The New England Patriots scored 17 second half points behind backup quarterback Matt Cassel to easily defeat the Arizona Cardinals, 30-3, in tonight’s pre-season game in Foxboro.
Cassel finished with 14 completions in 20 attempts for 192 yards, most coming in the second half, including two touchdown passes (to Rich Muzinski and Heath Evans). He was not intercepted. He had a little bit of luck (twice the referees missed delay of game penalties, if the on-screen clock could be believed) and a couple of good bounces (twice he got first downs on balls that were tipped to Patriots receivers) but he moved the team consistently and closed the game with a nice 4 minute drive to run out the clock. His TD to Muzinski – coming early in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring – was a beauty, as Cassel eluded a Cardinals rush on 3rd and 5 from the Arizona 15, before finding the rookie floating across the back of the end zone for the score. If there’s any complaint with Cassel tonight, its that he was again very quick to pull down the ball and run. But the Cardinals managed to keep the heat on Patriots quarterbacks all night, even with their second team defense, and often, running was Cassel’s only option.
Bam Childress followed up his strong first half by grabbing a tipped Cassel pass on 3rd and 12 and weaving 26 yards for a first down and near touchdown. It was the key play in the drive that produced Muzinski’s score.
The Pats offense, which has now scored 53 points in two games, totaled nearly 500 yards on the night.
The Patriots defense held the Cardinals to just 150 yards of offense, and by the end, they seemed in position to intercept nearly every ball thrown by mop up guy John Navarre. Eric Warfield had his first pick as a Pat, but went on a ridiculously over the top return attempt that resulted in a fumble, and a fresh set of downs for the Cards.Know when to fold ’em, Eric. Tebucky Jones dropped a sure interception on the next play, and James Sanders muffed another later, but even with the Pats miscues, the Cards could not score. Mostly because they rarely had the ball. The Pats won the time of possession battle by more than a 2 to 1 margin.
Arizona logged just 96 yards on 31 pass plays. The Cards gained just 55 yards on the ground, a stark improvement over last week’s 200 yards allowed to Atlanta, but Arizona only carried the ball 11 times all night. When they did, they averaged more than 4 yards.
Eric Alexander had the special teams play of the night, forcing a Michael Spurlock fumble with a solid hit on a Cards kickoff return, which was picked up and advanced to the Arizona 10 by Randall Gay. On the next play, Cassel hit Evans for the score, giving the Pats 10 points in 13 seconds (coming, as it did, just after Gostkowski’s third field goal that cappped a seven minute, 78 yard drive in the third).
The rookies we highlighted in our pre-game report had a spotty night. Garrett Mills had but two catches, and while Patrick Cobbs ran and caught the ball well again, he fumbled away on a running play just as the Pats were entering Arizona territory in the fourth. Willie Andrews fumbled a punt inside the Pats 20, and dropped a wide open pass from Cassel that could have been a big gain. But the rookie DB/KR showed enough to get another chance at receiver, I expect. He got himself sufficiently open on at least two occasions, but he’s got to catch it. But it would be more important that he not fumble any punts inside the 20.
Of our spotlighted rookies, only TE David Thomas shined, as he took a beautiful Cassel throw down the left seam for a 32 yard gain on the game’s final possession. Thomas worked himself completely free in the Arizona secondary and hauled in the well thrown ball in stride.
Stephen Gostokowski finished the night a perfect on all six of his kicks (3 field goals and 3 extra points) as Martin Gramatica looked on.
Marshall Faulk is on the NFL Network wrapping up the game and predicting that Miami will win the AFC East. Go ahead, Marshall, just stand up and admit it: “Look, I hate these guys!. And I always will!”