Grades: Nothing 'special' about it
Is there one egregiously bad decision that stands out here? No. But there were several head-scratching play calls on offense, including a heavy dose of third-down runs. Even after Aaron Hernandez went down, Rob Gronkowski was not involved in the offense until the Patriots' only touchdown drive. Belichick also lost a challenge in the fourth quarter.
The stats here weren't bad -- Tom Brady completed 28 of 46 passes for 316 yards and one touchdown -- but you never got the sense this unit was on the top of its game. Brady and receiver Brandon Lloyd weren't in sync, while Brady was intercepted once, Lloyd had a drop, and Gronkowski couldn't haul in what would have been a game-tying two-point conversion. Pass protection was also suspect, with Brady sacked four times.
After a big week in the road opener, Stevan Ridley turned into a so-so performance in the home opener (18 carries, 71 yards). While Ridley had some tough runs, including one for 20 yards, Danny Woodhead struggled throughout the game. On eight carries, he gained only 18 yards (a 2.3 yard-per-carry average), though he did have a 30-yard touchdown scamper called back due to holding.
Although they weren't exactly facing a future Hall of Famer in Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb, the Patriots were able to hold perennial All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald to just one catch for four yards. Overall, Kolb had only 140 passing yards, and his one touchdown pass came after the Cardinals started their drive on New England's 2-yard line.
For the second straight week, this unit was excellent. Cardinals running backs combined for only 68 yards on 26 carries. Patrick Peterson's 17-yard run out of the Wildcat was a negative for the unit, but also an unexpected wrinkle in the Cardinals' offense. Brandon Spikes and Chandler Jones both forced fumbles in the running game.
The Patriots knew that the Cardinals would pose problems on special teams in this department, yet they still allowed a critical blocked punt that set up a key Cardinals score. Not a good day for Scott O'Brien's unit. The Pats held the Cardinals from any big, game-changing returns, but also continued to sport a weak return game of their own. Stephen Gostkowski's missed game-winning field goal was an obvious miscue, but came after he hit several long field goals in the game.