GLENDALE, Ariz. — The New England Patriots’ season-opening win over the Arizona Cardinals might wind up being their most daunting challenge of the season as far as pass coverage goes.
The Cardinals presented a unique challenge to the Patriots in New England’s 23-21 win. The Cardinals have three receivers — Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown — worthy of special attention.
The Patriots were most effective against Brown, who caught just one 8-yard pass on four targets. Justin Coleman spent most of his time on Brown with a safety valve over the top. Logan Ryan took on Larry Fitzgerald, while Malcolm Butler covered Michael Floyd.
The Patriots’ coverage wasn’t perfect, but it was as good as one can expect against such a dangerous and versatile receiver corps.
Here are our takeaways from the passing game.
Marcus Cannon: 1 1/2 sacks, two hurries, holding (three pressures)
Ted Karras: two hurries, holding (three pressures)
Joe Thuney: 1/2 sack
David Andrews: QB hit, tripping
AJ Derby: QB hit
Cameron Fleming: hurry
Shaq Mason: holding
Martellus Bennett: holding
— Fleming held up very well against former Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones. Cannon gave up Jones’ sack.
— Mason outplayed Karras at right guard. It’s possible we see Mason there on a permanent basis when his cast comes off. Jonathan Cooper also is completing for the spot.
— Thuney impressed except when he helped let up Garoppolo’s strip sack.
— Cannon seemed to suffer a leg or foot injury early in the game. He stayed in, however.
Chris Long: sack, QB hit, two hurries (four pressures)
Jabaal Sheard: QB hit, three hurries (four pressures)
Dont’a Hightower: two QB hits, hurry (three pressures)
Trey Flowers: two QB hits (two pressures)
Patrick Chung: two hurries (two pressures)
Vincent Valentine: sack
Anthony Johnson: hurry
Jamie Collins: sack
Logan Ryan: hurry
— Long played very well in his Patriots debut. His sack came on a play when Sheard also drew a facemask penalty.
— Sheard and Flowers helped collapse the pocket on Valentine’s sack.
— Hightower looks primed for another productive season rushing the passer.
Butler: 3-7, 61 yards, two PBUs, holding
Ryan: 6-10, 54 yards, 2 TDs, two PBUs
Sheard: 1-1, 26 yards
McCourty: 3-4, 22 yards
Cyrus Jones: 1-1, 18
Chung: 3-3, 18 yards
Hightower: 1-2, 9 yards
Collins: 2-2, 8 yards, PBU
Long: 1-1, 8 yards
Coleman: 0-3, 2 PBUs
— Butler and Ryan’s performances don’t look great on paper — or on a computer screen — but the Cardinals’ receivers are extremely tough. Ryan drew a tough matchup against Larry Fitzgerald, while Butler gave up the majority of his yards to Michael Floyd.
— Coleman helped limit John Brown. Coleman played like one of the Patriots’ best defenders Sunday night.
Let’s go through Jimmy Garoppolo’s incompletions:
1. Thrown high to Chris Hogan
2. Pressure from Andrews to White
3. Thrown high to Malcolm Mitchell
4. Pass broken up by Tyvon Branch
5. Hit while throwing to Martellus Bennett
6. Thrown behind Mitchell
7. Thrown out of bounds toward Mitchell
8. Screen never deloped
9. Thrown wide to Bennett
— Garoppolo didn’t have any abhorrent throws or mistakes. His worst throws were his passes that sailed to Hogan and Mitchell. Neither throw was risky. Garoppolo was forced to make some nice throws into tight windows.
— Patriots receivers didn’t drop any passes. Edelman was a perfect 7-for-7, and Mitchell and Hogan showed off their nice hands by catching all catchable targets.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images