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Patriots vs. Cardinals: Score and Twitter Reaction for Sunday Night Football

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2016

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots throws a pass during the first quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In his first career NFL start, Jimmy Garoppolo looked every bit the part of a starting quarterback for one of the league's best teams, as he guided the New England Patriots to a 23-21 Week 1 road win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football.

Down 21-20 in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo engineered a 13-play, 61-yard drive that ended in a 32-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal with less than four minutes left in the contest. The Cardinals had a chance to win the game with 41 seconds remaining, but a bad snap messed up the timing for kicker Chandler Catanzaro, whose 47-yard field-goal attempt went wide left. 

With Tom Brady serving the first of a four-game suspension, tight end Rob Gronkowski out with a hamstring injury and several other starters nursing injuries, the Patriots came into the game as relatively heavy underdogs, an unfamiliar position for the marquee franchise.

CBS Sports' Will Brinson noted this was probably not a great idea by the oddsmakers:

Will Brinson @WillBrinson

Maybe don't spot Bill Belichick a touchdown when he has an entire offseason to prepare. Pretty good lesson there.

All eyes were on Garoppolo, who had the added pressure of dealing with a hostile University of Phoenix Stadium crowd and the scrutiny of a nationally televised game. 

The Eastern Illinois product looked cool and composed from the start, consistently taking what the Cardinals defense would give him and making crisp, accurate throws. He went 24-of-33 for 264 yards and one touchdown in the contest, which compared favorably to veteran Carson Palmer, who went 24-of-37 for 271 yards and two scores.

Boston.com's Chad Finn joked that the Minnesota Vikings might come calling for Garoppolo after his impressive debut: 

Chad Finn @GlobeChadFinn

Vikings might trade their next eight first-rounders for Garoppolo if you call them right now.

Julian Edelman emerged as Garoppolo's favorite target, reeling in seven catches for 66 yards. The underneath routes were there for most of the night, and Edelman was the main beneficiary.

Larry Fitzgerald was the star of the show for Arizona, recording eight catches for 81 yards and two scores, the 99th and 100th receiving touchdowns of his brilliant career. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Fitzgerald became just the 10th player in NFL history to reach that milestone. Earlier on Sunday, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported 2016 might be Fitzgerald's last season in the NFL.

ESPN's Michael Wilbon felt the Cardinals wasted a vintage Fitzgerald effort:

Michael Wilbon @RealMikeWilbon

If only the rest of the Cardinals organization and team were up to the standard Larry Fitzgerald plays to. But they're not. A shame.

Running back David Johnson had a big day as well for the Cardinals, rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown while adding 43 receiving yards.

Martellus Bennett, starting in place of Gronkowski, was shut out in the first half and recorded just three catches for 14 yards in the game. However, he did shine as a blocker, springing the Patriots running backs on several plays.

It didn't take long for Garoppolo to find success. On New England's first possession, he put together an eight-play, 74-yard drive that he capped off with a 37-yard touchdown toss to a wide-open Chris Hogan to help the Patriots seize a 7-0 lead early in first quarter. 

The NFL provided a look at the play: 

NFL @NFL

Left wiiiide open... @JimmyG_10 finds @ChrisHogan_15 for the @Patriots TD! #NEvsAZ https://t.co/ixVMMMtT0L

With Garoppolo making his first start and Hogan playing his first game with the Patriots after four seasons in Buffalo, CBS Sports Radio's Adam Kaufman noted they were an unlikely pairing for New England's first score of the year:

Adam Kaufman @AdamMKaufman

Jimmy Garoppolo to Chris Hogan for the first #Patriots touchdown of the season. Exactly how we would've drawn it up last winter.

Garoppolo looked poised again on his second drive, which ended in a Gostkowski 47-yard field goal.

Arizona got a spark midway through the second quarter, however, as linebacker Markus Golden rushed around the edge and strip-sacked Garoppolo, allowing defensive end Chandler Jones to recover the ball and deal a blow to his former team.

The Cardinals went on to score on a three-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to Fitzgerald, which helped Arizona cut the deficit to 10-7 before halftime. 

To open the second half, the Patriots marched 75 yards downfield on a combination of short passing and bruising running by LeGarrette Blount, whose eight-yard scoring plunge helped New England increase its lead to 17-7, as the NFL showed:

NFL @NFL

💪💪💪💪 @LG_Blount carries SIX defenders with him into the end zone! 😱 #NEvsAZ https://t.co/uqu2484sFd

Garoppolo continued to garner praise for his performance, with NESN's Doug Kyed passing along this quote from an NFL scout:

Doug Kyed @DougKyed

A scout, as Jimmy Garoppolo continues to pick apart AZ's defense: "Some people think he's better than a third of the league's starting QBs."

With seemingly no answer for Garoppolo, the pressure mounted for Palmer and Co. to keep up. They got a gift midway through the third quarter, as Blount fumbled deep in his own half of the field and Arizona defensive end Frostee Rucker recovered. Five plays later, Johnson helped Arizona cut New England's lead to three again with a one-yard plunge.

Following a 53-yard Gostkowski field goal, Arizona took its first lead of the game on a leaping one-yard touchdown grab by Fitzgerald, who contorted his body on a fade route to snag Palmer's lofted throw with 9:46 left in the fourth quarter. The score was set up by a 45-yard run by Johnson, who drew a favorable comparison from former NFL head coach Tony Dungy: 

Tony Dungy @TonyDungy

Arizona's David Johnson reminds me of a young Edgerrin James. He can do so many things well.

Here's a look at Johnson turning nothing into something, via the NFL:

NFL @NFL

DAVID. JOHNSON. Are you kidding?!? The @AZCardinals RB turns a loss into an incredible run! 👀 #NEvsAZ https://t.co/cbXiAl3zhA

Even with Arizona's front seven putting together an impressive pass rush in the second half, Garoppolo kept the New England offense chugging along. His mobility served him well on the drive, with the key moment being a scramble that allowed him to fire off a 32-yard strike to Danny Amendola on 3rd-and-15.

The Patriots couldn't finish the off the drive with a touchdown, but Gostkowski nailed the field goal to give New England a lead it would not relinquish. 

While the Cardinals will feel the game got away, their next opportunity is a good one at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jameis Winston tossed four touchdown passes in Week 1, so it's another test for the Cardinals secondary and pass rush.

With a win over Arizona under their belts, the Patriots have already passed their toughest test of Brady's suspension. The next three games for New England are at home against Miami, Houston and Buffalo.

       

Postgame Reaction

Garoppolo's performance and eventual future with the organization is surely going to be discussed heavily by the media, not that this is of any concern to head coach Bill Belichick. Here's a vintage retort from Belichick, per Kyed: 

Doug Kyed @DougKyed

Belichick sarcastic when a reporter mentioned the storyline will be on Garoppolo: "There's nothing higher on my list than the storyline."

Belichick was his typically laconic self in assessing the Patriots' play Sunday.

"I am really proud of our team tonight," he said, per the Associated Press (via Patriots.com). "I thought we got great effort from all three phases. We played a good complimentary game."

The 24-year-old Garoppolo said it was his teammates' belief in his abilities that allowed him to put in a fine effort.

"When you have confidence in your teammates and they have confidence in you, it's easy to stay poised," he said, per the Associated Press.

Although a low snap appeared to alter his potential game-winning kick, Catanzaro didn't lay the blame at anyone's feet other than his own.

"Just an old-fashioned miss," Catanzaro said, per the AP. "I'll make the next one."

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