|09.16.12 at 9:26 pm ET|
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.”
‘It 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.”
|09.16.12 at 7:06 pm ET|
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.”
“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.”
|09.16.12 at 4:29 pm ET|
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.
|09.16.12 at 4:24 pm ET|
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.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
‘¢ 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,
WHAT WENT WRONG
‘¢ 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.
|09.16.12 at 10:01 am ET|
|09.16.12 at 9:34 am ET|
FOXBORO — Ideal conditions are expected for the Patriots home opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Sunny skies and temperatures reaching 70 degrees are expected for the 1 p.m. kickoff as the Patriots look to improve to 2-0 on the season. Wind should not be a significant factor as there will be a breeze out of the northwest of seven miles an hour.
The Patriots are a perfect 10-0 in home openers at Gillette Stadium, dating back to the win on Monday Night Football in 2002 when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first game as defending Super Bowl champions. They have won 15 of their last 17 home openers.
The Patriots haven’t lost a home opener since Bill Belichick‘s second year in New England, when they were beaten by the New York Jets, 10-3. The 10-game streak, like their nine-game winning streak in openers overall, is the longest such streak in the NFL.
The Patriots have beaten the Cardinals five straight times, the longest current winning streak against an opponent. This is the fifth time the Patriots are playing an NFC opponent in a home opener but the first time since losing to Tampa Bay in 2000. New England has also opened the season at home against an NFC opponent in 1978 (Washington), 1985 (Green Bay) and the Cardinals (1996).
The Patriots have seven players listed as questionable with the most notable being starting right guard Dan Connolly. He suffered a head injury serving as fullback on Stevan Ridley‘s one-yard TD run against Tennessee. Connolly returned to full pads practice on Thursday and was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday. If he doesn’t play, expect Donald Thomas to take his spot at right guard, with Marcus Cannon a possibility as a back-up.
But Cannon might be the starting right tackle if Sebastian Vollmer can’t go because of his chronically sore back. Vollmer was also one of the questionable seven for the Patriots. Also questionable are running back Shane Vereen (foot), Nick McDonald (shoulder), Sterling Moore (knee), Daniel Fells (shin) and rookie DB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring). All were limited in practice on Thursday and Friday.
With one catch today, Wes Welker will pass the newest member of the Patriots Hall of Fame – Troy Brown – and become the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions. Both Welker and Brown are tied at 557.
For the Cardinals, they are expected to start Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Kolb came in last Sunday in relief of John Skelton and led the Cardinals on a game-winning fourth-quarter drive. Skelton injured his right ankle and did not practice this week. He was officially listed as doubtful on Arizona’s injury report on Friday and will likely be inactive for the game.
Before the 2011 season, Kolb was signed to a six-year, $63.5 million contract, with $12 million guaranteed, to be the starting quarterback in Arizona. Kolb suffered a toe injury late in the season last year and Skelton came on to replace him. This year, Kolb was again designated the starting quarterback but suffered a bruised rib in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, allowing Skelton to win the starter’s job.
The Cardinals are 8-2 over their last 10 regular season games. Only the Patriots – at 9-1 – are better in the NFL.
|09.14.12 at 2:55 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Chandler Jones got the message on rookie humility from Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff.
On Friday, he acknowledged that – as a rookie defensive end out of Syracuse – he can still get a lot better in his technique and overall game on defense.
“Being humble is key because no one likes a cocky player at all,” Jones said. “There’s a big difference between being cocky and being confident. It’s good to be humble but it’s good to be confident at the same time. I have a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do.”
He was asked if his strip-sack of Jake Locker leading to the fumble return for a touchdown by fellow rookie Dont’a Hightower proves right away that he belongs in the NFL.
“I wouldn’t jump to that statement right away, saying ‘I belong in this league.’ I feel like it was a great play but anyone can get a great play in this game of football. Like I said, I have a lot of work to do and that was just Week 1 and I have a few more weeks to go,” Jones said. “It gave me a little bit of swagger, I’ll say. But I have a lot work to do, a lot of work to do.
“We’re handed the game plan. We’re told to execute the game plan and that’s what we did.”
But don’t get Jones wrong. He definitely plays and carries himself like a rookie who knows what he’s doing on and off the field.
“That’s the job of the vets,” Jones said of the job of keeping rookies in check in the Patriots locker room. “I feel like as far as the rookie class, we’re very mature. We all are leaders on our own. That’s one characteristic we all have.”
That rookie class of Jones, Hightower, Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner will be center stage on Sunday as the Patriots make the 2012 home debut at Gillette Stadium.
“I’m excited to see,” Jones said. “With a sold out game, hopefully we can get the crowd going on third down or whenever the defense is out there and we’ll see what happens.”