Patriots

Patriots

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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GAROPPOLO HANDLES THE MOMENT . . . 

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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. . . BUT FUMBLE LEADS TO CARDINALS SCORE

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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EDELMAN LOOKS LIKE HIMSELF

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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HIGHTOWER NICKED UP?

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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FIELD-POSITION BATTLE GETS A NEW WRINKLE

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.