The New England Patriots appeared to travel down a familiar rabbit hole: they had the ball with a chance to take a late lead agains the visiting Arizona Cardinals but committed a costly turnover. With the Cardinals not capitalizing on Cam Newton’s second interception of the day, the Patriots’ quarterback instead led the team on a game-winning march that was capped by a 50-yard field goal from Nick Folk.
Patriots (5-6) 20 : 17 Cardinals (6-5)
The Patriots started the game on offense and in the worst possible fashion: after gaining only minimal yardage on back-to-back rushing attempts, Cam Newton’s arm was hit on a third-down pass and the football ended up in the arms of Arizona linebacker Markus Golden.
As a result of the takeaway, the Cardinals started their first possession at the New England 23-yard line and it took them just three plays to reach the end zone: Kenyan Drake scored from one yard out to give the visitors an early lead. [Patriots 0 : 7 Cardinals]
New England’s second drive went only marginally better than the first one. While the team did not turn the football over, it struggled mightily on first and second down to continuously put the offense behind the sticks and in unfavorable third down situations. While the first two were converted courtesy of a defensive penalty and a well-executed screen pass to Damiere Byrd, the third was not.
While Jake Bailey’s ensuing punt was well-placed and had the Cardinals start at their own 3-yard line, the team’s offense had no trouble getting the football out of unfavorable field position and into New England territory. At that point, however, the Patriots’ defense was able to create some pressure on Kyler Murray to force back-to-back incompletions and a 47-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good, though, further increasing Arizona’s lead. [Patriots 0 : 10 Cardinals]
What followed was the Patriots’ best kickoff return of the season: practice squad elevatee Donte Moncrief fielded the kick at the 1-yard line and took it 53 yards to the Arizona side of the field. The offense subsequently drove all the way to the Cardinals’ 8-yard line before the end of the first quarter
The Patriots started the second period with an unsuccessful run by Gunner Olszewski on third down, but kept their offense on the field to attempt a 4th-and-2 — a good decision. Cam Newton pitched the ball to James White, who was able to not only gain enough yards to move the sticks but also to score his first touchdown of the season:
Nick Folk split the uprights on the ensuing extra point as well, bringing the Patriots within three points. [Patriots 7 : 10 Cardinals]
New England’s solid complementary play continued on Arizona’s next drive. While the team did gain a pair of first downs, the Patriots’ young defensive core — Kyle Dugger, Josh Uche and Chase Winovich — made three strong plays in a row to force the Cardinals’ first punt of the afternoon. The Patriots’ offense, however, was unable to take advantage and after only one first down had to punt the football away again.
Following Jake Bailey’s punt of 52 net yards, New England came close to forcing a three-and-out. However, Kyler Murray and company were able to keep the series alive and drive all the way to the Patriots’ 1-yard line after converting two additional third downs. On 4th-and-goal just inches from the end zone, however, the series came to an end when Lawrence Guy and Ja’Whaun Bentley collapsed the line of scrimmage to keep Kenyan Drake out of the end zone as time expired on the first half.
After stopping Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense to end the second quarter, the Patriots defense did the same to open the third. In the process, it set up another big special teams play — one that could very well have ended with a touchdown: Gunner Olszewski broke free on the ensuing punt return but a rather questionable blindside block penalty against Anfernee Jennings took the score off the board. Still, Olszewski’s 43-yard runback still set New England up in Arizona territory.
The Patriots’ offense also looked good coming out of the half and quickly found itself in a goal-to-go situation. The series stalled at that point, however, with Nick Folk being brought onto the field to tie the game from 22 yards out. [Patriots 10 : 10 Cardinals]
Despite being stopped inside the Cardinals’ 5-yard line on the previous series, momentum continued to reside on the Patriots’ side of the ball. After allowing Arizona to gain seven yards on the first two plays of the next drive, Adam Butler was able to deflect a third down pass that eventually ended up in the arms of Adrian Phillips for an interception:
The Patriots quickly took advantage of the takeaway, driving 31 yards in six plays — all of them runs. The final one, on a 3rd-and-goal from the Cardinals 1-yard line, came once again via James White: the veteran back was able to get to the edge and into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day.
The ensuing extra point was good to give the Patriots a seven-point lead late in the third period. [Patriots 17 : 10 Cardinals]
New England’s defense followed up the touchdown with an impressive drive of its own. After an incompletion and a short pass, Adam Butler burst through the line on third down to force a quick three-and-out — one that gave the Patriots possession at their own 44-yard line. The offense failed to take advantage this time, however, and New England also had to send its punt team onto the field after just three plays.
While the Patriots defense had some impressive drives in the late third quarter, it allowed Arizona to go the length of the field to open the fourth. Along the way, the Cardinals converted a 4th-and-5 on a holding call against Jason McCourty to set them up in a goal-to-go situation. New England’s defense was able to get a stop earlier in the game finding itself a similar spot, but this time the opponent scored a game-tying touchdown when Kenyan Drake broke the plane from one yard out. [Patriots 17 : 17 Cardinals]
With eight minutes remaining in the game, New England had a chance to drive for the lead and take some time off the clock to minimize Arizona’s chances. Instead, the Patriots’ turnover issues reared their ugly head again: Cam Newton attempted to hook up with Damiere Byrd on a 2nd-and-15 but instead threw a bad pass that was picked off by Dre Kirkpatrick to set the Cardinals up near midfield.
Taking over possession with under five minutes to go in the game, all the Cardinals had to do was drive into field goal range and milk the clock. They did both, but still failed to take a late lead: Zane Gonzalez missed a 45-year field goal attempt wide to the right. This mistake allowed the Patriots to take over at their own 35 with 1:47 left in the game — and this time they were perfect.
With a 14-yard run by Cam Newton on 3rd-and-13 as the biggest play of the drive, the Patriots’ starting QB led his troops into Nick Folk’s field goal range. And juste like in Week 9 against the New York Jets, the veteran kicker was money when it mattered most:
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