NEPD Staff Writer: Joon Lee
This is why I love the NFL. Anyone can make predictions of what is going to happen on game-day, but it doesn’t matter until the game is played. On Sunday, the Patriots were stunned by the Arizona Cardinals, a team riddled with quarterback problems and a lack of weapons on offense, in a 20-18 loss in the home opener at Gillette Stadium.
Although it’s easy to place the blame on kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s shanked field goal with one second left in the game, the Patriots problems were much deeper yesterday in the loss to the Cardinals.
There wasn’t much good to take out of yesterday’s loss to the Cardinals so here are my six keys to defeat.
Injury to Aaron Hernandez
Not only is this a key to defeat for this loss against the Cardinals, this may be a key to defeat for losses that may or may not occur in the next six weeks for the Patriots when Hernandez will be out with a high ankle sprain.
Hernandez’s loss seemingly destroyed the Patriots offensive gameplan yesterday, as the offense had very little going after the loss of their tight-end. Although it was like Hernandez took the gameplan from Josh McDaniels’s hands yesterday when he left the field, McDaniels will need to come up with new schemes for an offense centered around Gronkowski during Hernandez’s absence.
Offensive Line Struggles
The struggles of this unit should definitely not be overlooked in yesterday’s loss. This unit is in desperate need of help. When Tom Brady is getting pressured and pushed out of the pocket, the Patriots’s aren’t going to have any success, made evident by the last two Super Bowl losses to the Giants.
What Patriots are in dire need of is Brian Waters. While his locker may have been emptied out and his number assigned to Dontá Hightower, Water’s stability at the guard spot was invaluable last year and his absence in the line is quite evident now. The Patriots need to give Waters what he wants. It has become obvious that the guys filling in for him are not working out.
Blocked Punt against Mesko
He’s the most interesting man in the world. He’s the punter for the New England Patriots. He had his first punt blocked in 122 punts as a pro. Most importantly, it was not even his fault.
The ball gave the Cardinals the ball at the Patriots’s two yard line which lead to Kevin Kolb to Andre Roberts touchdown. The Patriots inability to protect the most interesting man in the world (yes, even more so than the Dos Equis guy), was a crucial turning point. In addition, Mesko would have punted the ball away far into the Cardinals territory, something that has become a common sight from a guy who has become one of the best punters in the league.
Mental Errors in Practice
Wes Welker mentioned that the Patriots had made a lot of mental errors in practice that week. This is a big deal and it should be duly noted.
“Just a lot of mental errors and things like that,” said Welker. “Guys not doing their assignments and not doing their job.”
When you have a terrible week in practice, that generally translates to the game. These mental errors were many in the loss and was highlighted by Gronkowski’s key penalties in the last couple of minutes were crucial in leading to Gostowski’s shank.
Playcalling by McDaniels
There is no doubt that McDaniels is seemingly the coach in waiting after Belichick leaves. McDaniels is usually a very good playcaller and has an offensive scheme that fits the Patriots offense perfectly. Yesterday was not a day that McDaniels will want to remember.
McDaniels made a couple of very questionable calls yesterday late in the game. A couple of highlights included running plays late in the game where it seemed obvious that passing plays would be necessary and were completely counterintuitive to what should be called.
Funny thing is, if those played had worked, we’d be calling McDaniels a genius.
Interception by Brady on first play
It may have been long forgotten by the time the game was over, but Brady’s interception of the first play of the game was crucial to the outcome of the rest of the game. Not only did the interception immediately give the ball back to the Cardinals, but it also squandered Brady’s chance to the get the offense in sync on the first drive of the game.
The shift in momentum not only gave confidence to the Cardinal’s defense, who played a great game, but it also did not allow Brady to run a good offense throughout the day. Brady may have had a decent day yesterday passing for 316 yards, but his interception on the first play of the day set the tone for the rest of the game and shifted the momentum drastically.
Watching this game was a good reminder that the Patriots aren’t invincible. It’s going to be entertaining to see Brady come back out next week against the tough Ravens defense and see how he will respond to this embarrassing loss.