A lot of lessons have been learned after the New England Patriots surprising 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and I learned the most important lesson of them all.
1. Patrick Peterson is legit
Last season, Peterson showed flashes of becoming a future shutdown corner in this league, but I didn’t think he would develop this quickly in year two. Building off of a good camp and the 2011 season, Peterson shut down Sidney Rice in the first game of the season and had a terrific interception in this game. Although Brandon Lloyd had eight catches, he only had 60 yards in total, which shows Peterson’s ability and the ability of the Cardinals safeties to effectively stop Lloyd over the top. That, and Tom Brady only tried to challenge the Cards deep once- Lloyd’s longest catch was 12 yards. Is he a shutdown corner? Almost, it’s a joy to watch him even if he’s on the other team.
2. Don’t Overreact
Listen, the Arizona Cardinals are an average football team, so losing by two points to them isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Patriots best receiver was injured for most of the game, and the right side of the offensive line was dealing with critical injuries. I’m not going to make a big deal out of this loss and neither should you. If this is the worst the Pats play all season, then it’s fine by me. Remember, the Pats lost to the Buffalo Bills last season, and it looks like this loss to the Cards is the “Wait, what?” loss for this year; it happens to pretty much every good team out there.
However, it is disappointing to see that the Patriots could not handle the Cardinals. This wasn’t a fluke loss; it was a legitimate loss that is both humbling and serves as important motivation for the future. The Cardinals were better than the Pats in this game, and it showed. While several things didn’t go the Patriots way, blocked punts happen and they’re something that the Cardinals love to feed off of to have an upset victory; they’re known for that.
There’s no excuse for losing to the Cardinals, but this isn’t some huge upset. It was by two points. It’s disappointing, but let’s not go to far here.
3. Chandler Jones keeps getting better and better
Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones was supposed to take advantage of a lopsided matchup against Cardinals left tackle De’Anthony Batiste, and he did just that. Jones consistently pressured Kevin Kolb and was able to come away with a forced fumble in addition to a hit on Kolb, a tackle for loss, and five total tackles. Jones was the brightest spot on a Patriots defense that performed extremely well.
4. Calais Campbell is a terror
Man, did you see what Campbell was doing to the Patriots offensive line? Just sick. Brady’s off day had a lot to do with the kind of pressure he was facing from the Cardinals vaunted and underrated defense, including those three quarterback hits from Campbell. He ate up the injured right side of the line and finished with ten tackles and two sacks. That’s monstrous. Daryl Washington was also huge with 13 tackles, which makes Stevan Ridley’s 3.9 yards per carry average look, well, average instead of it looking like a rough night. Campbell was incredible, and I think he was the single most important player in this game; by far.
The Patriots lost because of missed opportunities all-around, while the Cardinals won because of their defense; especially the effort displayed by Campbell.
5. Why the Patriots are playing Julian Edelman
I think the whole talk about Wes Welker’s role being demoted as little to do with punishment, because the Patriots organization isn’t going to risk losing games just to punish a key player. It seems more logical to think that the Pats are playing Edelman in order to focus on a future without Welker. Look, there is almost no way Welker stays with the team beyond this season. The Pats are playing Edelman in order to see what they have in Edelman and think about a future without Welker. If they like what Edelman has done enough, then maybe they will feel comfortable with dealing a key player. We’ll see; it could just be part of the game plan.
Listen, I’m going to be up front to you guys and apologize for the preview I wrote yesterday. It was long, it was thorough, but it was biased and I neglected to connect the dots. I failed to discuss the Cardinals special teams, I didn’t give enough credit to their special teams, and I didn’t point out the matchup between Calais Campbell and the nicked up right side of the offensive line. And you know what the worst part is? It’s that I flat out ignored these points. Not because I didn’t know about it, but because I was completely biased. I am surprised to see that no Cardinals fans sent a rude comment or two my way because of the piece, which is, in all honesty, a pleasant surprise.
I just want to apologize, since I feel you guys deserve better, less biased coverage of the opponent when previewing a game. It’s sad that it took an upset loss for me to realize this, but most people learn best when they are exposed the most. I predicted a lopsided score, when, in fact, I projected the Cards as an 8-8 team (just like they were last year) when doing a season preview on FanSided’s general NFL site. I really dropped the ball guys, sorry.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.