Don’t let win over Cardinals make you forget Patriots aren’t prepared for postseason
The Patriots’ win over the Cardinals was a good one, but this team is still full of problems.
Even if the Patriots win out and finish the season 10-6, fans in New England will be the first to say this team is not prepared for the playoffs. Wins over the Chargers, Rams, Dolphins, Bills and Jets won’t really move the needle. Those are all beatable teams and wouldn’t prove much — at least when we’re applying the “Patriots standard.”
This team hasn’t shown it can handily beat an all-around good opponent nor can they maintain any sort of consistency. The win over the Ravens? A good one, but the monsoon played an overarching role in New England’s favor … then that was followed with a loss to the 2-7 Texans.
And when your most consistent unit is special teams, which shined again on Sunday in the 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals, that’s not entirely a recipe for a championship … or a single postseason victory for that matter.
Cam Newton was 9-of-18 passing for 84 yards and two interceptions. The defense, though the box score suggests otherwise, was hardly reliable. Two short yardage stoppages ended up being the difference, which feels more like a blown opportunity for the Cardinals than a show of resilience from the Pats. New England allowed drives of 12, 7, 15, 6, 16 and 7 plays. One of the other drives was a three-play sequence that resulted in a touchdown. The Cardinals converted six of their 14 third downs. Regardless of the outcome, that just shows the defense really isn’t cut out for a do-or-die contest.
The reason the Cardinals were able to tie the game in the fourth? Because Jason McCourty committed an atrocious defensive holding penalty on 4th and 5 deep in New England’s territory and then Stephon Gilmore gave the refs no choice but to throw a flag on a blatantly obvious hold of his own on DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone on third and goal from the five.
While the Pats did rush for 110 yards, they eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the final drive of the game thanks to a missed 45-yard field goal, which gave Newton the opportunity to scramble for an unbelievable 14-yard gain on 3rd and 13 to keep the game going with under a minute remaining. He also drew a 15-yard penalty after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit, putting the Patriots in field goal territory.
That was the only offensive highlight. The other four plays of note? A tipped Kyler Murray pass that went for an interception, Donte Moncrief’s long kick return into Cardinals territory, Gunner Olszewski’s punt return touchdown that was called back but still put the Pats on Arizona’s side of the field, and Nick Folk’s game-winning 50-yard field goal.
Nobody wants to speak ill if one’s team after a win, but it’s best to be realistic. Sunday’s win was more of an indictment of how far the Cardinals still need to go in order to be considered contenders rather than the Patriots proving they could rattle off an end-of-season run and sneak into the playoffs. To make matters worse, so many questions remain for 2021.
Maybe this kind of discourse will go away if wins over the Chargers and Rams follow. That would certainly make life better, wouldn’t it?