This game could really go one of two ways.
When the Arizona Cardinals fly into Gillette Stadium today, they could be shot down swiftly by a Patriots team that is, statistically, superior to them in almost every respect. But, this being the NFL, we’ve learned to never assume anything. A quick shift of momentum and everything we thought we knew about two opponents changes completely.
Any given Sunday, an underdog can rise up. Will today be that day? Not if the Patriots can do the following:
Take away the run
With Kevin Kolb getting his first start of the season under center, it puts a lot of pressure on the Cards creating a balanced attack so all the offensive weight isn’t weighing entirely on the former Eagle. Last week against the Seattle Seahawks, Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells never got going, and the Patriots proved against the Titans they have an elite run defense. However, if that unit lets up even a little, and Kolb can move the chains on the ground, he will exploit those holes all the way to the end zone. The Pats have to make the Cardinals earn their yards in the air. Kolb’s arm is far less dangerous than Williams’ legs.
This cannot be stressed enough. The offensive line has to be better. Period. In game one, he practically got his nose broken. What pain would Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell inflict given the chance? The line is young, a patchwork group of guys trying to recover from various injuries while still playing. But everyone knows without Brady, this team isn’t going to the promise land. So whatever it takes to keep him upright is what needs to happen. Maybe that’s more of Rob Gronkowski blocking, maybe that’s more run game action. Whatever it is, it just has to work.
Keep Fitzgerald under control
Being frank, there is no defensive back on the Pats roster who could possibly hope to stop Larry Fitzgerald. The man is an athletic freak. If Kolb has time to get him the ball, he will get his yards. What the Pats need to do is contain him, preferably to zero yards after the catch. The philosophy for the backfield has to be to make Kolb and Fitzgerald earn every completion and then stop the play before it rattles forward while they try to keep up. How, exactly, will they prevent Fitz from going ham? Double coverage? Zone? Teams have spent years trying to slow him down. Today, the Pats just have to make sure he doesn’t catch one more touchdown than they do. In my mind anyway, that would be a success.
This game also marks an impressive run for the Patriots. They’ve won their last ten openers at Gillette Stadium, the longest active streak in the NFL. This afternoon, they go for #11.
Here’s hoping the Cardinals’ #11 (Fitzgerald) doesn’t rain on the Patriots parade.