There was plenty of game left, but it certainly impacted both the final score and second-half momentum.
The Arizona Cardinals had the opportunity to take a crucial advantage over the New England Patriots just before the first half ended. Arizona possessed a three-point lead, the ball at the New England six-inch line, all while knowing its offense would receive the second-half kickoff.
A touchdown would have given the Cardinals one of Bill Belichick’s patented double-score opportunities. But it never happened.
“I thought we got in (on third down), then obviously (KeeSean Johnson’s) knee was down short and came with a fourth-and-six-inches,” Arizona head coach Kingsbury explained after the 20-17 Week 12 loss. “Couldn’t see if he (Kenyan Drake) got in or not (on fourth down). You know, he went low and it got crowded in there. I don’t think anybody could tell if he got over. Got to give them (Patriots) credit for that stop.”
The sequence Kingsbury is referring to was the final possession of the first half.
Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray connected with KeeSean Johnson on third-and-goal from the New England 8 yard line. It was originally called a touchdown, but upon further review, the receiver’s knee was down just short of the goal line. Kingsbury then decided to send out Murray and the offense for fourth-and-goal from inside the New England 1 yard line. That too was stopped as New England’s Akeem Spence and Ja’Whaun Bentley broke through to stuff Arizona running back Kenyan Drake short of the goal line. That play also was reviewed, but the ruling on the field stood as no angle showed a clear picture which could be overturned.
The Patriots entered the locker room facing a modest 10-7 halftime deficit. It was a pivotal part of the game, and both teams expressed just that after the game.
“I’m not going to speak on it too much, but that’s an unfortunate turn of events,” Murray told reporters postgame. “Obviously, we get points right there we put ourselves in a better situation.”
Cardinals offensive lineman Justin Pugh added: “Yeah, it was tough. That’s on the offensive line, we got to convert that. That’s one that’s going to haunt us. We’re going to watch the film and a lot of ‘what ifs.’ And like I said earlier, they made plays in the biggest moments and we didn’t, that’s the difference in that game. We convert that one, it’s a totally different ballgame.”
New England allowed its only first-half touchdown on a short field, the Cardinals covering 23 yards in three plays after a Cam Newton interception. So, with that Arizona possession at the end of the half, the Patriots’ defense felt great about its first-half performance. And rightfully so.
The Patriots moved to 5-6 with the victory while the Cardinals fell to 6-5 with the loss.