Best and worst: Patriots 23, Cardinals 21
BEST USE OF POSSESSION DISCRETION
Taking over with 1:21 left in the half and three timeouts, the Patriots – from their own 31 – opted to sit on their 10-7 lead and kill some clock content to go in at halftime. Despite a Twitter outcry that the Patriots were waaaayyyy too conservative, this was something they did quite a bit of in 2015 (not that that made it right then). But not only was it the predictable move after a fumble and three-and-out completed the previous drive, it was the right one as the Pats punted, Carson Palmer got sacked, the half ended, the Patriots got the ball to start the second half and scored to go up 17-7.
MOST SELFISH PLAY (…joking)
Early in the third quarter, Garoppolo looked over the middle, delivered and had the ball swatted back to him. With some clear space in front, he happily scurried for 3 before hitting the deck. Goes down as a completion and a reception for Garoppolo.
MOST INEXPLICABLE INSERTION
The Patriots were doing fine early with LeGarrette Blount and James White taking the snaps at running back in the first half when – out of nowhere – the Patriots decided to get some reps for Brandon Bolden. In his first game carries since fumbling in Week 2 of the preseason, Bolden gained four then fumbled on his second carry.
BIGGEST MOMENTUM PLAY OF THE EARLY SECOND HALF
A sideline completion to Malcolm Mitchell into a tight window on third-and-7 that barely eluded a fingertip and turned into a 28-yard gain.
THE “AM I THE ONLY ONE SEEING THIS” OBSERVATION
Garoppolo has plenty of arm strength but some of his sideline throws delivered with that quick release don’t have enough lower body in them and there’s not enough ZING!!!! Recipe for not good things.
BEST IMPRESSION OF DAD CARRYING NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS AROUND ON BACK
LeGarrette Blount’s 8-yard touchdown run while carrying the majority of the Arizona defense including 6-8, 300-pound Calais Campbell.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMANCE BY DAD IN ENCORE EFFORT
Blount, fumbling on the next Patriots drive at the New England 32. The Cardinals turned that turnover into a touchdown.
TOUGHEST PENALTY CALL 1.0
Chandler Jones and teammate called for a choreographed celebration after a fumble recovery in the first half. It wasn’t worth flagging.
TOUGHEST PENALTY CALL 2.0
Arizona linebacker Kevin Minter tackling Jimmy Garoppolo’s calves on a fourth-quarter incompletion that extended the Patriots drive thanks to it being called unsportsmanlike for roughing the quarterback.
BIGGEST BAILOUT POINTS
Stephen Gostkowski salvaged an 11-play, 40-yard drive that was looking shaky in its final stages with a 53-yard field goal with 12:35 remaining to put the Patriots up 20-14.
David Johnson with a jump-cut, pirouette, hand down for balance, double-stiff-arm 45-yard run.
BEST ‘HEY, REMEMBER ME?’ MOMENT
Chandler Jones starting the Cardinals defensive series after Arizona went ahead with a pancake sack of Garoppolo.
BEST CHUCK AND DUCK THROW
Garoppolo buying time and then finding Danny Amendola for 32 yards on third-and-15 from the Patriots 20. A heartbeat after releasing, he got sawed in half.