The Jimmy Garoppolo-led Patriots were heavy underdogs heading into Sunday night's trip to Arizona to open the season against the Cardinals.
But Bill Belichick's team got off to as good a start as possible to take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, including a pretty opening 74-yard scoring drive that concluded in a pretty 37-yard touchdown from Garoppolo to a wide open Chris Hogan.
And when all was said and done New England left the desert with the hard-fought 23-21 victory as the home team missed a potential game-winning field goal from 47 yards out in the final seconds, a bad snap hindering Chandler Catanzaro's attempt that sailed wide left.
After one day of Garoppolo's tenure under center, New England sits atop the AFC East as the only team in the division to win on opening weekend.
It wasn't perfect, but considering the spot the Patriots were in opening up on the road, against a 2015 NFC finalist, without the likes of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder, it was an impressive foundation for which the Patriots to build upon moving forward.
Turnovers were really all that kept the heavily-favored Cardinals in the game. Arizona turned two fumble recoveries, one from Garoppolo and another from LeGarrette Blount, into touchdowns.
Otherwise New England got solid contributions from all three phases of the game. None was perfect, but neither was any aspect unable to carry its share of its winning formula.
Offensively the Patriots converted an impressive 10 of 16 third downs (63 percent), put forth a decent 363 yards, including 106 yards on the ground. The defense made the stops it needed at times, even allowing 50 percent third downs and 344 total yards.
"I think the team, as a whole, played a very good game," Garoppolo said before describing himself as, "amped up, I was fired up before the game.
"After that, you are just playing."
Sure, there were too many penalties – 8 – and the two turnovers. But it all came in a winning effort against a team that is a supposed Super Bowl contender, "at least that's what they're saying," Belichick said.
"Really proud of our team here tonight," Belichick concluded. "We got great effort in all three phases. We got a good complementary game.
"We came down here and played a tough, physical football game against a good team. We were just able to make a couple more plays than the Cardinals were tonight.
View the best images from the Patriots Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, September 11, 2016.
"Short week. On to Miami. In the division. Keep grinding it out here.
"It's early in the year. Happy to win. Wasn't perfect. But it was a good performance against a good team. We'll take it and move on. We beat a good team on the road. We have a lot of work to do."
But, as has so often been the case in the past with Brady running the show, the grinding and need for work comes while winning games, while sitting atop the division as one of 16 teams to win on opening weekend.
Before the first-place Patriots return home to Foxborough for a three-game homestand, here are some of the individual highs and lows from the impressive opening-night victory:
Stephen Gostkowski – New England's All-Pro kicker picked up where he left off last regular season. He hit field goals from 47, 53 and 32 yards. He also was impressive on kickoffs, mixing in a variety of styles of kicks working within the new rules for touchbacks. Four of the six times Gostkowski kicked off Arizona took over inside the 25, three times inside the 20. New England had the clear advantage in the kicking game.
*Jimmy Garoppolo – *Given the literal and figurative pressure of his first NFL start in a tough spot, the fill-in Garoppolo was extremely impressive. The third-year back completed 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a 106.1 rating. He did have the one fumble, but otherwise played a relatively cool, calm, collected game in his debut in a tough spot against a good defense. He even caught a pass from himself on a batted ball. "Positive play," he joked later.
Julian Edelman – New England's slot receiver was the favored, most efficient target for Garoppolo throughout the night. Edelman got off to a fast start to help ignite the offense as a whole. Edelman caught all seven passes thrown his way for 66 yards. He also ran three times on end-arounds for another 16 yards.
Malcolm Butler – New England's No. 1 cornerback chased Larry Fitzgerald at times and was moved around throughout the night. Butler wasn't toasted by any means, but Fitzgerald, Jermaine Gresham and Michael Floyd all beat him for catches. He also picked up a holding call on late in the fourth quarter. It was a relatively tough opening night for New England's Pro Bowl cornerback, although teammate Logan Ryan also had his struggles with the future Hall of Famer Fitzgerald, while the safeties had some issues with tackling. Not a great opening effort for the veteran secondary.
Offensive line – Certainly the make-shift young offensive line was good enough to win. But it wasn't good enough. While getting back to health with the likes of Nate Solder and Jonathan Cooper will be important, David Andrews and Marcus Cannon need to be better. The health and execution can be better up front. Of course the experience on the field for Cameron Fleming, Joe Thuney and Ted Karras should help in the coming weeks.
*LeGarrette Blount – *The big back had a few nice runs, but that positive work was wiped out by a third-quarter fumble and an overall lackluster night. Blount was a bit loose with the ball this preseason and the concerns continued into the opener. The Cardinals turned the Blount fumble into a touchdown just a few plays later, changing 17-7 Patriots lead into a tighter 17-14 contest on the way to the comeback. Blount also finished with just 70 yards on 22 carries.
What do you think of our lists from opening night? Let us know with a comment below!