Sunday, September 16, 2012

Last 1:10 of Patriots/Cardinals was a showcase of inept football

The flyover was perhaps the best part of this game
What a lousy way to end a game.

The New England Patriots managed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of defeat today as they dropped the first home opener in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium EVER by succumbing to the Arizona Cardinals 20-18. The Pats had a golden opportunity slip through their fingers late as Arizona managed to hand them the ball inside their own 40, only to watch the New Englanders fail to execute.

With 1:10 left in the game, Arizona running back Ryan Williams committed a sin of Joe Pisarcikian proportions as he fumbled on a pitch to the left. Patriots defender Brandon Spikes delivered a blow on the ball, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Vince Wilfork. It was equally a great play by Spikes and a horrible call by Arizona offensive coordinator Mike Miller. The sweep gave the Patriot defenders more opportunity to get shots on the ball, as opposed to a quick hitting dive or power up the middle. Hell, taking a knee and punting would have been sufficient to essentially end New England's day. Instead, the Pats offense took over on the 30 yard line with 1:01 to play. Execute four plays, and New England fans go home happy.

On first down, Tom Brady targeted WR Wes Welker at the 27 yard line on a short out route. Instead of hitting the open Welker, Brady's pass was slightly deflected by Daryl Washington. Welker would have likely scampered for 3 or 4 yards after the catch, and may have even gotten out of bounds to stop the clock.

On second down, Brady handed off to RB Danny Woodhead, who was lined up to Brady's right. Woodhead took a few steps before he cut back to his right, found himself in open field, and ran in for was likely the winning touchdown. Except for the pesky yellow hankie on the field. Pats all-universe and man about town TE Rob Gronkowski was flagged for holding, negating the TD, pushing the Pats back to the 30 yard line with :52 on the clock.

Brady then hit the reliable Welker on a WR screen, and Welker ran to the Arizona 18 yard line before stepping out of bounds, stopping the clock at :46, and giving the Pats a fresh set of downs. The Foxboro faithful felt it was "game over".

On first and 10 on the 18, Brady ran a QB sneak, moving to his right and setting the ball in the center of the hash marks with :44 to go. It was an ultra-conservative call by OC Josh McDaniels, who had all the time in the world to run perhaps three plays before kicking the field goal try on fourth down. It was for naught, as Gronk was flagged again for a false start, setting the Pats back to the 23 yard line, but leaving :46 seconds still on the clock.

Brady again called his own number and ran the sneak to set the ball in position for the game winning try by Pats kicker Steven Gostkowski, instead of taking a shot or two in the end zone to ice the game for certain. Again, a very conservative approach by the normally bold McDaniels.

Brady then spiked the ball with :06 to go, stopping the clock and allowing the field goal unit to take the field. Pats kicker Gostkowski missed the kick, pulling it left for his first FG of the season, after hitting four in the day. The Pats fans looked on stunned as Arizona took a knee to end the game and escape with the win.

The final sequence showed ineptitude on both sides. Arizona should have run the ball between the tackles instead of putting Williams in a position to fumble. Gronk completely fell apart at the end of the game, negating the game winning TD by Woodhead and pushing the field goal unit back five yards with the false start penalty. McDaniels got too conservative, and elected to put the game on the foot of his kicker instead of in the hands of his best player, Tom Brady. Gostkowski picked a terrible time to push a kick wide. It was a plan destined to lose, and if any of the aforementioned Patriot players or coaches executed, the outcome surely would have been different. 

"There are a lot of things we could have done better today all the way around, all of us. I’m sure everybody on the team feels the same way – every player and every coach." head coach Bill Belichick said after the game.

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