Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/16/12

Where do I even begin? There was not a whole lot that went as expected in this contest between the Patriots and the Cardinals in Foxborough Mass.

I wanted to come out of this with a clear-cut hero on one side (the Patriots) and an equally clear-cut zero on the other side (the Cardinals).

The spread on the game was almost two full touchdowns for the Brady-led Pats and the prevailing wisdom was that he would lead his team in a near rout of an out-gunned Cardinals team.

Patriot nation (myself included) is comatose over what turned out to be one of the craziest games our team has ever played.

In what was mostly a field goal battle for the bulk of the game. It is hard to put a finger on a definite hero on either side.

At one point it looked as though Brandon Spikes would take the award with a forced fumble near the end of the fourth quarter. 

His play resulted in a last ditch shot at a game winning field goal, that for Patriots fans everywhere brought back memories of Super Bowl comebacks and the glory days of the Robert Kraft organization.

So who does get the award for hero of this game?

Well, ultimately, it came down to special teams play; and a blocked punt by defender Quentin Groves proved to be the big play that gave the Cardinals the edge today.

He gets my vote as much as I hate to admit it. Neither team displayed much offensive prowess, despite Brady throwing for more yards this week than last, and the Patriots' defense did a respectable job against a decent offense.

Which leaves us with two possible candidates for zero of the game. Despite a sub 100-yard day for Stevan Ridley, and several dropped passes by Tom Brady's top three receivers, I have to go with special teams again; the co-award winners being Nate Ebner who failed to block the aforementioned Quentin Groves allowing the blocked punt; and also credit Stephen Gostkowski as he hooked the potential game-winning field goal left of the uprights.

While the punt block was critical from the field position and scoring point of view, Gostkowski's missed kick (reminiscent of last year in the AFC Championship) prevented the Patriots from pulling out a last second miracle.

I was half tempted to place the blame on the coaching staff for what appeared to be very conservative (possibly foolish) play calling at times during the game; it seemed as though they were afraid to attempt longer plays on third downs and while I don't pretend to match wits with Belichick and McDaniels,

I still have to wonder what they were thinking. Overall, it came down to poor execution, and Arizona took full advantage of the play-makers they put out on the field. Without a potent offense thus far, the Cardinals needed special teams plays to pull this one out.



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