Week 1: New England Patriots upset Arizona Cardinals

Jimmy Garoppolo (10) New England Patriots - Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Jimmy Garoppolo (10) New England Patriots - Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots managed to pull it off, beating the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 to start the 2016 regular season on a strong note.

For the first time in years, the New England Patriots were double-digit underdogs in an NFL regular season game. An inexperienced quarterback, a notable tight end absence and a hostile Arizona environment spelled trouble for the Patriots, but they weren’t listening.

Tom Brady must have FaceTimed in the locker room and delivered one hell of a pregame speech, because the Patriots were clicking from the opening kickoff. They only surrendered their lead once, maintaining a level of composure, energy and execution throughout the game.

Simply put, this is a HUGE win for the Patriots. In terms of the AFC East, the Patriots already put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division; all the other three teams suffered losses in Week 1. So the Patriots have an early jump on the playoff race, and that is a very good thing.

We learned a ton about this team in Week 1, starting with the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo is fully up to the job of filling-in for Brady over the first quarter of the 2016 season. Garoppolo kept the ship afloat and then some, limiting mistakes to a few overthrows and a lost fumble. He was calm in the pocket and displayed excellent playmaking ability.

Let’s count on four fingers the major players that were missing from this game. There was Brady; there was Rob Gronkowski; there was Nate Solder; there was Jonathan Cooper. In other words, four of the 11 starters on offense. Yet the Patriots harnessed their strength and pulled out a big win.

It’s too early to jump to major conclusions, but the early returns on the 2016 season indicate that the Patriots are incredibly well-equipped. Remember, the Cardinals hadn’t lost in their past 10 home games, as well as six straight home openers. One of the deepest rosters in the NFL and one of the toughest environments to play in couldn’t stop a Patriots team that was missing four of their key offensive players.

Now, it’s on to the Miami Dolphins as the Patriots look to keep this fire burning. And please, don’t listen to those in the media calling for a way-too-early quarterback controversy in New England. Garoppolo’s job is to pilot this team to a winning record by Week 5, and he is doing just that. He is doing his job, until it’s time for Brady to do his job again.