GLENDALE, Ariz. — The New England Patriots weren’t supposed to be competitive in their season opener Sunday night. Lacking quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, left tackle Nate Solder and right guard Jonathan Cooper, among others, they dropped to 9.5-point underdogs against the Arizona Cardinals.
Never doubt New England.
The Patriots pulled out a 23-21 win at University of Phoenix Stadium to start the season 1-0 under fill-in starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. This will be a team to be reckoned with once everyone is healthy and Brady is back under center after he finishes his four-game Deflategate suspension.
Here’s who stood out in New England’s win over Arizona.
Garoppolo was put in an extremely difficult situation without what was supposed to be his starting running back (Dion Lewis), left tackle (Solder), right tackle (Sebastian Vollmer), right guard (Cooper) and star tight end (Gronkowski) because of injuries, but he still completed 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown.
Garoppolo wasn’t perfect, but his lack of a solid offensive line was very evident, as he was forced to dink and dunk down the field. He didn’t throw any interceptions, but he did lose a fumble.
Hogan immediately made an impact with a 37-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He finished with three receptions on four targets for 60 yards with the score.
Edelman caught every pass thrown his way, hauling in seven catches on seven targets for 66 yards. He also contributed on the ground with three carries for 16 yards, making him the Patriots’ second-leading rusher.
Long showed up as a pass rusher and a run defender in his first game with the Patriots, recording three tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss. Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine and linebacker Jamie Collins also had sacks. Defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Dont’a Hightower also recorded quarterback hits.
Some might be down on Bennett after he caught just three passes for 14 yards. He also was called for a (bogus) holding penalty, when he blocked former Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones to the ground. But Bennett was extremely solid as a blocker, both in the passing and running game, and that was the job he was given in his Patriots regular-season debut.
Coleman might earned the nickel cornerback role for at least a few more weeks. He didn’t allow a reception on three targets and had two pass breakups in tough matchups against Cardinals receivers John Brown and Jamon Brown.
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