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 sit (for now) in the last AFC playoff spot.
Injuries were an unfortunate scenario for much of the night, with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray leaving the game on his team’s first practice.
In purely footballing terms, it was far from a vintage New England display. Still, the Patriots managed to pull off a crucial road win despite a string of injuries as well.
Here are some takeaways:
Injuries changed the situation.
On the Cardinals’ third offensive play after the scrimmage, Murray rushed to his right and suffered despite not being tackled. The non-contact injury ended the 25-year-old’s night and will be fully assessed after an MRI scheduled for Tuesday.
Forced to play backup quarterback Colt McCoy, the Cardinals’ offense never seemed completely in sync.
On the ball side of the Patriots, DeVante Parker — already backing up as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver for the 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 problem.
Top running back Rhamondre Stevenson came out, briefly returned, then left for the rest of the night with an ankle injury.
Overall, injuries forced both teams to deviate from parts of their original game plans, although Murray’s departure clearly had a bigger impact on the Cardinals.
As Patriots play calls spin
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 the records together.
Mac Jones finished the night 24 of 35 with 235 passing yards and one interception. Working without one of his best wide receivers likely limited Jones, although he wasn’t exactly prolific when both Meyers and Parker played in 2022.
And although the match ended in somewhat comfortable circumstances, it was hardly smooth sailing for Jones and Patricia. The sophomore quarterback was visibly frustrated as the third quarter opened, shouting an expletive that the television microphones picked up.
The chorus of those who question Patricia’s continued commitment to a very conservative passing game did not become calmer. If anything, much of the offense’s performance on Monday provided more reason for reviews jump in.
But despite going 3 for 11 on third down and constantly struggling to outrun an opposing offense that was led by a backup quarterback, the Patriots still found a way to get a big win. This meant that by the end of the game, even Jones and Patricia had found time to joking together.
Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. chimed in.
With Damien Harris ruled out and Stevenson out with an in-game injury, the burden of carrying New England’s backfield has fallen on a pair of 2022 draft picks.
Kevin Harris (a sixth-round pick) and Pierre Strong Jr. (a fourth-round pick) unabashedly delivered good news to Patriots fans. Both players looked sharp and decisive while carrying the ball, and both scored their first career touchdowns.
Strong in particular seemed capable of creating big plays, which the Patriots offense desperately needed all season. He snatched a 44-yard run and finished with 90 total yards on offense on just seven touches.
For all the problems New England’s offense has faced this season, running back depth is certainly not one of them.
The Patriots pass rush is playing at an elite level.
Amid all the lingering concerns about the team’s offensive consistency or unusual penalties (eight for 80 yards Monday night), the defense found its footing against Arizona.
Although it came against a backup quarterback, the Patriots pass rush success in particular was significant. In total, New England finished with six sacks and held Arizona to a conversion quarter on five attempts.
Josh Uche continued his emergence as a dynamic player, picking up three sacks. His pressure also helped create McCoy’s interception.
Fellow passer Matthew Judon also had another solid game, finishing with 1.5 sacks and frequently creating havoc against a backpedaling Cardinals offensive line. For the Patriots to continue to compete with any hope of making the playoffs, the passing rush will need to continue to perform at a high level.
In addition to the defensive line, New England linebackers and secondary kept the pressure on the ball carriers. Once won, it paid off: Kyle Dugger managed to knock the ball off DeAndre Hopkins, allowing Raekwon McMillan to recover the fumble and run it 23 yards for a touchdown.
Marcus Jones can do it all.
Plagued by injuries, particularly at cornerback and wide receiver, the Patriots found a silver lining 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 has also helped in other phases of the game.
Jones participated by returning two kickoffs and a punt, having become the team’s go-to returner. Incredibly, he even continued his sporadic wide receiver role, turning the one-target reception into a 12-yard gain.
While it may not be an ideal scenario – the Patriots would no doubt prefer top receivers to be fully healthy – Jones’ expanded role across the board has been an unconventional but effective strategy for New England. .
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