In a game that few gave them a chance to win, the Arizona Cardinals shocked the world by defeating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in their home opener on Sunday. The final 5 minutes of the game, and the last minute or so in particular, has to be the most ridiculous, unbelievable, nerve racking ending to a game in recent memory. My heart is still beating at a mile a minute; but as we say around here "it's not a true Cardinal's game until somebody has a heart attack".
Hit the jump to see 5 positives from the heart attack inducing Cardinal's victory
1. National validation for Horton's defense
Back to back week's that the defense takes home the number one positive, and I doubt many Cardinal's fans would disagree. All week we heard how Brady doesn't lose at home, and the Pats don't get held under 20 points in a game, and how the Pats have a perfect home opener record at Gillette Stadium. Well thanks to Horton's defense, all those stats can be thrown out the window. Another absolutely dominant performance out of the defense. They held the entire Patriots offence to taking the field goals until a late touchdown in the 4th. If this trend keeps up though, we may be losing Horton to a head coaching gig (that he would absolutely deserve, mind you).
2. Keeping Kolb upright
Going into the season, everybody and their grandmother pointed out that the weakness on this Arizona Cardinals team is their offensive line in pass protection. And just from watching the game, it seemed as though rookie Chandler Jones was having himself a whale of a game working against D'Anthony Batiste. But, through all this, through two games our offensive line unit has only given up two sacks. After Jones had early success one on one vs. Batiste, coach Whisenhunt started to give him some help, utilizing tight-ends, running backs, and pulling linemen to block Jones. Kolb had a good pocket to work with for a lot of the passing plays, and his comfortability in the pocket showed.
3. Handling momentum
I vividly recall quite a few scenarios when the Patriots were backed up on offense, deep in their own territory, and Brady started to connect on a few consecutive passes to work towards midfield. The entire Cardinal's fanbase collectively thought "Oh crap, here comes Brady and the Pats". However, on every single on of those drives, the defense regrouped and completely halted the Patriots offensive momentum, either forcing a punt or a field goal attempt. Especially against an elite offense, like the Patriots, the Cardinal's "bend but don't break" mentality keep this game close enough for our offense and special teams to step up and score enough points to win the game.
4. Game plan execution
In all facets of the game, our team was clicking and executing the game plan. On defense, we were able to get to Brady and sack him using only the base four pass rushers; Horton knew how effective Brady was against the blitz and made sure to rarely dial up any blitzes, while still creating pressure with his schemes. On offense, we were able to keep Brady off the field with long methodical drives, especially early on in the game, and keep the time of possession fairly close. Finally, on special teams we were able to win the battle of field position, block a very important punt in the Patriots end zone, and disrupt the protection on the Patriot's potential game winning field goal attempt. All in all, it was an excellent team game, top to bottom.
5. Overcoming Patriot's game plan
Just from watching the game, you could tell that the Pats primary focus on defence was stopping our offense through eliminating Larry Fitzgerald. And they did so quite effectively. However, Kolb and the offence were able to move the ball with the other offensive pieces. Todd Heap was an excellent security blanket all game long. Patrick Peterson and Larod Stephens-Howling came out for a couple long runs in the wildcat. Kolb even ran it himself a few times. Kolb didn't force the issue by trying to feed it to an unavailable Fitzgerald, and instead took whatever the defence gave him, and spread the ball around to a bunch of different receivers. Heck, even Beanie Wells caught a 24 yard pass!
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