The New England Patriots lost on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals 20-18 after a rare missed field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. The 42-yard kick was wide left and the miss was a shock to everyone, including Gostkowski.
"There's probably not another game where I'd be more confident going out for a kick like that. It humbles you really quickly."
It isn't fair to place all of the blame on the most accurate kicker in Patriots history as he came through four other times earlier in the game from 46, 34, 51 and 53 yards respectively. Without his strong performance early in the game, the Patriots didn't have a chance against the dominating Cardinals defense.
Perhaps it was the overall plan from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels that contributed to the loss. Early in the first quarter, the Patriots lost tight end Aaron Hernandez to an ankle injury after a collision with teammate Julian Edelman. Without a doubt, Hernandez's absence from the game limited Brady's passing opportunities. With limited targets, the Patriots turned to the running game more than usual with little success. After a stellar showing against the Tennessee Titans, running back Stevan Ridley averaged only 3.9 yards per carry against the Cardinals. Danny Woodhead also struggled to make an impact as he was held to only eight carries for 18 yards. Woodhead had an opportunity to win the game in a last minute 30 yard run into the endzone. Unfortunately, the run was made possible by a hold from tight end Rob Gronkowski which nullified the scoring drive.
Maybe it was the Patriots defense, more specifically, the pass defense that made second string quarterback Kevin Kolb look like, well, Tom Brady. Kolb was 15 for 27 and 140 yards with one touchdown and one sack. Tom Brady was sacked four times and threw one interception. Kolb had nine different targets on Sunday, all of which easily dealt with spotty coverage. On a positive note, Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty managed to hold Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald to just one catch for four yards. But eliminating Fitzgerald wasn't enough.
Another bright spot in the Patriots game was the explosive performances by rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. Jones was a nagging presence for Kolb, who was forced to wander outside of the pocket several times. Hightower had five combined tackles and was consistent in the rushing defense.
In the end, the Patriots had many opportunities to take control of the game.
But nothing was working in their favor.
A failed two-point conversion due to a dropped ball by Gronkowski, one of the most dependable hands in the endzone. A missed game-winning field goal by one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. A blocked punt that turned into an Arizona touchdown.
The Patriots have developed a bad habit of depending on the last drive, and Tom Brady, to win a game. A complete and balanced football team wins games. Miraculous offensive drives cannot be the norm and hopefully the Patriots learned a very important lesson in a very messy defeat.
Kisha Tapangan is contributing writer for Patriots Insider.com. She also manages the blog Necessary Roughness with Kisha. She can also be found on twitter @KishaT. Feel free to email her your thoughts here.
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