NE-ARI grades: Garoppolo fills in capably for Brady
New England Patriots 23, Arizona Cardinals 23
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the New England Patriots’ 23-21 Sunday Night Football Week 1 win over the Arizona Cardinals:
Quarterback grade: Carson Palmer, 69.4
Palmer clutch, but plagued by inconsistency
Simply glancing at the box score, you’d likely take away the notion that QB Carson Palmer began his season strong for Arizona. For the most part, you’d be correct. Palmer connected on 17-of-19 attempts and both of his scoring strikes under 10 yards. However, Palmer’s grade (69.4) fell short of what we’ve come to expect from the veteran signal caller, as he only found a single receiver beyond 20 yards — a 39-yarder to Michael Floyd — and his accuracy dipped on throws of 10 yards or more.
Top offensive grades:
WR Larry Fitzgerald, 83.8
RB David Johnson, 80.2
C A.Q. Shipley, 77.4
TE Jermaine Gresham, 77.0
G Evan Mathis, 75.8
WR Michael Floyd, 73.6
David Johnson submits further evidence for a breakout season
The Cardinals’ brass must be pleased with the performance of their second-year back out of Northern Iowa, who came forward on the biggest stage to earn Arizona’s second-highest PFF grade (80.2). Johnson was not only consistently productive throughout the contest, he generated a fourth-quarter, spinning, stiff-arming 45-yard run that might have convinced several Patriot defenders that he had harnessed the power of invisibility. En route to a 121.9 elusive rating, Johnson secured each of his six receiving targets to amass 132 total yards and a touchdown.
Top defensive grades:
SS Tony Jefferson, 83.2
CB Patrick Peterson, 81.4
DI Calais Campbell, 81.4
LB Kevin Minter, 81.1
ED Markus Golden, 78.1
Patriots play it safe, avoid Peterson
While nobody would blame New England for working around CB Patrick Peterson — especially considering QB Jimmy Garoppolo was making the first replacement start for the suspended Tom Brady — it still served the purpose of confirming utmost respect for the former first-rounder. Playing 37 snaps in coverage, Peterson allowed a mere 0.35 yards per coverage snap and didn’t allow a single yard after contact.
Quarterback grade: Jimmy Garoppolo, 68.7
Garoppolo far from Brady-esque, but enough to secure victory
Perhaps the most polarizing player in the NFL at the moment, QB Jimmy Garoppolo began the nearly impossible quest to temporarily replace the anointed one with a hard-fought victory over a respected opponent. Garoppolo’s play exposed several areas of weakness but, when provided with a clean pocket, he connected on 20-of-26 attempts for 216 yards, one touchdown and a 113.6 NFL QB rating. Certainly a performance to build on over the next three weeks while keeping the seat warm for their All-Pro superstar.
Top offensive grades:
WR Julian Edelman, 75.4
WR Danny Amendola, 73.6
WR Chris Hogan, 73.0
RB James White, 71.5
QB Jimmy Garoppolo, 68.7
Patriot receiver depth a strength?
Many were left wondering if New England would possess the pieces at wideout to contend for a title run and the results, impressive. Julian Edelman (75.4) was clearly the superior talent at receiver, but Danny Amendola (73.6) was able to prove his health and effectiveness, newly signed Chris Hogan (73.0) showcased his worth with a 37-yard touchdown reception and even fourth-rounder Malcolm Mitchell — who suffered a gruesome elbow dislocation in preseason Week 1 — displayed promise with 33 receiving yards, 21 after the catch. RB James White (71.5) collected each of his five targets to partially prove his ability to replace the injured Dion Lewis and did so with style — 38-of-40 yards collected after the catch.
Top defensive grades:
LB Jamie Collins, 84.8
ED Chris Long, 82.7
ED Jabaal Sheard, 79.4
ED Trey Flowers, 78.7
LB Don’t’a Hightower, 73.9
New England pass rush dictates game flow
The Patriots were able to control the bread-basket of Arizona, the vertical passing game, by forcing discomfort on QB Carson Palmer with a ruthlessly consistent pass rush. Arizona dropped back to pass on 40 plays Sunday night and New England was able to pressure those attempts on 15 occasions as well as adding a batted pass. The Patriots top defensive grades highlight just how effective the strategy played out, with LB Jamie Collins (84.8) steadily assaulting the offensive rhythm and ED Chris Long (82.7) scoring two sacks while presenting the NFLs fourth-best pass-rushing productivity from a 4-3 defensive end from Week 1.