Patriots-Cardinals score, takeaways: New England defense hounds Arizona without Kyler Murray to earn big win

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The Patriots moved to 7-6 this season after taking the “Monday Night Football” victory over the Cardinals, 27-13. The win not only pushes New England back above .500, but also places it as the number 7 seed in the AFC playoff picture, surpassing the Chargers and Jets.

This was a game filled with a wide variety of injuries, but none more notable than Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. He suffered a non-contact knee injury on the third leg of the game and had to be carried off the field. The first tests reportedly indicate that it is feared Murray may have torn his ACL, which would end his season if/when an MRI confirms. That would push Colt McCoy to the starting spot under center like he was Monday night.

Under duress, McCoy was solid and helped Arizona to a field goal lead by halftime. Thanks to back-to-back possession around halftime that both resulted in field goals, New England were able to tie things up early in the second half at 13 apiece, but it was largely another choppy performance on the offensive side of the ball for the patriots.

However, their defense was able to catapult them to victory after turnovers on back-to-back drives at the end of the third quarter. The first was a forced fumble from Kyle Dugger on DeAndre Hopkins that picked up Raekwon McMillan and returned 29 yards for the touchdown to go up 20-13. On the Cardinals’ next possession, Josh Uche hit a McCoy pitch out of bounds and landed in the arms of rookie Marcus Jones. The offense then set up a five-play, 63-yard touchdown drive headlined by a 39-yard reception from Hunter Henry to go up two scores en route to victory.

Mac Jones was 24 of 35 on the night for 235 yards and an interception. With the backfield in trouble, rookie running back Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris up the slack, as they each managed to find the end zone. On the Arizona side, McCoy finished with 246 yards and an interception on 27 of 40 passes. James Conner rushed 15 times for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Check out our takeaways below for a more detailed look at how this game unfolded.

Why the Patriots won

For most of this game, it looked like the offense would be New England’s downfall once again. There were a number of questionable play calls, including a first-down run with 10 seconds left in the first half that nearly resulted in a turnover that would have eliminated a scoring opportunity. There were also times in this game when Mac Jones was visibly frustrated with how the offense was going.

That said, it’s amazing how a few key defensive plays can not only flip the script for this game, but also lighten the mood on the New England sidelines. In the second half, the Patriots defense swamped the Arizona offense and put constant pressure on Colt McCoy. As a team, New England compiled six sacks, half of which came from linebacker Josh Uche. Matt Judon was also a mainstay in the Cardinals’ backfield, adding 1.5 sacks to his already high total.

That continued pressure shutout the game in the second half and also contributed to one of the most important turnovers in this game. After Dugger’s forced fumble from Hopkins and McMillan’s scoop-and-score, Uche was able to quickly pressure McCoy with the ensuing possession. He rocketed off the left side of the line and hit McCoy just as he tried to hit Hopkins with a deep ball down the left sideline. That changed the trajectory of the ball and landed in the arms of Marcus Jones to initiate an eventual touchdown drive through the offense and complete the 14-point swing. New England has now scored 85 points on turnovers this season, which is the most in the NFL.

While the offense certainly needs to get into a better rhythm for an entire game, that touchdown drive after Jones’ interception was a promising move. The key play on that drive was an uncharacteristic—albeit welcome—low blow to Hunter Henry for 39 yards, bringing them within the 5-yard line. If they can start introducing more of those deep shots into their offense, it will go a long way in helping New England enter the postseason.

Another note on the offense: With Damien Harris (thigh) previously ruled out for this game and Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) leaving the game early, New England rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. The freshman backs each found the end zone and rushed for a total of 96 yards at an average of 7.3 yards per carry.

Why the Cardinals lost

Of course, it’s never ideal to lose your franchise quarterback to injury, playing just three plays in a game, but this was a winnable matchup for Arizona, even with Colt McCoy under center. It was able to move the ball early against this Patriots defense, but couldn’t completely put them away, as it scored a touchdown on only one of its three red zone trips in the first half.

In the closing seconds of the first half, Kliff Kingsbury continued his theme of being hyper-aggressive on fourth and kept his charge down the field with 36 seconds left at the New England 32-yard line. McCoy had Trey McBride open in the flat for a first down, but the veteran quarterback couldn’t get enough of the ball, allowing Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai to tip him and force a turnover on downs. That returned the ball to the Patriots, who would move downfield quickly and kick a field goal to score in three. That missed fourth-place opportunity at the end of the second quarter didn’t stop Kingsbury from putting the envelope in fourth on the team’s next possession, in which it also failed to convert.

It was after that run that the Patriots’ defense pressured the Cardinals and began creating turnovers that catapulted them to victory.

Besides some questionable decisions on critical downs and poor play along the offensive line, the Cardinals were largely undisciplined. They were called up for eight penalties, with a few erasing key plays early on, including an illegal shift that took away a third and thirteenth conversion by Hopkins on the second possession of the night. The violation effectively killed the disc.

Turning point

Arguably the most important swing in this game was the Hopkins fumble that returned for a touchdown. Just before that, the Cardinals defense forced a quick three-and-out on the Patriots offense that lasted just over 90 seconds, and it felt like New England staggered internally to internal combustion. That scoop and score by McMillan, however, revived the club and led to a 14-0 run that allowed the Patriots to clinch the victory.

Hopkins was extremely sloppy with his handling of the football during the fumble, holding the ball with one hand and not extending his arm near his chest. That gave Dugger plenty of room to knock him clear.

Game of the game

James Conner’s 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter may be lost in the shuffle of defeat, but it was a great display of power by the veteran back. He took the first-and-goal carry from the 10-yard line up the gut, and it looked like he was going to be stopped for a minimal gain, when he ran into a collection of white jerseys around the line of scrimmage. However, Conner had other plans and decided to fight his way into the end zone, taking Patriot safety Devin McCourty with him.

What’s next

From here, the Cardinals will travel to Denver to face the Broncos, who currently have starting quarterback Russell Wilson in concussion. Meanwhile, the Patriots are staying west as they will take on the Raiders in Las Vegas next Sunday.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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