Five quick impressions from Patriots' 23-21 win over Cardinals

Five quick impressions from Patriots' 23-21 win over Cardinals

We'll get to the low snap from rookie Cardinals long-snapper Kameron Canaday that helped the Patriots pull this one out in the final moments, but for now, here are five quick impressions from the season-opener between the Patriots and Cardinals, which the guests won, 23-21. . .

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Aside from an overthrow on his very first attempt of the game, Jimmy Garoppolo looked comfortable in the pocket early in this one. He went 4-for-5 for 75 yards and a touchdown on his first drive as a starting quarterback, finishing it off with a perfectly-thrown 37-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan to open the scoring. Credit offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with helping Garoppolo get his feet under him with some quick-hitters and a good mix between run and pass plays. With Garoppolo's state of mind being one of the key factors in this matchup, he showed early on that he was capable of handling the moment. Later in the game, with the Patriots down 21-20 in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo once again rose to the challenge. He hit Danny Amendola for a first down on third-and-15, and later found James White for another first down on third-and-three. One more third-down conversion -- a third-and-11 run from LeGarrette Blount -- put Stephen Gostkowski well within range to make the go-ahead kick. 

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The Patriots have a saying: Before you can win, you have to learn how not to lose. It's awkwardly-worded, but it's meaning is pretty clear. Don't screw it up. Don't make the big, game-changing mistake. Ever since Tom Brady accepted his four-game suspension, the general consensus was that if Jimmy Garoppolo didn't lose games for the Patriots, there was enough talent around him for the team to win. Garoppolo put that theory to the test with 10:32 remaining in the first half when he was sacked by Markus Golden and fumbled. The ball was recovered by former Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, the Cardinals began their drive at their own 46-yard line, and they scored 11 plays later. Turnovers nearly did in the Patriots in this one as LeGarrette Blount's fumble with 6:30 left in the third led to a Cardinals touchdown five plays later and cut the Patriots lead to 17-14.

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Julian Edelman had a scare during training camp where he aggravated the left foot that needed surgery last season and then required another procedure this spring. He looked quick upon his return, but he saw limited action in the preseason, and it was relatively unclear just how quick he would be able to move when the regular season began and the speed of the game picked up. Consider those questions answered. In his first meaningful action since looking somewhat hobbled in the AFC title game in January, Edelman was sharp in running his routes and dynamic with the football in his hands. He finished with seven catches for 66 yards and three runs for 16 yards, serving as Garoppolo's ultimate security blanket. His first three catches went for first downs and helped Garoppolo settle in. 

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With just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter, Dont'a Hightower rushed off the right edge and put some pressure on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. After Palmer got off a throw (which fell incomplete) a Cardinals offensive lineman fell on Hightower's legs. The Patriots linebacker appeared to be a bit slow to get back to the Patriots bench and trainer Jim Whalen checked out his right leg. Hightower sat out a few plays on Arizona's next drive, giving way to Shea McClellin, but he was back on the field soon thereafter. Hightower played regularly throughout the rest of the game, but looked uncomfortable at times dropping into coverage. Given his importance to the team as a versatile 'backer who can rush, cover and stuff the run, Hightower's health moving forward will be important to monitor. 

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With a new rule in place this season that calls for drives following touchbacks to begin at the 25-yard line, it was a bit uncertain as to how the Patriots would handle their kickoffs. They have a strong-legged kicker in Stephen Gostkowski, but would they pooch kick and try to pin opposing teams inside their 25? On six kickoffs in Arizona, Gostkowski kicked two deep for touchbacks. Four were targeted for the goal line and were successful in keeping the Cardinals from reaching the 25.

Report: Slater returning to Patriots

Report: Slater returning to Patriots

Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater has signed a two-year deal to return to the team, according to an ESPN's Mike Reiss.

Slater had made a free-agent visit to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. The seven-time Pro Bowl special teams ace, who turns 33 in September, has spent the past 10 seasons in a New England. Slater, one of the veteran leaders in the locker room, signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract extension in 2016.

The Patriots traded with the Oakland Raiders for kick returner/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson earlier this week to bolster their special teams.


Report: New catch rule coming to NFL

Report: New catch rule coming to NFL

A new catch rule is coming to the NFL.

So, controversies such as the Jesse James' touchdown reversal in the Steelers' loss to the Patriots in December and the Kelvin Benjamin call in the Bills-Pats game a week later likely would have resulted in upheld TDs under the new rule.

According to the Washington Post, Troy Vincent, the NFL VP of football operations, said competition committee members plan to propose getting rid of portions of the rule related to a receiver going to the ground while making a catch and to slight movement of the football while it’s in the receiver’s hands. Vincent also said the committee also intends to raise the bar by which an on-field ruling of a catch could be overturned via replay review.

That apparently was what was done in Super Bowl 52, when the Eagles' Corey Clement's juggling TD catch was not overturned via replay. 

“We worked backward,” said Vincent told the Post. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule.”

The rule modifications could be approved by the competition committee as early Tuesday, the Post reported, and owners will meet next week in Orlando to vote on it. Rule changes must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 franchises. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been pushing for the catch rule to be modified.