Patriots-Cardinals Score, Takeaways: New England Defense Chases Arizona Without Kyler Murray For Big Victory

The Patriots moved up the season to 7-6 after beating the Cardinals 27-13 on Monday Night Football. The win not only puts New England back above .500, but slips it into the No. 7 AFC playoff picture, skipping the Chargers and Jets.

This was an injury-packed game, but none was more notable than Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. Already in the third play of the game he suffered a non-contact knee injury and had to be carried off the field. The first tests should indicate that that Murray is feared to have torn his ACL which would end his season if/if an MRI confirms. That would push Colt McCoy into the starting spot below center like he was Monday night.

McCoy was solid under pressure and gave Arizona a field goal lead at halftime. Thanks to back-to-back possessions around halftime, both of which resulted in field goals, New England were able to tie the knot early in the second half at 13 apiece, but it was largely another uneasy outing on the offensive side of the ball for the Patriots.

However, their defense propelled them to victory after turning over on back-to-back drives late in the third quarter. The first was a Kyle Dugger forced fumble on DeAndre Hopkins that Raekwon McMillan picked up and returned 29 yards for the touchdown to go up to 20-13. As the Cardinals gained possession, Josh Uche deflected a McCoy throw and landed in the arms of rookie Marcus Jones. The offense then assembled a five-play, 63-yard touchdown drive led by a 39-yard reception from Hunter Henry to add two points en route to victory.

Mac Jones was 24 of 35 on the night for 235 yards and an interception. With the backfield battered, rookie running back Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris picked up the gap as each was able to find the end zone. On the Arizona side, McCoy finished with 246 yards and an interception on 27 of 40 passes. James Conner ran 15 times for 85 yards and a touchdown.

For a more detailed breakdown of how this game played out, check out our takeaways below.

Why the Patriots won

For most of that game, it looked like the offense would spell New England’s downfall once again. There were a number of questionable play calls, including a first-down run with 10 seconds left in the first half that almost resulted in a turnover that wiped out a scoring opportunity. There were also times in that game when Mac Jones was visibly frustrated with how the offense was working.

All in all, it’s amazing how a few key defensive plays can not only turn the game’s script around, but also lighten the mood on the New England touchline. In the second half, the Patriots’ defense engulfed Arizona’s offense and continued to put pressure on Colt McCoy. As a team, New England put together six sacks, and half of those came from linebacker Josh Uche. Matt Judon was also a mainstay in the Cardinals backfield, adding 1.5 sacks to his already high totals.

This constant pressure contributed to a shutout in the second half and also contributed to one of the most important turnovers of the game. After Dugger’s forced fumble from Hopkins and the scoop-and-score from McMillan, Uche was able to quickly put pressure on McCoy for subsequent possession. He came firing from the left side of the line and caught McCoy trying to hit Hopkins with a deep ball on the left touchline. That changed the ball’s trajectory and landed in Marcus Jones’ arms, eventually triggering an offense touchdown drive to complete the 14-point swing. New England is now down 85 points in turnover this season, which is the most in the NFL.

While the offense certainly needs a whole game to get into a better rhythm, that touchdown drive after Jones’ interception was a promising move. The key play on that drive was an uncharacteristic – albeit welcome – low shot at Hunter Henry for 39 yards that put them inside the 5-yard line. If they can start introducing more of those deep shots on their offense, it will go a long way in propelling New England into the postseason.

Another note on offense: With Damien Harris (hamstring) previously ruled out for this game and Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) exiting the competition early, New England saw rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. make a big step forward. The first-year backs each found the end zone and rushed for 96 total yards at an average of 7.3 yards per carry.

Why the Cardinals lost

Of course, losing your franchise quarterback to injury just three games in a game is never ideal, but this was a winnable matchup for Arizona, even with Colt McCoy in the middle. It was able to move the ball early against that Patriots defense but couldn’t fully tuck it away, scoring a touchdown on just one of its three red zone trips in the first half.

In the closing seconds of the first half, Kliff Kingsbury continued his theme of being hyper-aggressive in fourth and kept his offense on the field with 36 seconds remaining at the New England 32-yard line. McCoy left Trey McBride open to a first down at the flat, but the veteran quarterback couldn’t get enough of the ball, allowing Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai to tip him and force a turnover on downs. That handed the ball back to the Patriots, who quickly moved down the field and scored a field goal to draw within three. That missed opportunity in fourth at the end of the second quarter didn’t stop Kingsbury from postponing the envelope in fourth on the team’s next possession, which also failed to convert.

It was after this point that the Patriots defense pinned the Cardinals and began making turnovers that catapulted them to victory.

In addition to some questionable decisions on critical downs and poor play down the offensive line, the Cardinals were largely undisciplined. They were called for eight penalties, with some key games erased early, including an illegal postponement that nullified a third and 13 conversion on Hopkins’ second possession of the night. The breach effectively destroyed the drive.

turning point

The biggest swing of that game was undoubtedly the Hopkins fumble, returned for a touchdown. Just before that, the Cardinals’ defense forced a quick three-and-out on the Patriots offense that lasted just over 90 seconds and it felt like New England was on fire. That scoop-and-score from McMillan, however, breathed new life into the club and sparked a 14-0 run that would allow the Patriots to carve out the win.

Hopkins was extremely sloppy with his handling of the football when fumbling, holding the ball with one hand and not extending his arm near his chest. This gave Dugger plenty of room to free him.

game of the game

James Conner’s 10-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter might have been lost in the confusion of the loss, but it was a tremendous display of the veteran defender’s strength. He stomached the first-and-goal carry from the 10-yard line and looked set to be stopped for a minimal win when he encountered a cluster of white jerseys at the line of scrimmage . However, Conner had other plans and decided to force his way into the end zone, taking Patriots safety Devin McCourty with him.

What’s next

From here, the Cardinals will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos, who currently have quarterback Russell Wilson on concussion protocol. Meanwhile, the Patriots will remain in the West as they face the Raiders in Las Vegas next Sunday.

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