Tue, Sep 13, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Shorthanded New England eke out win over Cardinals

Reuters

The New England Patriots’ Duron Harmon, left, and Malcom Brown celebrate a missed field goal by the Arizona Cardinals in the closing seconds of their NFL season opener in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday.

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY

Even without their stars and other starters, the New England Patriots proved they are no pushovers when playing shorthanded.

Just ask the Arizona Cardinals, who on Sunday night fell 23-21 in the season opener for both teams at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“I’m happy to win, fortunate to win,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We’re going to need to play better next week and succeeding weeks.”

However, it was good enough to earn a road victory over a team that went 13-3 a year ago and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

Playing without suspended quarterback Tom Brady, All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, suspended defensive end Rob Ninkovich and two starting offensive linemen, the Patriots rode the arm of Jimmy Garoppolo and the leg of kicker Stephen Gostkowski to deal Arizona their first home loss in September since 2009.

The Cardinals rallied from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit and eventually took the lead with 9 minutes, 46 seconds left to play when Carson Palmer threw a 1-yard fade pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the corner of the end zone. Chandler Catanzaro’s extra point made it 21-20, Arizona.

However, Garoppolo, charged with replacing Brady during the future Hall of Famer’s four-game suspension for his alleged role in the “Deflategate” controversy, brought his team back and proved the Las Vegas oddsmakers, who listed New England as nine-point underdogs, to be dead wrong.

He guided the Patriots on a 13-play, 61-yard drive that was capped by Gostkowski’s third field goal of the game, a 32-yarder, with 3 minutes, 44 seconds remaining. Gostkowski also connected from 47 and 53 yards.

“He’s incredible,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said of Garoppolo. “All game he went out there and made the plays he was supposed to make. We knew as a team. We believed in him. There was no doubt in this locker room that Jimmy could go out there and play.”

The Cardinals had a chance to win it, driving to the Patriots’ 29-yard line in the final minute of play. However, Catanzaro was wide left on a 47-yard field-goal attempt. The snap from rookie Kameron Canaday was low to holder Drew Butler, which threw Catanzaro off.

The Patriots took over with 41 seconds remaining and ran out the clock to seal the win.

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