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On National TV on an opening Sunday night, the Cardinals faced a championship-calendar team that was missing its starting QB, Pro Bowl TE and almost all of its starting offensive line. What could possibly go wrong?
Errant Long Snap Kills Card Comeback.
The Bottom Line:
I hope this isn't going to be one of those seasons featuring 16-straight "How We Lost This One" headlines.
It took time - for the Cardinal offense to click and more time for Jim Bettcher accept the fact that CB Brandon Williams was not ready to play on the proverbial "island" - to keep the Cards from being blown out early. After falling behind 10 - 0 in the 1Q, they traded scores back & forth with the Pats and were about to win the whole thing for good near the end of the contest only to be betrayed by the errant play of a rookie long snapper.
In typical fashion, the Cards fell behind early, dug themselves a 10 - 0 first quarter hole, but were able to right the ship, stop the hemmoraging and enter the lockers at halftime only down 10 - 7. The Pats came out of the box in the second half to put 7 more points on the board. Cards finally caught NE early in the 4Q to grab a 21 - 20 lead only to fall behind 23 - 21 with 3:38 left to play. Some gutsy play calling and clock management set up a golden opportunity for Catanzaro to win the game with a 47-yard FG with 0:41 on the clock, but the snap/hold was faulty and Catanzaro's attempt was wide left. Cards blew what should have been a gimme "W." I
Cards received. TB on KO. A completion to Fitz came up a yard short of a 1st down. Put returned 8 yards to the NE 26. Garoppolo shredded the Cardinal secondary' Completions of +11, +19 and +8 yards helped set up a 37-yard TD completion to Hogan down the left sideline. (Brandon Williams was undressed on the play. New England 7 - Cards 0.
Ellington ran the KO out of his end zone to the Card 11. After Palmer hit Floyd for +39-yards, the Cards couldn't pick up a 1st down. Punt was fair caught by Amendola at the NE 8-yd line. Garoppolo engineered a12 play drive capped by a 47-yard Gostowski FG. New England 10 - Cards 0.
Ellington returned the KO out of the end zone to the Cardinal 19. A completion to D Johnson picked up +26-yards but Palmer was sacked to end the quarter..
1st Quarter Score: New England 10 - Cards 0.
Cards made it all the way to the NE 31, before Palmer was sacked out of FG range. Card punt was fair caught at the NE 16. On the 7th play from scrimmage, Golden sacked Garoppolo whose fumble was recovered by Chandler Jones. An unsportsmanlike penalty after the play pushed the Cards back across midfield. Palmer engineered 57-yard TD drive drive featuring a whole lot of D. Johnson (7 out of 11 plays) and winding up with a 3-yard TD completion to Fitz. New England 10 - Cards 7.
4:06 till halftime. NE returned the KO to its own 26-yd line. An aborted snap under center contributed to a NE 3 & out. Punt was returned to the Card 38 with 1:50 on the clock. Cards (off three incomplete pass plays) went 3 & out, giving NE 1:24 to play with. They couldn't get past their own 23. Punt was fair caught by Peterson at the AZ 32. Palmer was sacked for -8 yds to end the half. New England 10 - Cards 7.
First Half Score: New England 10 - Cards 7.
TB on the KO. A 28-yard pass from Garoppolo to Mitchell (Once again B Williams the torchee) set up an 8 yard burst up the middle by Blount for a TD. New England 17 - Cards 7.
TB on the KO. Card possession stalled at their own 33. Punt fair caught at the NE 28. Two plays later, Blount's extra effort up the middle gave Rucker the opportunity to force a fumble. Campbell recovered. Cards ball at the NE 33. Completions to Gresham and Fitz set up a 1-yard D Johnson TD run up the middle. New England 17 - Cards 14.
TB on the KO. NE ran off 7 plays and 23 yards to end the quarter.
Third Quarter Score: New England 17 - Cards 14.
Penalty-laden drive finally exhausted itself at the Cardinal 35 whenre Gostowski's 53-yard FG attempt was good. New England 20 - Cards 14. .
Ellington returned the KO to the Card 21. An incredible twisting/tackle-breaking 45-yard run by D Johnson put the ball on the NE 12-yard line, where Palmer finally completed a 1-yd TD pass to Fitz. Cards took the lead for the first time in the game - Cards 21 - New England 20
TB on the KO. 13 play drive featuring a multiple number of times the Cards let the Pats off the hook. After C Jones sacked Garoppolo for minus-5, we had: (a) a 32-yard completion to Amendola to convert a 3rd & 15, (b) a 7-yard completion to White to convert a 3rd & 3 and (c) a 13-yard run by Blount off LT to convert a 3rd & 11. Drive finally stalled at the Cardinal 14 where Gostowski was good from 32. New England 23 - Cards 21.
