that's what we're going to go back and work on.”
Garoppolo will continue to work on making improvements on a weekly basis and I personally think the coaches and the offense want to create an environment where there isn’t any hype for Garoppolo to buy into- not that he doesn’t deserve any, but a hype-less environment should reduce the perceived pressure on Garoppolo’s shoulders.
The defensive players, however, didn’t seem to get the memo.
“He’s incredible,” free safety and captain Devin McCourty said about Garoppolo after the game. “All game he went out there and made the plays he was supposed to make. We knew as a team, we believed in him. There was no doubt in this locker room that Jimmy could go out there and play. I’m happy he went out there, did it, and everyone can shut up now and watch the guy get better and grow and us keep improving as a team in the early part of the season.”
“He’s a confident guy,” edge defender Chris Long added about Garoppolo. “He’s got quiet confidence. Everybody on this team is confident in him. We knew that if we stuck to our game plan we were going to have a chance to win it in the end and he made some really gutsy plays to help us win.”
But despite the praise from the defensive side of the ball, don’t look for Belichick to sing a different tune if Garoppolo keeps playing well. The head coach is interested in keeping everyone on the same page, and that means deflecting possible pressure away from Garoppolo for the time being.
“I mean, I'm really, really concerned about the story line,” Belichick quipped about all the questions about Garoppolo’s performance. “Like, there's really nothing higher on my list than the story line tomorrow. We beat a good team on the road. We've got a lot of work to do. That's all of us: coaching, playing, offense, defense, special teams. That's what I saw in the game. But, I can't wait to read it tomorrow.”
Garoppolo, for his part, is keeping everything in perspective as he prepares for his second NFL start.
“It was a good feeling, it really was,” Garoppolo said about the victory. “[It’s only been] one game right now. We still got a long way to go, moving on to Miami after this flight. It’s a good start to the season. It really is.”
Even if the offense and coaches won’t say it, the Patriots appear to be in great hands with Garoppolo at quarterback.