Running backs (4 out of 5): Stevan Ridley had another two broken tackles for 10 total yards. He added a nice catch and two very good run reads. He may have picked the wrong hole only once. That’s Ridley’s biggest improvement. Woodhead had a nice blitz pickup.
Receivers (4 out of 5): Outside of the drops by Welker, Lloyd, and Gronkowski, this group did great work, especially Gronkowski and Lloyd (eight combined tough catches). Welker had two great catches (on the sideline before halftime, and down the seam to start the second half). Brady and Lloyd again misfired on a play in the end zone. Brady saw the other safety and wanted Lloyd to go straight up the field. Lloyd thought he had the angle on the safety and stayed on the post. Looked like Lloyd was right on the film.
Offensive line (3 out of 5): This group did not give up nearly as much at it appeared with 12 quarterback pressures in 48 dropbacks. The .25 pressures per attempt was exactly the same as the opener against the Titans. The entire offense struggled in the run games, with 12 run stuffs allowed. Both Logan Mankins (hurry, knockdown, three stuffs) and Thomas (half-sack, half-hurry, three stuffs, penalty) had a tough time because they were asked to execute reach blocks all day against Calais Campbell and Dockett. Those guys are darn good. On the Quintin Groves sack in the second quarter, Ryan Wendell (half-sack, two stuffs) likely should have given help on the stunt. The Patriots had trouble blocking Acho all over the field, even on little bubble screens like the one on the second play of the second half. It went for 4 yards, but if Solder (2.5 hurries, knockdown) makes his block on Acho, it could have been more. The Patriots had those types of minor miscues all day.
Defensive line (4.5 out of 5): Not quite as flawless as the opener — the Cardinals gashed them a few times — but very, very good. The Patriots’ one sack, eight hurries, five knockdowns, and seven stuffed runs were mostly by the line. Chandler Jones (seven impact plays) led the way again, but Rob Ninkovich (two hurries, half-knockdown, two plus run tackles) was back involved. The mountains in the middle, Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love, combined for a sack, two hurries, a half-knockdown, a holding penalty, and a plus run tackle. On the first Wildcat snap to cornerback Peterson, either Jones or Jerod Mayo (likely Jones) didn’t properly force the play to the sideline.
Linebackers (4.5 out of 5): All three starters were terrific. The Patriots dodged some bullets thanks to the inaccuracy of Kevin Kolb. On third and 3 after the Brady interception, the Patriots were bluffing blitz and playing Cover 1 with the deep safety rolling over the top of Larry Fitzgerald. That left man coverage all over the field, including Dont’a Hightower against Todd Heap, who was wide open for a touchdown. Kolb missed the throw. An even worse play by Kolb was the third-and-2 pass to a wide-open LaRod Stephens-Howling out of the backfield that Kolb rushed for no reason. It might have gone for a touchdown. One of the Cardinals coaches was just irate with Kolb. Terrific play by Brandon Spikes right before halftime to bring down Beanie Wells for a 3-yard loss. Spikes read his keys perfectly, took on the pulling guard, and then took the running back down. Somebody didn’t fill the gap on the Kolb 5-yard touchdown run, likely Spikes, although Mayo nearly saved the play. Great play by Spikes to hit his gap on the final forced fumble. But what in the heck were the Cardinals thinking by (a) not taking a knee, and (b) running a toss play? Unbelievable.
Secondary (3.5 out of 5): Not sure why Patrick Chung and Sterling Moore didn’t switch on the pick play where Andre Roberts scored from 2 yards. Usually the Patriots do, but that’s all dependent on game plan and the opponent. The 28-yard pass from Kolb to Heap in the third quarter was just a debacle. Love and Ninkovich missed the sack, Kyle Arrington missed a tackle that allowed another 18 yards, and Steve Gregory (late hit) and Spikes (roughing) had penalties. Underrated play by Tavon Wilson on third and 8 late in the game when the Cardinals ran a shovel pass to Early Doucet for no gain.
Special teams (1 out of 5): The Patriots had one punt blocked (Nate Ebner) and should have had another (Brandon Bolden), as the rookies struggled. Stephen Gostkowski’s stellar day with four field goals (two over 50 yards) was ruined with his over-kick of the final kickoff (what a blunder by Stephens-Howling not taking it out) and the 42-yarder that he dead pulled. Bolden drew a kickoff holding penalty from former Patriot James Sanders. Missed punt tackle by Tracy White. Zoltan Mesko’s 39-yard punt in the third quarter should have been downed.