3:38 left on the clock. A penalty pushed Ellington's KO return back to the Cardinal 8. Palmer hit Fitz for +21-yards and again for +15-yards and still again for +10-yards. Cards reached the NE 33-yard line before Watford was flagged for holding. But a stunning 18-yard to Jaron Brown set up a 47-yard Catanzaro chip shot on 4th & 5 with 0:41 on the clock. Except, Canaday's snap was wide and low, Butler couldn't straigten it and Catanzaro's FG attempt was no good. Game over. Cards lose.
Final Score: New England 23 - Cards 21.
Notable Game Stats.
Palmer was 24 for 37, 271 yards, 2 TD's and no interceptions. (Garoppolo was 24 for 33 for 264 yards, a TD and no picks).
D Johnson picked up 89 yards on 16 carries (mostly from that one spectacular 45 yard carry). (Blount gained 70 yards on 22 carries).
Fitz caught 8 passes for 81 yards. Johnson and Gresham and Floyd had 4 catches apiece. Floyd picked up 61 yards on 3 grabs. (Edleman caught 7 for 66 yards. White gained 40 yards on 5 catches). Hogan and Amendola each caught 3).
Cards won the turnover war (2 fumbles/no picks vs. NE's no fumbles/no picks) but they didn't win the game.
Run/Pass Ratio: . (Cards: Runs: 19 /Pass: 37. NE Runs: 31/Pass 33).
Catanzaro was 0 for 1 on FG's
Allen outpunted Butler (40.5 Net Punting Average vs. 32.4).
Jefferson led the Cards with 10 tackles followed by T Branch, Mathieu and Minter with 7 apiece).
Palmer was sacked 3 times. Cards defense had 2 sacks (C Jones and Golden).
Cards were 6 for 12 (50%) in Third Down Efficiency. Pats were 10 for 16 (62%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 3 for 3 (100%). Pats 1 for 2 (50%)
Penalties: Cards were penalized 6 times (compared to NE's' 8)
Time of Possession: Cards 26:01 - Pats 33:59.
Card defense gave up an average of 2.0 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 49)
David Johnson's running.
All the receivers were catching just about everything thrown their way.
Cardinal zone defense was markedly better than their man schemes..
Card pass rushers were "as advertised."
Cards didn't allow that 0 - 10 first quarter deficit to turn into a blow-out.
Palmer threaded more than just a few needles.
I like the way Bettcher started out keeping his defense in more traditional fronts, but gradually loosening the reins with more aggressive and exotic pass rush schemes as the game wore on
The Dark Side
Canaday's blown snap
Patriot ball carriers started out running lower and tougher than Cardinal defenders (It wasn't that the effort wasn't there - our guys just weren't initially ready to meet the Patriot smashmouth onslaught.
Palmer needs to be 5 - 10% sharper.
In terms of finding ways his shredded team could still beat us - BA was outcoached by Belichick.
I don't care if Brandon Williams has got to play big boy man coverage "on the island. He can't (at least not yet). We aren't going to win if we assume he's ready to get the job done. Until then, we're better off either (1) playing more zone or (2) finding another corner who can effectively handle man coverage,
We suck at preventing 3rd & long conversions.
Losing (& the exotic ways of doing it) can become a habit. So can our inability to dominate second string QB's (see: Landry-Jones) and banged up opponenrs. Nip it in the bud.
Lessons learned: (1) We're not as good as the press says we are. .(2) We have proved on the field that we are capable of laying a giant sized egg vs. any caliber opponent. (3) We've also proved we are good enough to stifle an enemy offense or move the ball and score against anyone. (4) SK probably wishes he spent more money on a veteran long-snapper instead of going the cheap direction and settling on a rookie - the position may seem to be near-invisible, but we can now see what happens if you don't have someone you can trust filling it.
Tampa Bay is better than its clippings suggest (plus - they have a QB with elite physical talent).
What frightens me is that this team could fall into a steady pattern of losing the close ones and seeing weekly headline after weekly headline explaining "why we lost another one."
Gotta get mad and "take it out on Tampa next Sunday.