Cardinals DC Vance Joseph made headlines this week when asked about Patriots OC Matt Patricia, saying that “he calls the offense like a defensive coordinator would.”
#AzCardinals DC Vance Joseph was asked about what he sees from the Patriots offense. Said the Patriots do a lot in the short game, screens, a conservative approach.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) December 8, 2022
“It’s like a defensive guy is calling the offense,” he said with a smile.
The first thought many had was...that Joseph isn’t wrong.
While some on Twitter pondered if this meant that he was either being honest (too honest?) about the approach or if he was playing a mind game to try to bait the Patriots into throwing the ball and throwing it deep versus their quick screen/run game...I went another way.
Looking at the history of Matt Patricia and the Cardinals, there’s not a lot of history before Patricia became the head coach of the Lions, but there’s definitely an interesting history:
- 2012: The reason Tom Brady is 1-1 vs. the Cards
Patriots DC Patricia holds the Cardinals’ offense to 20 points against Ken Whisenhunt in his last year but Kevin Kolb throws for a touchdown and runs for another as the Cardinals knock off the Patriots, an upset win that ended up being one of the few losses for the patriots
Whisenhunt was fired despite the 4-0 start, only winning one more game. In hindsight, though, it was a game Arizona should probably have lost.
- 2016: The Jimmy G game spoiling a Super Bowl Squad?
What a awful result in contrast to the previous upset victory. Patricia’s defense held the Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and Carson Palmer to only 21 points, with Arizona missing a game-winning field goal.
All with no Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski on the other side. Just his backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, who’d go on to torment Arizona for the next half-decade on the Niners.
Arizona ended up seeing their team collapse and only get to 8-8 with issues on offense and defense and Bruce Arians said that they lost their mojo for the season with that blown hold on a field goal attempt at the end of the game.
Patricia’s tender as a head coach is even more interesting once he moved to the NFC:
- 2018: The (Unofficial) End of the Wilks Era
With a 17-3 win over the Cardinals, Steve Wilks’ fate as the Cardinals’ head coach is all but sealed, being unable to stop a bad Lions offense while their own managed only one field goal. Coming off of an upset win over the Packers, this about sunk Steve Wilks’ chances to lead the Cardinals as their head coach for 2019, and he was fired after the season.
- 2019: Cards Bite Back with Kyler Murray’s comeback tie in his first start
The Cardinals were boatraced through 3 quarters, struggling to gain any offense and turning it over once vs. the Lions with 3-4 batted balls by Kyler Murray. However, Patricia’s conservative approach on both sides (and a 3rd down Lions penalty) gave Arizona a shot and they managed to rally down 24-9 by scoring 16 quick points to send the game to overtime.
This was the first indication for many that Patricia might be in over his head, and was a poor start to the 2019 in which the Lions were assumed to be improved. They were not.
- 2020: Cardinals fall from 2-0, season expectations were changed
In 2020, the Arizona Cardinals looked like worldbeaters, with a win over the Super Bowl appearing San Francisco 49ers (or super bowl losers, if you prefer) and a blowout win over the Washington [Redacted] the following week.
Well, they hit a hard wall in Week 3.
At a time when many looked at the Cardinals’ schedule and thought they had a chance to open up 6-0 with their schedule, they lost to a bad Lions team that ended up with the 7th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
Patricia was fired after the season and went back to the Patriots, but that loss hung over the Cardinals as a missed opportunity in which the Cards had the lead and gave it up late in the game. It ended up being only a single game that the Cardinals missed the playoffs, but it was this game that first showed some cracks in the Cardinals and their ability to adjust before a blowout vs. the Panthers on the road ended up cementing them not as a great team but as a decent one at most.
And the Patriots game late, while it didn’t feature Patricia DID sink the Cardinals’ playoff hopes.
So here’s the question...what do all of these games have to do with each other?
The answer is...that Matt Patricia vs. the Arizona Cardinals has, for the past few years, turned into defining games for the season, especially with it determining the fate of Steve Wilks and Patricia’s own status up in the air in 2020.
The reason that this comes up is because...there’s danger for Patricia once again.
Will Matt Patricia still be calling plays in 2023? Will Robert Kraft step in to make a change? @PhilAPerry tackles your big-picture questions and breaks down Thursday's Bills matchup in his Patriots mailbag https://t.co/JMxwNlcVmB— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) November 30, 2022
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has reportedly been disappointed with Patricia as a play-caller. Vance Joseph’s Cardinals’ defense is giving up an average of 26.8 points per game on the season, good enough for worst, yes worst, in the NFL.
The Patriots have the edge, but if Patricia is unable to move the ball or if it’s turned over multiple times against the Cardinals, there’s the possibility that he’s fired after this game.
After all, if you can’t put up points against the defense in the National Football League that is giving up the most...what are you doing?
Joe Judge, former Patriots ST coach and Giants offensive contributor is also on the staff, or Belichick could look at finding someone else to give it a go the past few weeks as Patricia’s gameplan might not be effective or explosive enough to put points on the board.
He’s absolutely on the hot seat again and this test could determine it.
On the Cardinals side...
Arizona lost a close game before their bye week on a 2-point conversion in which their defense played the best game of the year, yet was unable to get a crucial stop when it mattered the most against Justin Herbert and the Chargers. Two takeaways were overturned, but Arizona’s bend-but-don’t-break defense did break.
The Patriots are coached by Bill Belichick, one of the all-time (if not the greatest) defensive football minds.
Kliff Kingsbury’s offense against Belicheck’s defense will need to prove that they are able to score and contribute, and it’s definitely doable. They’ve given up games of 37 and 33 this year and even got blown out by the Bears in the latter of those. AKA they’re either on or they’re off as a defense.
And Kingsbury was once a protege under Belichick as the backup quarterback, drafted by him in the 2000’s. Like Mike Vrabel and more, he sees Belichick as a mentor like figure.
Kliff is going to have to prove he can surpass the master at some point, as he was unable to back in 2020. The Cardinals blew the game late, as they’ve been prone to do.
But we’ve seen enough to know that the way the Cardinals are at their best is when the defense is getting big plays. Stops, sacks and turnovers, or giving the offense a shorter field and momentum.
So while the offense will be the ones who will need to win the game, I’d argue that the defense needs to set the tone and not give up an early lead and that this game, ultimately hangs on them. It’s a home game and another home loss, with only 1 win on the season in the past calendar year, would look TERRIBLE for Kingsbury.
Plus, if Vance Joseph’s comments are taken to heart and the Patriots minus Damian Harris and (likely) their best receiver in Jakobi Meyers go off, he will probably end up being swept out as the defensive coach for Arizona along with a Kliff Kingsbury.
The identity of Arizona WAS supposed to be the offense this year. Maybe it still can be with DeAndre Hopkins and Hollywood Brown healthy and playing, but it goes to show that this might just be an elimination game for either coach.
And that’s a fun narrative to think about, though it isn’t fun for Cardinals fans...as Patricia’s come out on top far more often.
Tonight the smackdown begins, and only ONE may survive heading into 2023. WHO WILL IT BE?
(Maybe it might end up being both anyway, who knows?)
What are your thoughts?
Do you think the Cardinals can knock Matt Patricia out as the offensive coordinator, or will it be the Cardinals’ coaching staff seeing another “firing” game like 2018 with Steve Wilks?
Sound off in the comments below!