|Snap Judgments: Patriots lose a thriller to the Cardinals||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.
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