The Arizona Cardinals pride themselves on physical play. The way they dominated New England’s offense on Sunday left the Patriots broken and bleeding and searching for answers.
One Ryan Williams fumble, and it was all for naught….almost.
Patriots’ linebacker Brandon Spikes forced Williams’ fumble well inside Cardinals’ territory with 1:10 remaining in the game, miraculously giving life to a New England team that was without a time out and desperately in need of a stop.
New England was without one of it’s star players, as Tight End Aaron Hernandez went down with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury on it’s first offensive series – and the Patriots offense seemed to visibly deflate, looking as if it were just going through the motions for 3 1/2 quarters and trailing 20-12. The Cardinals’ defense dominated an overmatched Patriots offensive line, logging 4 sacks of Tom Brady and holding the prolific Patriots’ passing machine in check .
Then, suddenly, something – someone – flipped a switch.
Brady led New England on an 82 yard, 11 play drive in 3:32, culminating with a Rob Gronkowski touchdown to trim the lead to 20 – 18, turning to their defense to make a stop and get the ball back.
The defense did just that, but not exactly as it was drawn up.
The Cardinals easily ran for a first down, seemingly ending any chance the Patriots had. New England made stops and used their two timeouts wisely on Arizona’s fresh set of downs, setting up a third and long – and setting the stage for Spikes’ heroics. Williams skirted the line of scrimmage and got drilled by Spikes who was charging hard downhill, and when the ball popped loose, Vince Wilfork dropped on it, and the Patriots had their chance.
3 plays later, Stephen Gostkowski, who had earlier made kicks of 46, 34, 51 and 53 yards without a miss, lined up and shanked a 42 yard attempt wide left, giving the Arizona Cardinals a most bizarre statement victory.