By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 23-21 Patriots: That was a wild sequence. The Cardinals were in field-goal range but then made an ill-advised decision to pass. The incompletion stopped the clock, but a holding penalty backed them out of field-goal range.
The Patriots looked to have regained the upper hand, but Brown came up with a big gain on third down to get back into field goal range.
After some confusion on timeouts, the Cardinals’ field goal unit took the field, and a bad snap doomed the home team. Chandler Catanzaro missed it wide left, and the Patriots are 1-0.
That was a spectacular football game.
Fourth quarter, 1:59, 23-21 Patriots: It’s not looking great for the Patriots, thanks to Larry Fitzgerald.
After starting on the 8-yard line following a holding penalty on the kick return, Palmer hit Fitzgerald over the middle. Fitzgerald proved un-tackleable, and he ran free for 21 yards. Two plays later, Fitzgerald again, this time for 15. And three plays later on third down, Fitzgerald got open again, bringing in a 10-yard catch to get the Cards in field-goal range.
With three timeouts, the Patriots can get the ball back if they prevent Arizona from picking up one more first down. If the Cards move the chains, they can drain the clock and then kick the game-winning field goal.
Fourth quarter, 3:44, 23-21 Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo made the play of the game and one of the best plays in the whole league on this Sunday. He created space, found time, then delivered a strike on third-and-15 to prevent a three-and-out and move the Patriots 32 yards down the field. That throw was magnificent.
On a third-and-7 later in the drive, he threw a bullet on a slant to James White to move the chains. With the Patriots in field goal range, they handed to Blount on third-and-11, and he surprised just about everyone by bursting for 13.
Ultimately, the drive was stuffed, as Garoppolo could only scramble for three on a third-and-5, and Gostkowski came on to hit the short field goal.
So, the Patriots have gotten back the lead. It’s up to the Patriots’ defense to do its job and come up with one stop.
Arizona has just one timeout left. They’ll need only a field goal to win the game. Buckle up.
Fourth quarter, 9:46, 21-20 Cardinals: The Cardinals just put together their best drive of the night, thanks to a ridiculous David Johnson run which left at least five Patriots bodies in his wake. Devin McCourty eventually brought him down, but not before Johnson had picked up 45 yards. Palmer then hit Floyd for just enough yardage on a third-and-10, setting the stage for an incredible Larry Fitzgerald touchdown reception.
Logan Ryan was chest-to-chest with Fitzgerald, who waited until the last second to fall to the turf and catch the ball over his shoulder. He’s just a special player, and there’s nothing anyone could have done to cover that pass better.
So now the Patriots trail for the first time of the night. Plenty of time left.
Fourth quarter, 12:35, 20-14 Patriots: The drive was promising, but penalties came back to bite the Patriots. A Marcus Cannon holding penalty negated a pass interference in the end zone, and then Martellus Bennett got called for holding Chandler Jones on the following play, thus negating an Edelman catch that moved the chains. The call was a pretty bad one, as Bennett looked to have just overpowered Jones.
On the third-and-14, Garoppolo scrambled but ended up throwing away, setting the stage for a 53-yard field goal attempt. Gostkowski absolutely drilled it, and the Patriots stretch the lead to six.
Of note on that drive, Garoppolo drew a roughing the passer call when he got hit down at the ankles and up high at the same time. That’s a bit of a hot topic these days, and reigning MVP Cam Newton has to wonder why he couldn’t get such calls the other night.
Alas, that means little to this game, which looks like it’ll come right down to the wire.
End of third quarter, 17-14 Patriots: The Patriots are driving, with Edelman and Bennett each making catches that moved the chains. Bennett’s came on third down. He hasn’t lit up the stats sheet, but he’s been immense as a blocker.
It’ll be third-and-3 from near midfield when the fourth quarter begins.
Also, if you were wondering if Blount would get benched for that fumble, he was not. He’s carried three times for five yards this drive … with both hands on the ball.
Third quarter, 4:29, 17-14 Patriots: That didn’t take long. Five plays. Touchdown. Three-point ballgame.
It’s a very complex sport, but sometimes it’s painfully simple. Hold on to the football, you’ll be OK. But the Patriots have coughed it up twice, and the Cardinals have scored all 14 of their points off the turnovers.
The play of that drive came when Carson Palmer delivered a beautiful pass to Larry Fitzgerald while Trey Flowers ran right up the gut at his face. Palmer still managed to put just enough touch on the pass to clear a leaping Jamie Collins, and Fitzgerald hung on while getting flipped by McCourty at the 4-yard line.
Third quarter, 6:20, 17-7 Patriots: Positivity now gone for New England, as Blount just coughed up the football. Cardinals take over on the New England 33.
