GLENDALE, Ariz. — After Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was carted off three plays into the game, Mac Jones and the New England Patriots toughed out a 27-13 victory on “Monday Night Football.”
No team has scored more points off turnovers than the Patriots (7-6), and that was the formula they needed to overcome the Cardinals (4-9). Safety Kyle Dugger‘s forced fumble that linebacker Raekwon McMillan returned 23 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter was the turning point in the game. The Patriots then turned an interception by rookie cornerback Marcus Jones on the ensuing Cardinals drive into a rushing touchdown.
Cardinals backup quarterback Colt McCoy brought a sense of calm in a situation that rattled the Cardinals in the immediate aftermath of Murray’s injury, but he was sacked five times as he played behind a patchwork offensive line.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have scored 85 points off turnovers, followed by the Eagles (80) and Cowboys (80). McMillan’s fumble return for a touchdown was the team’s fifth non-offensive touchdown of the season, which ties the Cardinals for most in the NFL.
Winning with defense seems like it will have to be the Patriots’ formula if they have hope of making the postseason.
Describe the game in two words: Survival mode. It seldom looks easy for the offense, while the defense delivered the key plays to help the Patriots pull away in the second half.
Promising trend: Without starting running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who left because of an ankle injury in the first half, the Patriots had no choice but to turn to rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. They were the only healthy running backs on the game-day roster with Damien Harris (thigh) a pregame scratch. Harris (14-yard TD to help 32nd-ranked red zone offense) and Strong (44-yard rush) delivered despite having played just 13 and 10 offensive snaps this season, respectively. Harris became the first Patriots rookie with a rushing touchdown on “Monday Night Football” since Shane Vereen in 2011 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
QB breakdown: Mac Jones was under consistent pressure, and he once again let his frustration show early in the third quarter when the Patriots had to burn a timeout and television cameras showed him shouting an expletive as he headed toward the sideline. The Patriots got the ball out of his hands quickly early; he averaged 2.19 seconds in the first half, per NFL Next Gen Stats. They opened things up a bit more in the second half. Jones finished 24-of-35 for 235 yards, with no touchdowns and 1 interception.
Under-the-radar stat that matters: The Patriots held the Cardinals to 1-for-4 on fourth down, improving their standing as the league’s No. 1-ranked defense in those situations.
Troubling trend: Injuries are piling up. Stevenson (ankle), starting receiver DeVante Parker (evaluated for concussion) and rookie cornerback Jack Jones (knee) — who was starting in place of Jalen Mills (groin) — were all knocked out of action in the first half and didn’t return. — Mike Reiss
Whenever he has been called upon, McCoy has responded. Monday night was no different.
The 13-season veteran was thrust into action three plays into the first quarter after Murray was carted off. He threw for 246 yards, no touchdowns and 1 interception.
McCoy will be facing a unique opportunity: He’s set to start the third-most games of his career if he finishes the last four as Arizona’s starting quarterback. He last started six games in a season in 2011 for the Cleveland Browns.
Describe the game in two words: Kyler Murray. From the moment Murray went down early in the first quarter, the quarterback’s injury cast a large shadow over the rest of the game.
Buy/sell on a breakout performance: Buy on wide receiver Robbie Anderson‘s performance. The recently acquired Anderson had two catches for 13 yards in his first six games with the Cardinals but finished Monday with three catches for 44 yards. With the Cardinals’ offense laboring all season, the emergence of another playmaker could pay dividends for McCoy going forward.
Pivotal play: The first-and-10 run by Murray on the game’s third play less than 90 seconds into the first quarter. It left Murray on the ground with a non-contact knee injury that could change the direction of Murray’s career depending on how he can come back from the injury. — Josh Weinfuss