There were key moments in the Patriots' loss to the Cardinals that fans will be able to point to for days, weeks and months to come. One area that will likely evade blame will be the defense, which was impressive for a second week in a row, especially against the Cardinals two-tiered running game.
Aaron Hernandez's injured ankle drastically affected the Patriots' offensive game plan. Hernandez is a key cog in the New England offense, and it's impossible to replace his versatility in running, blocking and receiving, even when the Patriots were able to turn to All-Pro reserve Wes Welker when the tight end went down. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' playcalling was called into question often after Hernandez' injury. The Patriots offense was anemic, and calling running plays on third-and-long was drawing boos from the Foxboro faithful.
The play to end New England's hopes was a wide-left kick off the foot of Stephen Gostkowski and a hold from Zoltan Mesko. The Patriots defense had given the offense another shot with a forced fumble, and the Patriots special teams tandem couldn't come through.
The special teams unit was a weak spot all day for the Patriots, highlighted by a blocked punt that gave the Cardinals the ball inside their five-yard line, and resulted in a Cardinals touchdown. That play, caused by a missed block by rookie Nate Ebner, was the second time the New England special teams unit had allowed the Cardinals to get contact on their punter.
Before Gostkowski even had a shot to end the game with a field goal, the Patriots were driving down the field and looked for a moment as if they had ended the game with a Danny Woodhead touchdown run. Rob Gronkowski was called for a questionable holding call, however, and on the next play was called for a false start.
Due to injuries and the notable absense of Brian Waters, the right side of the Patriots offensive line has been scary to watch at times in this young season. Tom Brady was getting pressured early in the game and it was seriously affecting his ability to get the ball out of the pocket.
So which aspect of the Patriots game do you think was most to blame?