Before we start looking ahead to the second full Slate of NFL football, I want to take a look back at the one performance of opening weekend that really stood out to me. That was the Patriots going into Arizona and knocking off the Cardinals.
It was not just the fact that New England was able to get the win with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback instead of Tom Brady. When you dig deeper it is truly amazing. New England was also without the best tight end in football, Rob Gronkowski, starting running back Dion Lewis and two starting offensive linemen. For most teams, a partial injury report like that is a death sentence for any given week. However, the Patriots used the power run game, led by Legarrette Blount, and lots of short passes to their shifty wide receivers, like Julian Edelman, to hide their obvious offensive deficiencies. Despite the final score being close, they never trailed and were in control throughout. Bill Belichick and entire offensive staff seemed to be well aware that they were vulnerable to any kind of pass rush on Sunday night. Thus, Garoppolo’s average release time was a shade over .3 seconds. No pass rush on planet Earth can to a quarterback that quickly. This is partially good coaching and knowing your personnel, but Garoppolo also deserves credit for being able to execute the release so quickly.
The most incredible thing about New England’s performance Sunday night was the quality of the opponent. Arizona had the top offense in football last year and fell a game short of appearing in the Super Bowl. Also, many people are very high on the Cardinals again this year, myself included. Yet the Patriots were able to go into their building with an offensive starting lineup that looked like it belonged in the preseason and knock them off.
No matter how well Garoppolo plays, Brady’s job will be waiting for him when he returns in week five. Thus, his long term future in New England is cloudy. In the short term though, they continue to win regardless of who their opponent is or who is available on their own team.
I have never been a huge fan of the Brady/Belichick debate as far as who deserves more credit for New England’s unprecedented success. They are both great and each makes the other better. I do not know or care who is greater. However, I do know this. Belichick has posted 14 straight seasons of 10 or more wins. That is the most incredible sports statistic I have ever heard. Additionally, there has never been a more shining example of his brilliance than this past Sunday night.