The Patriots and Cardinals went back and forth early on Monday Night Football with the Patriots prevailing as they pulled away in the second half thanks to multiple takeaways that changed the complexion of the game. New England won 27-13, improving their season record to 7-6 with their playoff hopes alive as the seventh AFC playoff seed at the close of Week 14.
Arizona lost quarterback Kyler Murray on their third play of the game but backup Colt McCoy was up to the task early on, moving the ball down the field and helping to give the Cardinals a first-half lead that they would be unable to maintain. New England's defense eventually took over as the game progressed with stops and takeaways that changed the course of the game.
The Patriots offense battled injuries of their own and while they still fought through some untimely mistakes and inconsistency, they also delivered some of their biggest and most explosive plays of their season while also finally finding some success in the red zone.
Here are the key takeaways from the Patriots win!
Kyler Murray out, Colt McCoy in
The game took an immediate turn for the worse for Cardinals fans when Kyler Murray went down in a heap while scrambling on the third play from scrimmage. Murray would not return, ruled out with a knee injury, he was replaced by veteran Colt McCoy who already had two starts in relief this season. New England's defense caught a break not having to deal with the added threat of Murray's mobility.
The 12-year veteran beat the Patriots as a rookie with the Browns back in 2010, but lost his second start against New England, coming with Washington in 2019. As expected, the veteran got the ball out quick and was able to complete a number of passes to show some early promise.
After a missed field goal and a punt, McCoy led the Cardinals on three-straight scoring drives in the first half, culminating with two field goals and then a tough run by James Conner that got Arizona into the end zone for the first time in the game as they extended a 13-7 lead.
But that was the high point for the McCoy-led attack.
Injuries strike, opportunity knocks
The Cardinals weren't the only ones to see their gameplan turned on its head, as New England saw a multitude of injuries hit in the first half, starting with cornerback Jack Jones (knee) and then followed by wide receiver DeVante Parker (head) and running back Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle). Jones and Parker would not return while Stevenson would give it a go but ultimately return to the locker room for the remained of the contest.
With limited depth at both corner and running back, Marcus Jones and Kevin Harris saw their roles elevated in the game while rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton also saw his snaps increase. Harris took advantage of the opportunity early, scoring the first touchdown of both the game and his career to give the Patriots a first-half 7-3 lead. The touchdown also gave the Patriots their first red zone touchdown since Week 9.
After Harris fumbled in the second quarter, Pierre Strong got an extended look, busting off an impressive 44-yard scamper in the third quarter that set up the game-tying field goal, which evened the game at 13. He'd later add on a touchdown score of his own in the fourth quarter.
The two rookie running backs haven't seen much action this year but Stevenson's injury forced them into the fire and both delivered with touchdowns.
End of half fireworks
The Patriots were dropping into a familiar lull during the first half of the game, as the Cardinals started to consistently move the ball and put up points, while New England's offense once again looked sporadic at best with badly-timed penalties and mistakes mixed in.
It looked like the Cardinals were about to build on their 13-7 lead until an excellent two-play sequence by the Patriots defense got them off the field for the first time in three possessions. First, Matthew Judon got a stop in the backfield on third down, forcing the Cardinals to go for it on 4th-and-1. Jahlani Tavai then made a second-straight play by the defense, deflecting the pass attempt to give the Patriots back the ball for one final chance at getting back on the scoreboard before halftime.
Mac Jones and the offense would deliver, with a 30-yard strike up the seam to Hunter Henry getting the offense within striking distance. But another mistake would kill their chances to take a shot to the end zone for a touchdown, with a Kevin Harris fumble ending the progress and forcing a field goal attempt. Nick Folk still delivered with a much-needed 51-yard field goal that made it 13-10 Arizona at the half.
Takeaways break stalemate
Tied at 13, the teams traded the ball back and forth in the third quarter until DeAndre Hopkins put the ball on the ground and Raekwon McMillan was on the spot to pick it up and take it to the house, breaking the tie and giving the Pats a 20-13 lead. It capped off a run of 13-straight points for the Patriots as they climbed out of a deficit for one of the few times this season.
On the next possession, Josh Uche's pressure helped force an early throw by McCoy that was picked off by Marcus Jones. The Patriots offense would respond this time with a 39-yard strike to Hunter Henry, then Pierre Strong would finish it off one play later to extend New England's lead to 27-13.
With two-straight fourth-down stops, then followed by two-straight takeaways, the Patriots defense was the catalyst for the comeback win.
Patriots are now 7-6
The Patriots get back their winning season record with the victory, breaking their two-game losing streak and improving to 7-6 on the 2022 campaign. While the team was fortunate to see the Cardinals offense ravaged by an injury to their starting quarterback on the very first drive, at this point in the season style points are out the window, all that matters is getting the win and that's what the Patriots got even if they didn't suddenly answer all the questions that have surrounded their struggles.
For the time being, the Pats slip into the seventh playoff slot in the AFC, fending off a rising Chargers team and a Jets team coming off a tough loss to the Bills. But the race in the conference is far from over and the Patriots will look to maintain their spot when they travel to Las Vegas to face Josh McDaniels and the 5-8 Raiders this Sunday.