Patriots: Young Patriots Have Huge Impact In Win Over Cardinals

The Patriots stayed in the playoff hunt with a 27-13 win in Arizona on Monday night. They are now 7-6 and have a chance to finish off their bumpy season with a playoff berth if they play well down the stretch. New England was without several key players for most of or all the game due to injury and the play of their recent draft picks helped pick up the slack and get them a much-needed win.

The Patriots’ defense was the best unit on the field and several younger Patriots played a major role in that. Third-year defensive end Josh Uche had three sacks, giving him 10 for the season. All 10 of his sacks have come in his last five games. His biggest rep of the game came with 1:14 left in the third quarter. His pressure off the edge forced a Colt McCoy underthrow that was picked off by rookie Marcus Jones. For his part, Jones played 67% of the defensive snaps, had an interception, had one catch for 12 yards playing 14% of the offensive snaps and two kick returns for 47 yards. The guy can do it all.

Uche and Jones were not the only young defenders to make a huge impact; third year safety Kyle Dugger forced a fumble that Raekwon McMillan returned for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 20-13 in the third quarter. It was the single biggest play of the game.

The New England offense also got major contributions from its young pieces. Mac Jones was solid all night and especially good on the Patriots second touchdown drive; first scrambling and finding Kendrick Bourne for a first down and then looking off the safety before delivering a strike to Hunter Henry to set up the touchdown. Jones finished with 235 yards passing and an interception in which he was hit as he threw.

The biggest story offensively was the play of rookie running backs Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong. The Patriots were without Damien Harris for the entire game and a first half injury to star Rhamondre Stevenson left him hobbled for the rest of the night. Kevin Harris had 26 tough yards on eight carries and scored his first career touchdown. Strong had five carries for 70 yards and his first career touchdown. He also had two catches for 20 yards. Strong’s biggest highlight was a 44-yard run on the Patriots first possession of the third quarter, which showed the speed and athleticism that enticed the Patriots to draft him.

New England scored two red zone touchdowns, a major improvement over previous weeks. Both red zone touchdowns were rushing touchdowns by rookie running backs. Tyquan Thornton didn’t light up the stat sheet with his four catches, but two of them went for first downs.

The Patriots had a great draft in 2021 and it looks as though they have some core pieces from the 2020 and 2022 drafts. While it would be unrealistic to expect all these young players to have big impacts every week, New England will need every contribution it can get from its group of players on their rookie deals.