Third quarter, 7:01, 17-7 Patriots: The Cardinals picked up a first down on that drive, but it came with a price. Carson Palmer tried to sneak up the middle but ended up bouncing outside. There, Devin McCourty absolutely leveled him. It was a rough one — so bad, in fact, that Palmer fumbled the next snap, thus wasting a play. Malcolm Butler broke up a pass intended for Brown on second down, and Ryan ran step for step with Fitzgerald over the middle on third down, breaking up the pass.
The defense from the first quarter seems to be back, as well.
Third quarter, 10:00, 17-7 Patriots: The Patriots of the first quarter are back. Which is to say, the Patriots figured out how to move the ball again.
The drive started when a Garoppolo pass was batted at the line, but it ended up right back in Garoppolo’s hands. He carried it for a three-yard reception to himself. Two plays later on third-and-6, he found room to run for 10 yards to keep the drive alive. Later on a third-and-7, the Cardinals sent a blitz, but it was picked up perfectly. Garoppolo hit rookie Malcolm Mitchell on the left sideline, and he broke free from a tackle and burst up the field for a gain of 28. Not bad at all for a first career reception.
They gave it to Blount on the next play, and he carried seven red jerseys from the 3-yard line into the end zone.
The Pats have their double-digit lead back.
Third quarter, 15:00, 10-7 Patriots: The second half is underway. Cyrus Jones took a knee, and the Pats will start on the 25.
Halftime, 10-7 Patriots: Really, all of that early momentum is long, long gone. The Patriots are out of sorts.
I don’t think they were really going for a big drive there. I think they would’ve been happy to pick up a first down and take the 10-7 lead to halftime. But they couldn’t even do that. On second-and-9, David Andrews got flagged for tripping. On second-and-16, Shaq Mason got called for holding. Blount ran twice in a row, and Arizona burned their final two timeouts, forcing a New England punt.
The Cardinals took over at their own 32-yard line with no timeouts and 15 ticks on the clock. Jamie Collins and Chris Long sandwiched Palmer for a sack, and that did it for the half.
Great first quarter for New England, dreadful second quarter. But they have the lead, and they’re getting the ball.
Second quarter, 1:34, 10-7 Patriots: After two huge Carson Palmer overthrows (he is not locked in tonight), Justin Coleman knocked the ball right out of Brown’s hands on third down, thus forcing a punt.
Cyrus Jones was able to return the punt nine yards out to the 30. One more chance for the New England offense before halftime.
Second quarter, 1:50, 10-7 Patriots: All of those good feelings from the first quarter for the Patriots seem like a long, long time ago, as they’ve seemingly hit a brick wall.
Brandon Bolden ran for four yards on first down but then fumbled the handoff on second down. He recovered, but the third down pass to James White went for a loss of two.
They had a chance to have a long drive that ended in points heading into halftime, with a chance for their famed “double score.” Instead, they’re giving the ball back to Arizona, and with it is a chance for the Cardinals to steal the lead before halftime.
Patrick Peterson returned the punt eight yards to the Arizona 38.
Second quarter, 4:06, 10-7 Patriots: The turnover proved costly, as the Cardinals just (somewhat easily) turned it into a touchdown. The drive ended with Michael Floyd running the pick route but avoiding contact, thus enabling Larry Fitzgerald wide open for a 3-yard touchdown reception to take a big chunk out of the Patriots’ lead.
It was an 11-play, 54-yard drive, with David Johnson twice moving the chains on two third-and-1 plays.
Turnovers kill, and when you’re playing on the road with an inexperienced quarterback and without Rob Gronkowski, that’s doubly the case.
Second quarter, 10:26, 10-0 Patriots: And the Patriots have made their first mistake of the night.
Facing a third-and-9 from the New England 41-yard line, Garoppolo dropped back in the pocket, had nowhere to go and ended up coughing up the football. Chandler Jones recovered, and (after a celebration penalty) the Cardinals take over back on their own side of the 50.
Not the best pocket awareness from Garoppolo there.
Second quarter, 12:22, 10-0 Patriots: The Cardinals built themselves a nice little drive there, getting as far as the New England 31-yard line. But on third down, Chris Long powered through left tackle Jared Veldheer — including a hand to the face — to sack Palmer for an eight-yard loss, thus forcing a punt.
Amendola made the fair catch at the 16.
End of first quarter, 10-0 Patriots: The Patriots had some shoddy team pursuit of David Johnson, allowing a short pass to turn into a 26-yard gain. But on the next play, Palmer had nowhere to go, and he very quickly had Vincent Valentine, Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown collapsing on top of him for a sack.
The Patriots have to be happy about that quarter. They’re outgaining Arizona 141-89, they’re 3-for-4 on third downs, and they’re obviously up by double digits. Good start.
