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New England’s 23-21 win against the Cardinals Sunday night was a wild one. The craziness started on Friday when it was reported that Rob Gronkowski did not make the flight to Phoenix with the team, and the next day, it was confirmed that he would be ruled out. Along with that, the Patriots’ already worrisome offensive line took a hit when New England announced that Nate Solder and Jonathan Cooper would too be out too. Most people were already doubting Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots to begin with, so without Gronkowski, Solder and Cooper, it seemed as if it’d be impossible to even come close to beating Arizona.
That was not the case on Sunday night. It may be cliché, but I name the 24-year old, first-time starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the MVP of the game. Most of us can agree that we thought the Patriots would probably go 3-1 in the first four weeks, with that one loss coming in Arizona. You could argue that New England shocked the world this past Sunday, but more specifically, Garoppolo shocked the world, shutting the mouths of the doubters.
As I mentioned before, Garoppolo had limited weapons. It was a recipe for disaster. He had Edelman and Amendola, but nobody knew how healthy the two of them really were. He had newcomer Martellus Bennett, but Bennett ended up being targeted only a couple of times, and was used primarily as a blocker throughout the night. Jimmy had a fairly healthy Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan, and a kind of useless AJ Derby to throw to. He had, of course, Blount, White and Bolden to run the ball. Blount and Bolden had a pretty shaky game overall. It doesn’t sound like an ideal situation, really. Garoppolo defied the odds, in a sense.
Garoppolo remained poised throughout the entirety of the game, and you could tell. He was put in multiple high leverage situations, where one mistake could have been deadly. His teammates had trust in him, while he had trust in his teammates. He connected with both Edelman and Amendola at key moments. After the game Garoppolo said, “When they have confidence in you, you have confidence in them.” That was by far the storyline for New England. Watching the game, you could tell that Garoppolo was the leader. It certainly wasn’t like Brady, but his all-around confidence was a game-changer.
Arizona kept Garoppolo on his toes from beginning to end. They played gritty, hard, and were pesky. They kept bringing the heat, and it seemed like the walls would cave in at any time for New England. Jimmy G didn’t let that happen. He had only one really ugly play, where Arizona’s Markus Golden beat Marcus Cannon for the strip sack, which was then recovered by old pal Chandler Jones. Thankfully, that wasn’t costly. Garoppolo didn’t freak out from this point on. He remained calm, responded incredibly well to adversity, and most importantly, didn’t give up. Most Patriots fans could feel something really bad coming. Garoppolo never looked nervous, startled or overwhelmed. Neither side gave in, but the Patriots’ side took victory in the end. Not to mention, Garoppolo's passer rating was 106.1.
Garoppolo’s biggest moment was his final drive down the field. It began with around eight minutes left to go in the fourth quarter, and ended at around the 3:45 mark. Jimmy led the team down the field with a thirteen play, sixty-one yard drive to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-winning field goal. Garoppolo looked phenomenal all night, no doubt, but this drive was like no other. Other quarterbacks would crack under pressure. Not Garoppolo. For this being his first NFL start, the way he led his team in the final minutes was incredible. The Patriots could very well start the season with a 4-0 record, and it could all be thanks to Garoppolo.