5 takeaways from the Patriots’ win against the Cardinals

0 3


A strong pass rush and rookie running backs helped make the difference in Arizona.

Patriots linebacker Raekwon McMillan celebrates after recovering a fumble to score a touchdown against the Cardinals. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

The Patriots scored 20 unanswered points and rallied to beat the Cardinals 27-13 on Monday night. As a result, New England moved to 7-6 and (for the moment) occupies the final AFC playoff spot.

Injuries were an unfortunate storyline for much of the night, with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray leaving the game on his team’s opening drive.

In purely football terms, it was far from a vintage New England display. Yet the Patriots were able to get a crucial road win, and did so in spite of suffering a series of injuries as well.

Here are a few takeaways:

Injuries changed the game.

On the Cardinals’ third offensive play from scrimmage, Murray scrambled to his right and went down in pain despite not being tackled. The non-contact injury ended the 25-year-old’s night, and will be fully evaluated following an MRI scheduled for Tuesday.

Forced to play backup quarterback Colt McCoy, the Cardinals’ offense never looked fully in sync.

On the Patriots’ side of the ball, DeVante Parker — already filling in as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver for injured Jakobi Meyers — left the game in the first quarter with a head injury. Rookie cornerback Jack Jones made an early pass breakup, but was later ruled out with a knee issue.

Top running back Rhamondre Stevenson exited, briefly returned, and then left for the remainder of the night with an ankle injury.

In all, injuries forced both teams away from parts of their original game plans, though Murray’s departure clearly had a bigger impact on the Cardinals.

As the Patriots’ play-calling turns

The latest episode of the Matt Patricia-calling-offensive-plays experiment produced a win in the end, but did little to change the narrative around the team’s struggles to consistently put drives together.

Mac Jones finished the night 24 of 35 with 235 yards passing and an interception. Working without either of his top wide receivers probably limited Jones, though he hasn’t exactly been prolific when Meyers and Parker have both played in 2022.

And while the game ended in somewhat comfortable circumstances, it was hardly smooth sailing for Jones and Patricia. The second-year quarterback was visibly frustrated on the opening drive of the third quarter, shouting an expletive that television microphones picked up.

The chorus of those questioning Patricia’s continued commitment to a very conservative passing game has not grown quieter. If anything, much of the offense’s performance on Monday provided more reasons for critics to jump in.

But despite going 3 for 11 on third downs, and struggling to consistently outperform an opposing offense that was being run by a backup quarterback, the Patriots still found a way to get an important win. It meant that by game’s end, even Jones and Patricia found time to joke together.

Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. stepped up.

With Damien Harris ruled out and Stevenson exiting with an in-game injury, the burden of carrying the New England backfield fell on a pair of 2022 draft picks.

Kevin Harris (a sixth-round pick) and Pierre Strong Jr. (a fourth-round pick) provided some unabashedly good news for Patriots fans. Both players looked lively and decisive carrying the ball, and both scored their first career touchdowns.

Strong in particular looked capable of creating big plays, something the Patriots’ offense has desperately needed all season. He ripped off a 44-yard run, and finished with 90 total yards on offense from just seven touches.

For all of the issues New England’s offense has faced this season, running back depth is certainly not among them.

The Patriots’ pass rush is playing at an elite level.

Amid all of the ongoing concerns over the team’s offensive consistency or the uncharacteristic penalties (eight for 80 yards on Monday night), the defense found its footing against Arizona.

Though it came against a backup quarterback, the success of the Patriots’ pass rush in particular was important. In all, New England finished with six sacks and held Arizona to one fourth down conversion on five attempts.

Josh Uche continued his emergence as a dynamic player, notching three sacks. His pressure also helped create McCoy’s interception.

Fellow pass rusher Matthew Judon also had another strong game, finishing with 1.5 sacks and frequently creating havoc against a back-pedaling Cardinals offensive line. For the Patriots to continue competing with any hope of making the playoffs, the pass rush will have to keep performing at a high level.

In addition to the defensive line, New England’s linebackers and secondary kept up pressure on ball carries. Once gain, it paid off: Kyle Dugger was able to knock the ball out of DeAndre Hopkins’ hands, allowing Raekwon McMillan to scoop up the fumble and run it 23 yards for a touchdown.

Marcus Jones can do it all.

Beset by injuries, especially at cornerback and wide receiver, the Patriots have found a bright spot in rookie defensive back Marcus Jones. Not only can Jones contribute in the secondary, where he compiled two passes defended as well as seven solo tackles, but the 24-year-old helped in the other phases of the game too.

Jones pitched in by returning two kickoffs and a punt, having become the team’s go-to returner. Incredibly, he even continued his role as a sporadic pass-catcher, making the reception on his lone target into a 12-yard gain.

While it might not be an ideal scenario — the Patriots would undoubtedly rather have the top receivers completely healthy — Jones’ expanded role across the board has been an unconventional yet effective strategy for New England.

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.