Patriots Review: Week 1 at Arizona

Jimmy Garoppolo was the story of this game.  In his first start as the Patriots signal caller, Garoppolo threw for 264 yards, a touchdown, and (most importantly) no interceptions in the Patriots 23-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.  He was poised in the pocket, got the ball out quickly, and made smart decisions.  His best drive came midway through the 4th quarter.  With his team down 21-20, he marched the Patriots offense down the field, converted on a third and fifteen from his own 20-yard line, and eventually set up Stephen Gostkowski for the 37-yard field goal that would be the difference in the game.

The only notable blemish for Jimmy G in the game was a second quarter fumble that the Cardinals turned into six points.

The first pass of Garoppolo’s night looked Tebow-esk as he sailed it right over Chris Hogan’s head.  Groans could be heard all across New England.  But then…

Patriots fans can’t start the “Bench Brady” movement just yet, but Garoppolo definitely overachieved in TB12’s absence Sunday night.

In the ground game, LeGarrette Blount ripped off a few good runs, but for the most part was unspectacular as he finished with 70 yards on 22 carries.  Blount carrying nine guys into the end zone followed by a fumble on the next drive is just classic Blount.  I’d like to see a little more James White next week against Miami.  White only saw 37% of the offensive snaps for the Patriots, but it seemed like the shifty running back has improved on his game from last year.

Along the offensive line Dante Scarnecchia has done away with the linemen rotation that dominated the second half of the Patriots’ season last year.  Four of the five linemen (Thuney, Andrews, Fleming, and Cannon) played every offensive snap, while Ted Karras and Shaq Mason split time 80-20.  The revolving doors seen in last year’s AFC Championship game were thankfully locked as the pass protection looked strong and the run game (whether it was a receiver end-around or traditional handoff) was well-blocked.

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On the other side of the ball, Larry Fitzgerald burnt Logan Ryan on a few crucial plays as Fitz went for 81 yards and two touchdowns, but the biggest concern for the Patriots came along the front seven.  For most of the second half it seemed like running back David Johnson and the Arizona offense was consistently gaining positive yardage play after play.  The tackling was not always there for the Pats defense as Johnson evaded tackles and juked his way around the beautiful Kentucky Blue Grass at University of Phoenix Stadium   On passing plays, the lack of pressure was obvious as the only sacks for the defensive line came on coverage sacks where Carson Palmer had nowhere to throw.

Thankfully, New England has a Miami team coming off a ten-point performance next week followed by two more anemic offenses in Houston and Buffalo.

All in all, the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s interesting clock management at the end of the 4th quarter didn’t come back to hurt them as Arizona kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a game-winning 47-yard field goal.  Now that he passed the hardest test, the pressure is on for Jimmy G to go 4-0 during Brady’s Deflategate suspension.  Personally, I still think they go 3-1 after they lose in Week 4 against Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills.

Other notes and random thoughts from Week 1:

  • Carrie Underwood is incredible and I’m so happy I watched her whole season of American Idol as a young boy just learning the wonders of the world
  • The fact that a “choreographed demonstration” is a penalty is laugh out loud funny
  • Jimmy Garoppolo might need his own brand of smelling salts
  • Martelleus Bennett was the unsung hero with terrific blocking along the line
  • Way too many soft holding calls against the Patriots
  • The whole fake Tom Brady thing with the dude wearing the mask was weird as hell
  • Darrelle Revis sucks
  • It’s really too bad that I decided to draft Keenan Allen for my fantasy team
  • Warriors wouldn’t have blown a 3-1 lead if Jack Del Rio was the coach
  • Jameis Winston might (MIGHT) make a run at the league MVP
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