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Rob Gronkowski cites preparation, inconsistency as reasons for loss

09.17.12 at 1:25 am ET
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FOXBORO — In the second quarter of the Patriots’ loss to the Cardinals, Tom Brady‘€™s eyes likely lit up as he saw Rob Gronkowski get behind the secondary and race toward the back of the end zone. Brady unloaded a bomb that fell in … and out of the outstretched arms of the All-Pro tight end. The play exemplified Gronkowski’€™s up-and-down day.

‘€œI have to go out there and play better,’€ Gronkowski said. ‘€œThe first three quarters, I got to go out there and play better. The start of the game, I have to go out there and start faster and start stronger. Overall, I just have to improve in every aspect of the game.’€

The game was a mixed bag in every possible sense for Gronkowski. His line of six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown was solid, but along with the rest of the sputtering offense, Gronkowski seemed out of sync at times. His critical touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter brought New England within two, but he couldn’€™t gain enough separation from Kerry Rhodes to connect with Brady on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt. Perhaps worse was the holding penalty called on Gronkowski that negated Danny Woodhead‘€™s touchdown run that would have given New England a lead with under a minute left.

‘€œI felt like it was a clean block,’€ Gronkowski said about the call. ‘€œMy hands were inside [his shoulder pads], but I have to look at the film. You guys so it, too, you saw probably the replay, so you can tell me if my hands were outside or not.’€

Regardless, Gronkowski was more focused on playing well for 60 minutes and better preparation in practice than pondering about the fourth quarter what-ifs.

‘€œWe were playing awful,’€ he said. ‘€œI was playing awful. I have to go out there play better, play faster, and play stronger and not just in the fourth quarter. Just staying in the game is not good enough. You have to go out there the whole game playing hard.

‘€œClearly we didn’€™t practice good enough,’€ Gronkowski continued. ‘€œI didn’€™t practice good enough all week. We have to pick that up and be ready for all situations at all times. I just feel like you go out there and [practice] is where it all starts at. But I mean, obviously, it’€™s game day where it’€™s all played, but we have to execute all game.’€

While admitting Aaron Hernandez is a vital part of the game plan every week, Gronkowski, to his credit, wouldn’€™t let the injury to his fellow tight end’€™s ankle explain the uneven performance.

‘€œYou have to be ready for any situation in any game,” he said. “That’€™s what practice is for all week.’€

Read More: Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady,

How Cardinals bottled up Tom Brady, Patriots

09.16.12 at 9:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady earned his 46th career 300-yard game on Sunday. The Patriots quarterback passed Johnny Unitas for 13th place on the NFL’s all-time passing list with 40,531 yards. But after Brady completed 28-of-46 passes for 316 yards, one touchdown and an interception, it was the Cardinals who were celebrating their defensive effort against the Patriots star signal caller.

‘€œI want to win games sitting back enjoying them, but we just tend to win close games,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. “That builds a lot of character and the guys responded to a game plan that they executed flawlessly, they really did.’€

The Cardinals sacked Brady four times and held Brady to a 79.6 rating. And they did all of this without much of a blitz package all game.

‘€œThe guys up front, we challenged our guys up front to win the game for us,” Horton said. “When you look at their team (Patriots) and their salary and their structure, their (Patriots) superstars are their outside guys and our guys are inside. So we said we needed another big week from our inside guys and they did. I almost didn’€™t blitz at all.’€

Brady had a miserable first half, completing just seven of 12 attempts for 75 yards, with three sacks, one interception and a QB rating of 42.0.

‘€œIt felt great and to come against a future Hall of Famer it felt even better,” Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves added. “It’€™s kind of like a burden has been lifted off my shoulder. When so many people said I couldn’€™t do it, and so many didn’€™t want to give me a chance. I think Rod Graves, coach Ken Whisenhunt, coach Ray Horton, and doach Frank Reich all believed in me and gave me a shot. I can only thank God, and for me believing in my abilities as well. ‘€

One of the biggest plays came when veteran safety Kerry Rhodes knocked away a potential game-tying two-point conversion away from Rob Gronkowski after Gronkowski scored New England’s only touchdown of the game.

‘€œI had man-to-man on that play and I was able to be physical with him down there, because he (Gronkowski) is a physical guy,” Rhodes said of his two-point defense. “I got my hands on him and when I got my hands on him I knew, I looked up and saw Brady looking at him so I took him the whole way.’€

Meanwhile, here was Tom Brady’s Q and A with reporters after his first ever home opening loss at Gillette Stadium.

Q: You guys got so close and had a chance to win. Were you surprised that Stephen Gostkowski missed that field goal?

