Patriots - Cardinals: Game Review

The Arizona Cardinals are playing in the snow for the first time in 25 years... It did not go well. Final Patriots 47 - Cardinals 7. Here's how it happened.

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Forget stats, this game was all about situational football. The Patriots used home field advantage, and a need to win to destroy a Cardinals team that was ill prepared to deal with the elements or the intensity of the Patriots. Arizona's success in 2008 has been through the air, but weather conditions (driving snow and chilling temperatures) ruined any chance the Cardinals might be able to take advantage of their big play threats in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Boldin was inactive for the game, as the Cardinals preferred to rest their playmaker for the playoffs.

The Patriots running attack is alive and well with both LaMont Jordan and Sammy Morris healthy. Forget Laurence Maroney; Jordan and Morris combined for 166 yards on the ground as the Patriots piled up 514 yards against the Cardinals 14th ranked defense. New England held the second highest scoring team in the league to a season-low 7 points.

New England improved to 10-5 on the season to keep their playoff hopes alive. Losses by the Dolphins, Jets and Ravens will help New England secure one of the two remaining playoff spots. Unless either New York or Miami stumbles today, the Patriots have no chance to win the AFC East. Without a Baltimore loss, the Patriots will have no chance to get a wildcard spot.

Fourth Quarter:

The backups were sent in. The Patriots pulled some of their starters. Kevin O'Connell stepped in for Matt Cassel. Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Matt Light were all set on the sideline. Randy Moss was out as well. Matt Leinart continued to struggle for Arizona.

Blown Coverage Gets Cardinals On Scoreboard
Matt Leinart threw a beautiful pass in the rain to Larry Fitzgerald for the first points for the Cardinals. Fitzgerald beat Ellis Hobbs down the left sideline, pulled in Leinart's pass and rumbled for 78 yards for the score. One look at this connection gives fans an idea why the Cardinals were the second best passing attack heading into week 16. Were it not for the weather the Cardinals could have enjoyed more of these types of plays.
Patriots 47 - Cardinals 7

O'Connell Is Not Matt Cassel
Kevin O'Connell, who looked so good in the preseason, struggled to get any offense going in the fourth quarter. Two drives and two three and outs with O'Connell misfiring on passes to Matt Slater and Sam Aiken. The Patriots have given control of the game to the running backs.

Leinart Interception
On a tipped ball, Ellis Hobbs came up with the interception to snuff out an Arizona drive. Wholesale changes to the starters have Matt Slater, Mike Richardson in the Patriots secondary.

Another Gostkowski Field Goal
Five plays and the Patriots cannot get into the end zone. At this point it didn't have an impact on the game, but the Patriots last four possessions were all Gostkowski field goals.
Patriots 47 - Cardinals 0

Third Quarter:

The Cardinals should have thought about packing it in early and boarding the team bus back west. The offense looked like it never arrived and the defense forgot how to tackle in the cold. Although Arizona has secured its first postseason appearance in 15 years and its first home playoff game since they were the Chicago Cardinals, that team didn't show up on Sunday.

Leinart In But Same Results
The Patriots dialed up the pressure on Matt Leinart who lost his composure after experiencing coach-to-quarterback communication problems. If Leinart is Arizona's future, he'll need to show more calm under adversity. Sacked twice and giving up two fumbles, the patriots take over on Arizona's 15 when Jarvis Green fell on the ball. Leinart was strip sacked by Brandon Meriweather, his second of the season.

Back-to-Back 10+ play Drives
After another three-and-out by Arizona the Patriots drove them the Arizona 49 yard line to the Arizona 5 before stalling out again. Gostkowski set a new Patriots franchise record with his 33rd field goal of the season on a 24-yard chip shot.
Patriots 44 - Cardinals 0

Yet Another 10+ Play Scoring Drive
The Patriots continue to rack up drives of 10 plays or more, a stat in which they elad the league. New England used 11 plays ot move the ball 41 yards into position for another Stepheen Gostkowski field goal Key plays were a Cassel scramble on third and one, and a Cassel sack on third and five to force the field goal attempt.
Patriots 41 - Cardinals 0

Another Three And Out By Arizona
The Cardinals were dysfunctional on offense. Although Kurt Warner supposedly had experience playing in bad weather in Iowa, he must have forgotten how to play under those conditions. The Patriots dialed up the pressure on third down, while stuffing any attempt by Arizona to run the ball.

