Jimmy Garoppolo tried to sleep on the late-night plane ride home from Arizona back home, but he couldn't. The excitement of his first win as a starting quarterback made it hard for him to wind down so he tried to get a little advanced scouting and got to work Miami, New England's Week 2 opponent.
"I tried to sleep a little bit on the flight, but I really couldn't," he told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday. "I'm mixed up between I'm tired [and] I got a lot of adrenaline going on in me. It's a lot of emotions rolling."
Garoppolo was able to keep those emotions in check a few hours earlier on the University of Phoenix turf, completing 24-of-33 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown in his team's 23-21 win over the Cardinals. He lost a fumble that led to an Arizona score, but otherwise, he showed poise when he needed to -- particularly on the game-winning drive.
The third-year signal-caller hit on back-to-back third-down throws in the fourth quarter to help get Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski into field-goal range where he made the go-ahead boot. The first came on a third-and-15 play, where Garoppolo used his athleticism to scramble briefly before finding Danny Amendola deep down the field for a 32-yard pickup.
"The line did a great job, first of all, giving me that time," Garoppolo said. "Third-and-15, you got to let your guys get down the field and Danny found the opening in the zone. It was a great job by him. He made it a pretty easy throw for me and he made a nice catch too, so it was a good play all the way around."
The next came in a more managable down and distance -- it was third-and-three at the Arizona 41 -- but it still required a well-executed throw and catch despite good coverage from the Cardinals secondary. Garoppolo threaded a pass through a tight window on a slant for running back James White that picked up seven yards and got the Patriots into an area where they had a much more comfortable shot at a field goal.
LeGarrette Blount's 13-yard run on third-and-11 made the kick even simpler, but the pitch-and-catch between Garoppolo and White earned a nod from coach Bill Belichick after the game.
"That was a great throw," Belichick said, "and a great catch in really tight coverage."
Garoppolo was helped in some ways by a quick-hitting game plan that both helped neutralize the Cardinals pass-rush and highlighted his strengths, but he made the throws when he needed to, including one early that allowed him to play with the lead.
He admitted he was "amped" before the game -- he was snorting smelling salts before kickoff like a pig at a trough -- but fought off nerves to hit a 37-yard bucket-throw to Chris Hogan on New England's first drive. That pass opened up the scoring and proved that he was able to handle a big moment on a national stage in a hostile environment.
"This is awesome. I don’t even have words to express what this probably means to the whole team," Hogan said. "Coming out here, playing on the road in a tough environment against a really good team. We were able to really execute out there and just battle the entire four quarters. I am just happy for everyone in here, and Jimmy. This is huge."
Hogan wasn't the only one who felt that way. Garoppolo left the field ecstatic. Football in hand, he was nearly tackled by team chaplain Jack Easterby who gave him a bear hug as he headed back to the Patriots locker room. Eventually the game ball made it to Garoppolo's parents who were in town to see their son make his first professional start.
"They’re taking it back to Chicago with them," Garoppolo told WEEI. "We’ll see where they put it. That might be my first game ball. We didn’t do game balls in college, because at 1-AA you don’t have that many footballs. You only get about five a season, so you’ve got to make them count. So I think that was my first one, actually."
With the way he performed in one of the most difficult tests the Patriots will face all season -- not just in the first four games without Tom Brady -- it's a good bet that it won't be his last.