Short-handed Patriots surprise the Cardinals
GLENDALE, ARIZ. >> The New England Patriots came to Arizona without Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich and two starters on the defensive line.
And came away 23-21 winners.
"This is awesome," Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan said after Sunday night's win. "I don't even have words to express what this probably means to the whole team. Coming out here, playing on the road in a tough environment against a really good team."
Jimmy Garoppolo , a third-year pro in his first start, completed 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. After Arizona had taken a 21-20 lead, he directed a 13-play, 61-yard drive that ended with Stephen Gostkowsk's 32-yard field goal, what proved to be the game winner with 3:44 to play.
"Jimmy Garoppolo played very, very well," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, "knew he would."
The Cardinals had a chance to win it but Chandler Catanzaro missed a 47-yard field goal with 41 seconds remaining.
It was a tough start to the season for an Arizona team that has made it clear anything short of a Super Bowl would be a disappointment. Quarterback Carson Palmer said his team would bounce back.
"Any time you lose the opener at home, it hurts," he said. "There is too much football ahead of us. There are too many guys that love the game, have the passion for the game and want to win, want to get it right.
Here are some things to consider about the Patriots' Sunday night victory.
LOW SNAP, BIG MISS: The snap on what would have been the game-winning field goal for Arizona was low, the first big moment for the Cardinals' rookie long snapper.
Kameron Canaday won the job late in the preseason to replace longtime snapper Mike Leach, who retired.
"It was a little low," he said. "I wish I could take it back but I can't."
Catanzaro made no excuses.
"I know in my heart I should have made that kick," he said. "So this game falls on me, and I hate it. But I know I'm going to step up when the team needs me next."
RECEIVING DEPTH: Much is made of the Cardinals' depth and talent at receiver, but the Patriots' group isn't bad, either.
And in Gronkowski's absence, several were on hand to help their young quarterback. None was more important than Julian Edelman. Seven times he was Garoppolo's target and he caught all seven.
Hogan had three catches, including a 37-yard touchdown reception. Danny Amendola had three catches, including a 32-yarder.
"Guys stepped up and that is what you have to do in this league," Hogan said. "Injuries are part of the game and people have to step up and I think a lot of guys did that."
AGELESS FITZGERALD: Larry Fitzgerald caught both of Arizona's touchdown passes, the second a marvelous, over-the-shoulder, sliding grab to put the Cardinals up in the fourth quarter.
Entering his 13th NFL season, he finished with eight catches for 81 yards. The last touchdown catch was the 100th of his career, tying him with Hall of Famers Tim Brown and Steve Largent for eighth on the NFL's all-time list.
Fitzgerald also moved past Torry Holt into 14th on the NFL career yards receiving list.
There was a report that Fitzgerald has told people close to him that this would be his last year as a player.
"I don't talk about the future," he said. "What I'm doing next year is of no importance. This is the year and I want to make sure it's a great one."
ON THE RUN: The Patriots kept Arizona running back David Johnson in check most of the night, except for one big play.
On that 45-yard run, Johnson spun away from tacklers at the line of scrimmage, put his hand on the ground to steady himself, then stiff-armed a defender before racing down the field.
"The guy is unbelievable," Fitzgerald said. "He is a guy that can change the complexion of the game in one touch."
The run set up the TD that put Arizona ahead in the fourth quarter.
BELICHICK'S STORY LINE: New England coach Bill Belichick was of no help to the throng of reporters who were looking to build their game stories around Garoppolo.
He was asked his thoughts on Garoppolo being the story line for Monday and whether he was minimizing the young quarterback's play.
"I mean, I'm really, really concerned about the story line," Belichick said with obvious sarcasm. " Like, there's really nothing higher on my list than the story line tomorrow."
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