Patriots Shocked by Cardinals, Lose Hernandez
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 01:09
It looked like the Patriots were simply going to lose a game on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. Chalk it up to a motivated Arizona Cardinals team, a poor, uncharacteristic day for the Patriots offense, or even call it a trap game.
However, that’s not what happened.
The Patriots turned a simple loss into a gut-wrenching, rip-your-heart-out defeat. After forcing a miraculous, and I mean miraculous turnover, down 20-18 with a minute to go in the game, the Patriots found themselves with a chance to win a game they had no business winning.
But again, that’s not what happened. The Pats got the ball on the Arizona 30-yard line, already well within kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s range. Keep that statement in mind.
On the second play after the fumble, it looked like the Patriots would walk away with their eleventh straight home opening win by scoring a touchdown. Danny Woodhead rushed up the middle for a 30-yard score but the play was brought back after a holding call on Rob Gronkowski.
Following a Brady completion to Wes Welker (5 catches, 95 yards) on the next play, that got the Patriots to the Arizona 18, and a couple of quarterback sneaks, it was time to set up the winning 42-yard ﬁeld goal attempt. This after Gostkowski had already drilled ﬁeld goals of 34, 46, 51, and 53 yards on the day. One would think this one would be a piece-of-cake, right?
Think again. Gostkowski stepped up and yanked it left of left. He made Billy Cundiff look good. (Well, maybe not that good.)
Call it a C-H-O-K-E. There is no other explanation. We all know how good Gostkowski has been. He has been money in big games, playoff games. He is a very, very worthy successor to Adam Vinatieri but Gostkowski has not been put in many game-winning situations in his Patriots career and when it comes down to it, this was week two against the Arizona Cardinals. This was not even close to the pressure he could face later in the season. He simply has to make the kick.
By any stretch of the imagination, this loss is not all on Gostkowski. He was actually the lone bright spot on the day for the ﬁrst 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the game.
The game was lost way before that. The Patriots were inept on offense for 55 minutes and the loss of Aaron Hernandez, who left early in the ﬁrst quarter following an ankle injury didn’t help the cause. The offense got into the red zone just once, before their only touchdown drive with ﬁve minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Two trips to the red zone is not close to good enough for the Patriots offense, that gained just 387 yards on the day.
The lone trip to the end zone came late in the fourth quarter with the Patriots down
eight, after Gostkowski had kicked his fourth ﬁeld goal of the day, a 53-yarder, earlier in the ﬁnal frame that cut the Arizona lead to 20-12.
After an Arizona three-and-out on the ensuing drive, the Patriots got the ball at their own 18-yard line with 5:42 remaining. After struggling mightily all day on offense, the Patriots ﬁnally got going, relying on their no huddle, shotgun approach.
Brady was 8 of 10 on the drive, accounting for all 82 yards the Patriots gained. He found Rob Gronkowski four times (43 yards), including on a 5-yard touchdown that brought the Patriots to within two points.
Brady (28-46, 316 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) attempted to ﬁnd Gronkowski for the two-point conversion, that would have tied the game, but the pass was just beyond his reach.
This is where the madness began.
Arizona took over at their own 20-yard line with 2:06 left. The Patriots had two timeouts and the two-minute warning remaining. There was a slim chance they could get the ball back if they got a stop.
The Cardinals got one ﬁrst down on a thirteen yard run by Ryan Williams, forcing the Patriots to use their second timeout. The Cardinals were then stuffed on the ensuing two plays, leaving them with third-and-13 at their own 35. With a kneel down or short run they would have been able to run the clock down to around 25-30 seconds.
On third-and-13 Arizona handed it off to Williams, who was stripped by linebacker Brandon Spikes. Vince Wilfork recovered at the Arizona 35, placing the Patriots in ﬁeld goal range with 1:01 to go and a chance to pull off an improbable victory.
But then Woodhead’s run was called back and Gostkowski missed the ﬁeld goal allowing the Cardinals to walk out of Foxborough with a stunning 20-18 victory.
That wasn’t where the ugliness started, though. After allowing a ﬁeld goal on the ﬁrst drive of the game, the Patriots were looking to answer but on the ﬁrst offensive play for New England, Brady’s pass was deﬂected and picked off by Patrick Peterson, setting up the Cardinals on the Patriots’ 36-yard line. The Cardinals were forced to go three-and-out and Jay Feely made a 47-yard ﬁeld goal to put Arizona up 6-0.
The Patriots followed up that drive with a scoring drive of their own. The Pats drove 47 yards, but the drive stalled on the Arizona 28 and forcing New England to kick a ﬁeld goal, which cut the Cardinals’ lead to 6-3. Aaron Hernandez was injured on that drive.
The NFL Network reported that Hernandez has sustained a high ankle sprain and was spotted leaving the stadium on crutches after the game.
New England tied the game with 12:40 to go in the second quarter. The Patriots started in Arizona territory but were only able to move the ball 36 yards, to the Arizona 16. Until they scored with ﬁve minutes to go in the game, New England’s only trip to the red zone finished with yet another ﬁeld goal – a 34-yarder from Gostkowski.
The Patriots received the ball to start the second half and took the lead with a 51-yard ﬁeld goal, Gostkowski’s third successful kick of the day.
With 10:49 remaining in the third, the Patriots were pinned deep in their own end. Zoltan Mesko’s was called upon to punt from the 11-yard line but it was blocked out-of-bounds by the Cardinals’ Quentin Groves, setting up Arizona at the New England 2-yard line.