FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Moments before Ryan Williams had what could have been the worst carry of his young NFL career, he had his best.
Williams had broken off a 13-yard run on second-and-5 to secure a first down for the Cardinals – a first down that probably should have all but sealed a win for the Cards. But on the following third down, with the Cards merely trying to run out the clock, Williams fumbled. The Patriots, down just two points, recovered at the Arizona 30-yard line.
But the Patriots missed the 42-yard field goal, the Cards escaped with a 20-18 win at Gillette Stadium, and Williams’ nightmare simply turned into a lesson learned.
“It’s a tough time and it makes it a lot easier after we got the win,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “And look, a guy’s helmet hit right on the ball; it wasn’t like Ryan was swinging it out from his body. But in that situation, you’ve got to understand what’s on the line. He is a young player and will learn from that.”
Williams didn’t shy away from talking. “I was just doing my best not to cry on the field, national TV,” Williams told the Arizona Republic. “And I ended up crying anyway.”
His teammates ended up having his back. The defense held enough to force the field goal, and that was enough.
“When you get a turnover like that, it’s unfortunate,” said safety Kery Rhodes, who said he talked to Williams after the play. “Nothing is for sure, nothing is for certain. That’s why you have to be careful with it.
“For us to get a stop and make them at least attempt a field goal, that was big.”
Whisenhunt said he wasn’t sure if Williams was trying to do too much.
“I am still traumatized by seeing the ball pop out,” Whisenhunt said. “I couldn’t really tell you until I look at it on the tape.”
PROVEN EXPERIENCE WITH HEAP
In a game where tight ends were the story for the Patriots, Todd Heap might have stolen the headlines.
The Cardinals’ tight end benefitted all afternoon from New England narrowing its focus on
Heap also contributed when he wasn’t making catches. He set a screen on Andre Roberts’ defender early in the third quarter, allowing Roberts to get free for a two-yard touchdown pass that put the Cardinals ahead, 13-9.
“Any time that I felt like the defense really was going to make you dink-and-dunk them all day, they weren’t going to give up the big play, and that’s when the tight end comes in real handy,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “He was really controlling the linebackers in the middle because you have two deep safeties over Larry and the other receiver. A lot of our plan was to get him the ball on the back side of the backfield, we did that pretty well.”
Heap left the game in the third quarter with an injured left knee. Heap said his knee “feels alright” but was sore after suffering it on a 28-yard catch
“Todd is a security blanket,” quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “You know when you get your matchups inside and they want to play Cover-2 like they did and funnel everything inside then he’s your go-to guy. I have a lot of confidence and trust in him.”
GROVES GETS A SACK, BLOCKED PUNT
Whoever had Sunday in the “When will Quentin Groves get his first sack since 2008?”pool hit the jackpot. Before taking down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the second quarter, Groves’ last sack came on Dec. 14, 2008, when Groves played for the Jacksonville Jaguars -- a stretch of 50 games that lasted nearly four years.
“It felt great,” Groves said. “Then to come against a future Hall of Famer it’s even better. It’s kind of like a burden’s been lifted off of my shoulders.”
Groves also blocked a punt early in the third quarter that put the Cardinals at the Patriots’ 2-yard-line and eventually led to Roberts’ touchdown catch. On film, Groves noticed the Patriots right edge was “a bit soft.”
“It was just something we all take pride in,” Groves said.
PATS MISSING HERNANDEZ
The Cardinals’ defensive load got a little lighter when Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez went down less than 8 minutes into the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Instead of worrying about two tight end threats, the Cardinals were able to turn all its attention to Rob Gronkowski.
“Aaron is in there almost every play, so it changes quite a bit,” Patriots receiver Wes Welker said. “You have to go to a different attack and go out there and play the way we need to and execute the way we need to and today just wasn’t enough.”