Failure to defend on third downs was Cardinals’ biggest problem in loss
There is a lot to be disappointed about in a home opening loss to a depleted New England Patriots team that was without Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich and two starting offensive lineman.
So many things went wrong, including a bad snap which led to a potential game-winning field goal going wide left. A roughing the passer call on Kevin Minter, crucial holding penalties to Tyvon Branch and Earl Watford on the same series. And rookie cornerback Brandon Williams getting toasted on a couple of big plays.
But if I needed to pick just one thing that did the Cardinals in, it would be their failures defensively on third down. On the Patriots’ opening possession of the second half, they converted a 3rd-and-6 on a Garoppolo run for 10 yards and a 3rd-and-7 when Williams failed to make a tackle and got beat by Malcolm Mitchell for 28 yards. The play after Williams’ gaffe, LeGarrette Blount bulldozed his way in from eight yards for a 17-7 New England lead.
If that wasn’t bad enough, let’s look at the game-winning field goal drive by the Patriots late in the fourth quarter. Garoppolo completed a 32-yard pass to Danny Amendola on a 3rd-and-15 then hit James White for seven yards on a 3rd-and-5 and finally Blount made Patrick Peterson miss a tackle on his way to a 13-yard run to convert a 3rd-and-11 to the Arizona 22-yard line. A few plays later, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field goal to put the Patriots up 23-21.
So many things can be pointed to as to why the Cardinals are licking their wounds today, but nothing looms bigger than the absolute failures by the defense on third downs.