The Patriots have lost their fair share of close games this year, so it’s good to see them escape with a 3-point win. But this win was an early Christmas gift for the Patriots, who did plenty to lose this game.
▪ It was not an impressive game by Newton by any stretch. He completed just 9 of 18 passes for 84 yards, two interceptions, and a 23.6 passer rating. He had a few nice connections with Jakobi Meyers (five catches for 52 yards), but otherwise the passing game was non-functional. The Patriots’ first three scoring drives all started in Arizona territory, and any time Newton had to drive down the field, the Patriots hit a wall.
Newton’s accuracy was all over the place, and his pocket presence was especially poor, as he had little feel for the pass rush and took three sacks; all three unnecessary. The Patriots also struggled to pick up the blitz, leading to an interception on his first pass attempt of the game.
Newton was better as a runner, rushing nine times for 46 yards and making a good decision on the option pitch to James White for the Patriots’ first touchdown. But the passing game is going backwards.
▪ What a great effort from the Patriots’ defense, who held the dynamic duo of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins in check. The Patriots completely eliminated any downfield passing, with Murray only throwing for 170 yards on 34 pass attempts and not completing a pass longer than 19 yards. Hopkins, shadowed for most of the day by Stephon Gilmore, had just five catches for 55 yards. The Patriots made the Cardinals earn their way down the field, and the Cardinals had a 12-play field goal drive, a 15-play drive with no points, and a 16-play touchdown drive.
And what an unbelievable goal line stand at the end of the second quarter, first to keep KeeSean Johnson out of the end zone and then to stuff Kenyan Drake at the 1-inch line. If not for two ill-timed defensive holding penalties by Gilmore and Jason McCourty late in the game, the Patriots would have pitched a shutout over the final three quarters.
▪ A few great tactics by the defense. The Patriots were determined not to let Murray beat them on the outside, and Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche had great games setting the edge of the defense, like they did two weeks ago against Lamar Jackson. And the Patriots had a great cat-and-mouse game plan on third downs — they blitzed heavily in the first half but pulled back in the second half. In the third quarter they faked a big blitz, backed off, and Murray threw an interception to Adrian Phillips.
▪ The Patriots are one of the worst first-quarter teams in the NFL this season with a minus-25 point differential, and they kept it going Sunday with a horrible opening quarter. They couldn’t handle the blitz again and Newton threw an interception on his first