By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots ruined the Cardinals’ season after Week 1, and they didn’t even need Tom Brady to do it.
That’s what Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians admitted to Mike Florio on PFT Live on Wednesday. He spoke briefly on the Cardinals’ 23-21 loss to the Patriots in Week 1 last season, a game famously started by backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as Brady served the first of a four-game suspension.
When asked what he thought was the biggest reason that the 2016 Cardinals (7-8-1) regressed so much from their 13-3 season in 2015, Arians said: “I think the biggest reason was losing the opener on Sunday Night Football to the Patriots on that missed field goal. That took a lot of swagger out of our football team, then we came back and lost to the Rams in another close game. We didn’t win the close games we had won in the past but it all goes back to that first one.”
Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have had a way of throwing talented opponents off their game. Belichick is as good as any coach in history at exposing and exploiting his opponents’ flaws, forcing them to play outside their true strengths, and making them over-think their own strategies. Sometimes, he has sent entire seasons descending into chaos.
The Texans’ infamous “letterman’s jacket” game in 2012 is a notable example. They also may have ruined the entire Seahawks franchise after Super Bowl XLIX. The Falcons are on notice for the next downward spiral.
To be fair to Arians and the Cardinals, they didn’t exactly get demoralized in that particular game. In the second half they slowed Garoppolo down and found a rhythm on offense, coming within a missed field goal of snatching the win at the last second. Belichick didn’t exactly make the Cardinals miss that field goal. But it speaks to the obvious fragility of that team that they couldn’t overcome a narrow loss in the very first game of the season.
The Patriots have shown so much of that ability to bring the worst out of their best competition over the years that it’s fair to wonder whether Belichick had signed a lease inside the Cardinals’ heads on that missed kick. Especially now that Arians essentially admitted the otherwise deep, talented Cardinals were never the same after that loss.
Score another one for the Patriots “mystique”.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS, CBS Radio, or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.