Patriots capitalize on Cardinals’ mistakes, Kyler Murray’s early exit to stay alive in AFC playoff picture
The Arizona Cardinals came into this contest against the New England Patriots with what is likely lost playoff hopes.
Now they likely lost their quarterback for the rest of the season.
On just the third play of the 27-13 loss to the Patriots on Monday night, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray tried to make a cut but fell immediately to the grass and moved in considerable pain. ESPN reported that Murray likely tore his ACL, though further testing on Tuesday will confirm that diagnosis.
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While head coach Kliff Kingsbury thinks about his quarterback’s future – and possibly his own as Arizona underachieved this season with Murray 3-7 in his starts heading into Monday night – Colt McCoy had to take over at quarterback.
But his efforts weren’t enough in his third appearance this season.
On the other sideline, Mac Jones’ night didn’t start off the way he wanted it to for the Patriots. They punted after four plays on their opening drive, and then Jones was picked off by Isaiah Simmons, which set up an Arizona field goal for the first points of the game in the second quarter.
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Then, it was time for Jones to settle in. And he did so without his two top wide receivers and two top running backs. Jakobi Meyers and Damian Harris didn’t suit up for New England, while DeVante Parker and Rhamondre Stevenson suffered injuries earlier in the game, knocking them out the rest of the way.
Injuries are never fun, but it leads to some players making the best of an opportunity like rookie running back Kevin Harris, who scored a 14-yard touchdown for the first of his career to put the Patriots up 7-3 in the second quarter.
McCoy, though, would also settle in and lead the Cards to 10 straight points, with James Conner busting into the end zone on a 10-yard run to go up 13-7. New England would inch closer with a Nick Folk field goal to end the first half.
When both teams took the field in the second half, the wheels fell off for the home team.
Arizona started to hurt themselves, leading to 20 straight points for the Patriots who took advantage of the turnovers. With the score tied at 13 apiece, the Cardinals were looking to drive and take the lead back.
Instead, DeAndre Hopkins, who is normally one of the most trustworthy receivers in the game, had the ball knocked out of his hands on a crossing route and it was scooped up by Raekwon McMillan, who went 23 yards in the opposite direction for a Patriots touchdown.
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Then, on the very next drive, Josh Uche hit McCoy as he was trying to throw to Hopkins down the left side, and it looked like there was a possibility he would score. Instead, rookie corner Marcus Jones, who was filling in for the injured Jack Jones in this game, recorded his first career interception.
Five plays later, another rookie running back, Pierre Strong Jr., scored his first career touchdown on a three-yard sprint into the end zone.
Self-inflicted wounds have been the story for the Cardinals all season in their tough losses. And no matter how many times Kingsbury goes for it on fourth down to give his team a shot at rectifying it – the Cardinals turned it over on downs four times in this contest – the result isn’t what he wants to see on the scoreboard.
The Patriots needed the scoreboard to read a victory for them to remain in the AFC playoff picture. They are now the seventh seed in the AFC, as they own the head-to-head matchup over the 7-6 New York Jets, and a better divisional record than the Los Angeles Chargers at 7-6.
Jones finished the game 24 of 35 for 235 yards with no passing touchdowns and his one interception. Strong Jr. led the way on the ground with 70 yards on five carries, his longest a 44-yarder, while Kevin Harris had 26 yards on eight carries.
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Tight End Hunter Henry led Patriots receivers with 70 yards on three catches, his 39-yard seam route setting up Strong Jr.’s touchdown.
For the Cardinals, McCoy went 27 for 40 for 246 yards, while Hopkins had 79 of them on seven catches. Conner rushed for 85 yards on 15 carries.
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The Patriots will remain out west next week, taking on the Las Vegas Raiders. The Cardinals will head to Denver to face Russell Wilson and the Broncos.