Big Play Moss
Two plays into the second half, the Patriots were on the scoreboard again. After taking over on their own 24, Matt Cassel looked left to throw a simple WR screen to Randy Moss. Moss stepped inside one defender, then cut to the sideline and outran the pursuit to the end zone. 76 yards in 14 seconds and Matt Cassel had another career best performance.
Patriots 38 - Cardinals 0

At the Half: Patriots 31 - Cardinals 0

The Patriots completely dominated the first half of play against a Cardinals team that appeared to be mailing it in on offense. Arizona is 0-4 in their previous west to east coach trips.

Matt Cassel was able to find receivers downfield despite tough weather conditions. Kurt Warner was not. The Cardinals running game which has struggled all season, was unable to get on track.

New England had one punt in their six drives in the first half. Arizona punted five times and turned the ball over on downs once.

Second Quarter:

The Patriots returned to form in the second quarter scoring on all three possessions in the period to extend their lead.

Gostkowski Puts It Through
After taking over on their own 29 from another Cardinals three and out, the Patriots marched to the Cardinals 20. The Drive stalled out as Matt CAssel tried to hit Jabar Gaffney and Wes Welker downfield as the clock wound down. The Patriots went for the field goal on third down with seven seconds left in the half.
Patriots 31 - Cardinals 0

Welker Gets His Score
The Patriots took possession on their own 31 yard line after a failed fourth down conversion. 12 plays , 69 yards later and the Patriots extended their lead to four scores for the second time in two games. Key plays on the drive were a penalty on the Cardinals after a Matt Cassel sack, negating the play and a 16 yard scramble by Matt Cassel on fourth and 14. Matt Cassel's pass to Wes Welker on the right side was too easy as the Cardinals allowed Welker to waltz into the end zone. Welker incurred a penalty after the score for doing a snow angel in the end zone.
Patriots 28 - Cardinals 0

Faulk Gets In The End Zone
Kevin Faulk took a short pass from Matt Cassel, used a nice burst to scoot into the end zone from the 15 yard line. The drive was aided by a 37-yard strike from Matt Cassel to Jabar Gaffney in the driving precipitation.
Patriots 21 - Cardinals 0

Arizona's offense was unable to get on track, going three and out to start the quarter then failing to answer another touchdown score by the Patriots.

First Quarter:

The Patriots took over after a Cardinals first possession, a three and out, and never looked back. The Patriots scored on their first two possessions, the first setup by a terrific return by Wes Welker.

Two Possessions, Two Touchdowns For Jordan
On their second possession the Patriots offense continued to roll. New England took 7 plays to go 55 yards for the score. Key play was a Sammy Morris 42-yard catch and run down to the Cardinals 14. LaMont Jordan took Matt Cassel's handoff to get into the end zone for his second score.
Patriots 14 - Cardinals 0

Arizona Struggling
The Cardinals tried to run the ball on the Patriots defense, but a penalty forced them to pass on third and 12. A 36-yard punt and 14-yard Wes Welker return gave the Patriots the ball back at their own 45.

Patriots Touchdown:
Starting on the Arizona 33 yard line after a Wes Welker 28-yard return, the Patriots took 7 plays to punch the ball into the end zone. Russ Hochstein lined up at fullback to lead the way. On third and 1, Mike Vrabel entered the game as an eligible receiver and LaMont Jordan rolled into the end zone standing up.
Patriots 7 - Cardinals 0

Inactive Analysis:
The Patriots will have Matt Light available for today's game. After reportedly suffering a slight shoulder separation last week against the Raiders, Light was replaced by Mark LeVoir. If Light needs a break, LeVoir is active for today's game. Ty Warren, Vince and Wilfork are active despite fighting through injuries during the week. Gary Guyton is out, Vince Redd is in.

The Cardinals will be without JJ Arrington and Anquan Boldin

Arizona Cardinals:
RB JJ Arrington
WR Anquan Boldin
DT Alan Branch,
T Brandon Keith
DE Travis LaBoy
TE Jerame Tuman
T Elliot Vallejo
QB Brian St. Pierre (3rd)

New England Patriots:

T Wesley Britt
LB Tedy Bruschi
G Dan Connolly,
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
LB Gary Guyton
FS James Sanders
G Billy Yates.
QB Matt Gutierrez (3rd)

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