Patriots win ugly at home vs. Cardinals

By Brendan Beauregard, Assistant Sports Editor

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The 2020 New England Patriots season has been like a seesaw. Sometimes they go way up and play like one of the best teams in the AFC. Other times they are way down and look like they don’t belong on the field. Sunday’s game vs the Arizona Cardinals at Gillette Stadium saw the Patriots seesaw go up and down several times and ended with New England somehow high up and victorious.

New England scraped by with a 20-17 win vs. Arizona thanks to a game-winning 50-yard field goal by Nick Folk on the last play of the game. The victory improved the Patriots record to 5-6 and kept their playoff hopes alive.

Offensively, quarterback Cam Newton completed 9 of 18 passes for just 84 yards, ran for 46 yards, threw two ill-timed interceptions, and had a hideous quarterback rating of 6.6. Newton’s first interception came on the opening drive of the game that led to Arizona capitalizing with a quick touchdown. His second pick happened late in the fourth quarter with the game tied and seemed to crush the Patriots hopes of a win if not for a missed field goal by Arizona.

“I’d rather have an ugly win rather than a pretty loss,” said Newton in the postgame press conference. “We didn’t play our best game offensively, but when we needed it, we got the job done. That’s all that counts.”

The main positives of the offense was the performance of New England’s running backs. James White scored both of the Patriots touchdowns and Damien Harris contributed 47 yards on the ground with impressive decision making on cutbacks and finding open running lanes.

“It was a hard-fought game; it wasn’t perfect. Their defense threw some different things at us, but guys tried to be on the same page, communicate it out and find ways to win the football game,” said White in the postgame press conference.

Switching over to the defense, New England had the challenge of containing the Cardinals electric two-way quarterback Kyler Murray and Arizona’s top five ranked offense. Similar to their offensive performance, the Patriots defensive performance was uneven, as they gave up two quick scores to make it 10-0 Arizona early on in the game.

But the Patriots defense also made plays when they needed to and only gave up one more Arizona touchdown the rest of the game––along with causing a key Murray interception that led to a New England touchdown in the third quarter.

“I feel like we competed the whole time. We gave it everything we had for four quarters, and that’s what it takes in this league to win,” said Patriots defensive lineman Adam Butler in the postgame press conference.

Speaking more on Butler, the fourth-year player from Vanderbilt had five tackles, a sack, and also caused Murray’s interception by deflecting the pass. Get that man some orange slices.

“I felt like it was important to get vertical in the pocket and make him [Kyler Murray] feel uncomfortable. So, my goal the entire game was to affect him,” said Butler in the postgame press conference when talking about his performance.

There were some diamonds in the rough in the offense and defense, but the special teams really shined for the Patriots. Wide receiver Donte Moncrief had a huge 53-yard kickoff return in the first quarter that led to New England’s first touchdown drive.

Along with that, kicker Nick Folk was clutch with his two field goals on the day, including the game-winner.

“It’s good a win for our football team today. We got a lot of contributions in all three phases. Played good complementary football,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in the postgame press conference.

This win wasn’t a pretty one for New England. The offense was for the most part, stagnant and unimpressive again and the defense had some difficulty in stopping Arizona from scoring in the beginning.

Yes, a win is a win, but I can’t help but scratch my head with how much of an enigma this Patriots team is. On one hand, four out of their five wins have come against above .500 teams including the Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and Las Vegas Raiders. On the flip side, half of their six losses have come against teams below .500, like the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, and San Francisco 49ers. 

Yet, the Patriots are still hanging around for a playoff spot despite all of that. If there is a way to describe the mystery of this New England squad, it’s that they are at least competitive to the end. On to Los Angeles.