Chandler Catanzaro’s field goal with less than a minute to play sailed wide and the Patriots left Arizona as 23-21 winners on Sunday night in a game that saw them enter with a lot of missing pieces on offense.
Everyone knew quarterback Tom Brady, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and running back Dion Lewis weren’t going to be in the lineup and they were joined on the missing in action list by tight end Rob Gronkowski, left tackle Nate Solder and guard Jonathan Cooper after what coach Bill Belichick called a “grinding week.” That wasn’t the ideal state of affairs for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s first regular season start, but it was one that he and the entire team navigated well.
“Look, they competed hard. This is a good defense,” Belichick said, via WEEI.com. “They have some good players. We blocked them. Sometimes we had trouble blocking them, but we competed hard and made enough plays. We were able to control the ball at times. And other times not so well. Those guys, they fought them all the way. We fought them on all three phases. I thought we had great effort from our players. They showed a lot of toughness. Loud stadium, on the road. Good team. Super Bowl caliber team, at least that is what they are talking about. I mean, who knows? Good effort to come down here and win.”
The other three teams in the AFC East lost on Sunday, leaving the Patriots with an early lead in the division despite the difficult circumstances leading into Week One. Now they have three games at home before Brady is eligible to return, two of which are against the Dolphins and Bills. That gives them a chance to create separation in the division while they wait to get closer to full strength on offense, which would be a pretty good setup for another playoff run.