First quarter, 1:00, 10-0 Patriots: That drive was all about James White.
It began with a screen pass, which White took for 21 yards. On a third-and-4, White cut to his right and got exactly enough to move the chains. And on a third-and-5 from the Arizona 43, White made an impressive shoestring catch while spinning around to pick up seven yards.
It was that final first-down pickup that put the Patriots in field goal range, and Stephen Gostkowsi’s 47-yard field goal looked like it would have been good from 65. At least.
The drive ended when Garoppolo telegraphed a pass intended for Amendola. Tyvon Branch read it perfectly and easily broke up the pass.
First quarter, 6:12, 7-0 Patriots: Another drive, another punt for Arizona.
Carson Palmer did connect with Michael Floyd for a 39-yard gain up the left sideline after Floyd toasted Malcolm Butler. But that would be it, as Palmer threw to nobody on second down and then badly overthrew J.J. Nelson on third down.
The Patriots start this drive backed up at their own 7-yard line after a Danny Amendola fair catch.
First quarter, 7:34, 7-0 Patriots: Well … how about that? Jimmy G. looked like a vet on that drive.
The QB relied heavily on Julian Edelman before lobbing a picture-perfect 37-yard pass to a streaking Chris Hogan up the left sideline for the first score of the game. That was better than Garoppolo looked all summer, as he went 4-for-5 for 75 yards and a touchdown. Edelman accounted for three of those receptions and 38 of the yards, moving the chains three times.
Blount also ran for eight yards on two carries.
The underdog Patriots have a 7-0 lead.
First quarter, 11:47, 0-0: The Patriots’ defense got off to the start it needed tonight, with Logan Ryan hauling down the big-bodied Larry Fitzgerald a yard shy of the first down marker on a third-and-12.
The Cardinals did move the chains once, with Jermaine Gresham using his big frame to box out Devin McCourty and haul in a pass for a 13-yard gain. But Jabaal Sheard came from the back side to bring down David Johnson for a two-yard loss on the ensuing second down, and those proved to be two very important yards.
Danny Amendola returned the short punt out to the 26-yard line, an eight-yard return. Jimmy Garoppolo is now out there in his first NFL start.
First quarter, 15:00: The Cardinals won the toss and elected to receive. Stephen Gostkowski’s kick sailed out of the end zone. Here we go.
8:18 p.m.: Closing in on kickoff now. Expect a pretty grand pregame ceremony, with this being a national TV game and it being Sept. 11. Then it’ll be on to football.
7:31 p.m.: Whether or not the Patriots win tonight, they’re guaranteed to not lose any ground in the AFC East.
The Jets, Dolphins and Bills all lost on Sunday, thus getting the AFC East out to a nice 0-3 start. Those teams are keenly aware that Tom Brady’s out for a month, so they likely hoped to at least keep the first-place seat warm in September. So far, not so good in that endeavor.
7:04 p.m.: The Patriots’ inactive list includes the big names of Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder, but it also includes running back D.J. Foster. Clay Harbor is also inactive, meaning the Patriots are thin at tight end, with just Martellus Bennett and A.J. Derby suiting up. And newcomer Eric Rowe won’t be playing tonight. A noteworthy absence from the inactive list is Malcolm Mitchell, who hasn’t been seen on the field since that ugly elbow injury early in the preseason. He’s apparently good to go and will look to re-establish that connection with Jimmy Garoppolo.
The full lists of inactives for both teams are below:
6:15 p.m.: For just one perspective on how fortunate and successful the Patriots have been for so long, take just one brief glance at the betting line for this evening’s game.
With Tom Brady suspended, the Patriots already faced long odds to win on the road against the Cardinals. But with Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder also out due to injury, the line shifted from 6.5 points to 9.5 points.
According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, the Patriots haven’t been underdogs by that many points since February 2002, in Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams. The Patriots were 14-point underdogs that night, when a dynasty was born.
This is, largely, uncharted territory for the Patriots. In many ways, it speaks to the extended run of dominance by the Patriots, as they’ve managed to avoid a dreaded down season over the past 15 years. But more pressing, it speaks to how different Sunday’s game might look to many fans in New England. According to Vegas … the Patriots are in for a butt-kicking.
Of course, that line won’t mean much once the game begins, and it ought to add a little bit of “nobody believes in us” inside that Patriots locker room — particularly among the defensive players. And … well … we’ve seen that formula work out in the past.
Essentially, nobody knows exactly what to expect in this one. And that’s the best kind of game there is.
As for that game, check back here early and often as we’ll have updates and analysis from pregame through the final whistle, as the 2016 season officially gets underway in a very unique manner for the New England Patriots.