TB: Well, it’€™s a team game and certainly we shouldn’€™t have been leaving it up to that particular situation. We were fortunate to get that defensive turnover there late. We just came up short. We have opportunities to make plays and we’€™re just not making them. Just too inconsistent throughout the day to really put enough points on the board. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Arizona Cardinals, Johnny Unitas, New England Patriots, nfl

Zoltan Mesko: ‘Really what I see is the ball’

09.16.12 at 9:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Zoltan Mesko knew the Cardinals were a good punt-blocking team. He didn’t have to have his first career blocked punt in a critical part of the game to reaffirm this.

But as Quentin Groves blew past Nate Ebner with 9:48 left in the third quarter Sunday, Mesko suffered the worst thing a punter can experience – the sound of a ball hitting the hands of a defender in the shadow of his own goal post. That blocked punt led to Arizona’s first touchdown of the day, a 2-yard strike from Kevin Kolb to Andre Roberts, putting Arizona up, 13-9.

“Really what I see is the ball. I concentrate on the ball,” Mesko said. “There’s things I can control – the punting part – and there are things I can’t. I felt like the operation, the rhythm, the protection just broke down on the left side.

“It’s kind of like a peripheral thing where you have to have trust in your teammates to get them out of the way because, just like Tom [Tom Brady] has to wait till the last second sometimes, and then [teammates] will wash them out.”

‘€œIt was just something we take pride in,” Groves said of his block. “We just go in and watch films, and we noticed he was a bit soft on the edge.’€

Even before getting a punt blocked for the first time in his career in the third quarter Sunday, the Cardinals actually got close enough to the point earlier in the game where one of his punts hit the shoulder pad of Cardinals rusher Justin Bethel.

“That ball was actually touched by his shoulder pads. I don’t know how it got out,” Mesko said of his first punt of the day, a 38-yard punt to the Cardinals 13.

Mesko was also at the scene of the crime when Stephen Gostkowski hooked his potential game-winning 42-yard field goal wide left.

“I thought we had a good operation,” Mesko said. “Steve put it best. We wouldn’t be out there if we didn’t know we risk failure every time we go out there. It’s on us and how we handle it. It’s our job.”

Read More: Arizona Cardinals, Justin Bethel, Nate Ebner, New England Patriots

Patrick Peterson on Stephen Gostkowski: ‘I think he was a little scared of us’

09.16.12 at 7:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After making his first four field goal attempts on the day, including two from beyond 50 yards, Stephen Gostkowski shouldered the blame after missing a 42-yard field goal wide left with one second remaining that allowed the Cardinals to escape with a 20-18 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

“I’m not scared to fail,” Gostkowski said. “It stinks when you do. But I wouldn’t go out there every day if I was scared to screw up. I’ll feel bad about this for a couple of days and I’m sure I’ll get ripped for it by the fans, and it’s well-deserved. My teammates have my back. No one feels worse about missing a kick than I do. You’ve just got to move on and get over it. It’s the good ones that get over bad games it lasts a while. If I let this affect me negatively, I’m not doing my job.”

But Gostkowski’s teammates indeed had his back moments after the fateful kick sailed wide left.

“Stephen is a great kicker, I think everyone here in this half circle knows that, I think everyone in the league knows that,” said Danny Woodhead, whose 30-yard touchdown run was called by on Rob Gronkowski‘s holding call, which forced the Patriots to settle for the field goal attempt.

“Stephen does a great job, he kicked four great field goals to keep us in the game,” Gronkowski said. “The loss is not on him. The loss could be on me. I got that penalty at the end.

“He’s our kicker, we stand behind him,” said Jerod Mayo. “We’ve seen him hit that a million times.”

Arizona’s Pro Bowl return man and corner back Patrick Peterson had a different view.

“I think he was a little scared of us, honestly,” said Peterson, who was on the field attempting to block the kick. “That is why he pushed it left. We put a lot of pressure on a lot of field goal teams.”

Gostkowski said he felt confident going into the potential game-winning kick, a chance presented to the Patriots when Brandon Spikes forced a fumble by Cardinals fullback Ryan Williams with 61 seconds remaining.

“I felt good going out there,” Gostkowski said. “It wasn’t the smoothest hit and I looked up and I saw it was left. Sometimes, the ball doesn’t fly your way. There’s probably not another game I’d be more confident going out for a kick like that. It humbles you really quick.

“Each kick is different and of course, you can develop a good rhythm and get in a zone and it’s really unfortunate that I couldn’t come through at the end. I had a chance to make a big impact on the game and it turned south.”

Read More: Arizona Cardinals, Danny Woodhead, Gronk, Jerod Mayo

Key Moment: Stephen Gostkowski missed FG gives Cardinals a shocking win

09.16.12 at 4:29 pm ET
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The key moment in Sunday’€™s 20-18 loss to the Cardinals came with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter, as Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal following an improbable Ryan Williams fumble with 1:01 left in the game that gave the Patriots a chance to win a game they didn’t deserve.

