This game was an epic back and forth battle that the Patriots desperately needed to win, with their slim playoff hopes on life support at 4-6. The Cardinals then decided to turn into Santa Clause a month early and blew multiple chances to win the game at the end of each half. Thank you Arizona for choking away this game!
The first half started off ugly, with Cam Newton getting picked on the 3rd play of the game thanks to a heavy blitz from the Cardinals defense. Arizona responded by punching it with a Kenyan Drake 1 yard touchdown. Following a New England punt, Kyler Murray led a scoring drive that ended in a field goal and suddenly the Cardinals were off and running up 10-0. Giving up 86 yards on 15 plays wasn’t good but they did start getting pressure in the backfield and that was crucial to keeping the Cardinals off the scoreboard the rest of the half.
Meanwhile, the Patriots got a huge boost from an unexpected source when new receiver Donte Moncrief returned a kickoff 53 yards to the Arizona 46 yard line. Seven plays later the Patriots cashed in the great field position with a huge 4th down conversion. Newton took the snap, faked like he was gonna keep it, tossed it to RB James White, who bounced outside and took it 7 yards for the score. This was White’s first touchdown this year.
Each team then exchanged punts but then the Cardinals found themselves driving down the field on a 6 minute drive and they even got help from a ridiculous throw by Kyler Murray. I’m still trying to figure out how this back peddling throw was made. There was even great pressure by New England’s front seven but Murray’s magic struck again, as he somehow found TE Dan Arnold for this 17 yard miracle throw. Wow!
But New England’s defense was unfazed as with 2 seconds left, the Cardinals had 4th and goal at the 1 with 0:03 left in the half. The Cardinals foolishly tried to run right into the teeth of New England’s defense and they were stuffed for the biggest goal line stand of the season. I have no problem declaring this play as the biggest defensive play of the season (for New England). They need to keep it a one score game to keep it a one score game and that’s exactly what happened. Shoutout to Akeem Spence and Ja’Whaun Bentley for combining on the huge stop. Talk about a huge momentum shift.
The second half looked like it was getting off to an explosive start for the Patriots. Their defense forced a punt and then got a huge 82 yard punt return TD from WR Gunner Olszewski. Unfortunately it was nullified by a controversial block in the back. Instead the Patriots had to settle for a game tying field goal. I was left shaking my head but not for long.
The Patriots defense delivered a killer blow to the Cardinals with an interception by Adrian Phillips, which was caused by a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage. This made me ecstatic as I had called out this defense for not getting enough pressure all season, but boy did they deliver. The offense had no trouble reaching the end zone 6 plays later, when James White took another pitch from Newton and ran around the outside edge of Arizona’s defense for a 1 yard touchdown. This was a great play call, as it looked like Arizona was ready for a QB sneak. This was the first lead of the game (17-10) for the Patriots and they had all the momentum heading into the final quarter, up by 7.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals stole the momentum right back with a 16 play, 78 yard game tying drive. Penalties killed the Patriots on this drive, including two inside the red zone. Drake took advantage of this and punched in his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon with 8:02 left in the game. The pressure was back on Cam Newton and unfortunately he made a back breaking mistake. His interception on the next drive was a bad throw where Damiere Bryd was blanketed in coverage by CB Dre Kirkpatrick and the Cardinals had the ball back at the New England 47. That play simply can’t happen after the Cardinals offense just had a long drive. Throwing the ball away would have been the smarter decision.
Luckily for the Patriots, kicker Zane Gonzales picked the worst possible time to miss a 4th quarter field goal. It was Cam’s time for redemption and all they had to do was get into field goal range to have a chance to win the game. The Cardinals continued to self-destruct in the final minutes with a late hit on a 3rd down run by Cam and it set up Nick Folk to be a hero…again. Folk shows Gonzales and the Cardinals how it’s done and nails a 50 yard field goal as time expires. To say I’m thankful to have him on our team, is an understatement. Congrats to Nick Folk on making 19 straight field goals!
The Patriots improved to 5-6, despite Cam Newton completing just 50% of his passes, throwing for 84 yards and getting intercepted twice. While those numbers aren’t impressive, he was responsible for the biggest third down conversion of the game and as mentioned before got help from a late hit to add 15 more yards and put the Pats in field goal range. He only completed passes to 3 receivers but two huge special teams plays, which led to 10 points, made a huge difference. When you struggle to move the ball, getting help from other parts of the team is always good.
Speaking of that, New England’s defense showed huge improvements today too. That goal line stand at the end of the first half took points off the board and was a huge confidence boost to a team that had trouble stopping high powered offense on a consistent basis this season. They had trouble stopping the Cardinals running game late but their ability to create pressure was my biggest takeaway. I mean yes they only sacked Murray twice but there were plenty of other times they were in his face as he was about to fire the ball down field. They didn’t allow him to get a passing touchdown, held him to just 31 yards rushing and 170 passing and kept him uncomfortable in the pocket at key moments.
Great job by Stephon Gilmore to hold all world receiver DeAndre Hopkins to just 5 catches for 55 yards. He did have a couple of penalties that lead to the final Arizona score but otherwise did his job. New England has now committed 13 penalties in two weeks and that needs to stop quickly with the competition in the next 4 weeks getting tougher. Despite that, this game showed the football world that once again, you can never count this team out. Sometimes you win ugly and that’s just fine. A win is a win, period.
Next up for the Patriots is a battle in LA with the Chargers (3-8), who have struggled to be consistent all season. This is a perfect opportunity to prove this team belongs in the playoff conversation and clean up the recurring mistakes that have made Patriots fans want to pull out their hair on a weekly basis. This team has a lot of fight in them and is clearly well coached. That’s a dangerous combination to face. regardless of your team’s record. Now let me be clear about something, in no way am i saying that this team will make the playoffs, but there is a small sliver of hope and with the way 2020 is going, anything is possible. At worst, we can ruin other teams chances to get far in the playoffs or knock them down in the playoff standings and give their opponents a blueprint to victory.
Tune in next Sunday at 4:25 pm on CBS for their matchup against rookie sensation Justin Herbert. Herbert has a lot to prepare for going against an always tough Bill Belichick defense and his record against rookie signal callers speaks for itself.
What did you think of this unexpected upset? Leave your thoughts below or on the CruelFan Facebook page.
By: Whitney Dowds CruelFan.com