The Patriots were seemingly finished at the time of the fumble, out of timeouts and in need of a football miracle,a miracle that appeared to be granted as Brandon Spikes forced the fumble on Williams and Vince Wilfork recovered at the Arizona 30.

Following a Danny Woodhead rush for a TD that was wiped out by a Rob Gronkowski holding call, Tom Brady took a knee and then spiked the ball on the next two plays to set up Gostkowksi, who had made all four field goals, including two of more than 50 yards. But he was unable to convert on a fifth, missing wide left and giving the Cardinals a shocking victory at Gillette Stadium.

Snap Judgments: Patriots lose a thriller to the Cardinals

09.16.12 at 4:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots’ defense came up with a huge turnover late in the fourth quarter, but a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with less than 10 seconds left allowed Arizona to come away with a 20-18 win over the Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Holding on to a 20-18 lead and looking to run out the clock with less than two minutes left, Arizona’s Ryan Williams fumbled the football after a big hit from linebacker Brandon Spikes. The ball was scooped up by Vince Wilfork.

But with less than 10 seconds left, Gostkowski missed his first field goal of the year, a 42-yarder that left the Patriots with their first loss in a home opener at Gillette Stadium.

Tom Brady was 28-for-46 for 316 yards, while running back Stevan Ridley had 71 yards. For Arizona, Kevin Kolb was 15-for-27 for 140 yards, while Todd Heap had five catches for 62 yards. (The Patriots were able to do an excellent job bottling up wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who finished with one catch for four yards.)

Things were slow going in the first half, as the sides traded field goals through two quarters. Jay Feely connected for a pair (one from 38 and another from 47 yards), while Gostkowski added two of his own (46 and 34 yards) to make it 6-6 at halftime.

Both offenses picked it up a little in the third quarter, with Gostkowski adding two second-half field goals from 51 and 53 yards, the second of which cut Arizona’s lead to 20-12 midway through the fourth. Meanwhile, the Cardinals took advantage of a blocked punt deep in New England territory to put their first touchdown of the day on the board, giving them a 13-9 lead midway through the third quarter. Arizona made it 20-9 on its first possession of the fourth quarter on a five-yard rushing touchdown for Kolb.

The Patriots got their first touchdown of the afternoon when Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with just over two minutes left in the fourth to make it 20-18. After the Patriots couldn’t convert on their two-point attempt, the New England defense forced the late turnover, setting the stage for the final crazy minute.

One more note: Wes Welker didn’t start, and saw few snaps until Aaron Hernandez went down with an ankle injury in the first half. He played most of the rest of the game, but the fact that he wasn’t out there with the starters from the jump will likely mean that the conspiracy theories about Welker being phased out of the offense will continue. For what it’s worth, he ended the game with five catches on 95 yards, including a 36-yarder on New England’s first play from scrimmage to start the second half.


‘€¢ The New England defense played very well for the first three-plus quarters, containing any semblance of offense that Arizona was able to muster. The Patriots secondary was able to hold Fitzgerald in check for much of the afternoon, as he finished the first half with one catch (on one target) for four yards. In addition, New England was able to get a steady and consistent pass rush on Kolb. The first touchdown the Patriots allowed came after the Cardinals blocked a punt deep in New England territory, allowing Arizona to take over on the Patriots’ two-yard line.

‘€¢ Ridley built on a tremendous Week One performance with an equally impressive outing Sunday against the Cardinals. Arizona, who came into the game boasting a stouter run defense than the Titans, allowed 71 yards on 18 carries from Ridley,


‘€¢ Brady was picked off for the first time this season on New England’s first offensive series of the game when a pass was tipped and intercepted by cornerback Patrick Peterson. That led to a 47-yard field goal four plays later — also from Feely — to make it 6-0 with 7:42 left in the first quarter.

‘€¢ The entire offense seemed flat for the bulk of the game. Part of that was due to the fact that Arizona was doing a good job containing Brady — Cardinals’ defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell were able to generate good pressure throughout against the New England offensive line. A large part of that was also due to the fact that New England lost tight end Aaron Hernandez in the first half. Hernandez was helped off the field and to the locker room midway through the first quarter with an injury to his right leg, one he suffered when he got rolled up on by Edelman while working as a blocker. With Hernandez out of the game, the Patriots struggled offensively, with their only steady offensive threat throughout being Ridley.

‘€¢The first blocked punt on Zoltan Mesko‘s career came midway through the third quarter when Nate Ebner missed Arizona’s Quentin Groves on a block, and Groves knocked down Mesko’s punt. The ball was scooped up at the New England two-yard line. Three plays later, Kolb found Andre Roberts on a short touchdown pass to give the Cards a 13-9 lead.

Live Blog: Patriots take on Cardinals in home opener at Gillette Stadium

09.16.12 at 10:01 am ET
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Patriots home opener

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