If Jimmy Garoppolo can maintain his performance in the next three games the New England Patriots play without Tom Brady, he just might solidify his erstwhile status as the future NFL Hall of Famer’s heir apparent at starting quarterback. But for now, he did pretty well for himself, throwing for a solid 264 yards as the Patriots edged the Arizona Cardinals, 23-21, at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night.

Garoppolo overcomes manpower losses to have strong debut as starter

As a second-round pick (62nd overall) in the 2014 NFL draft, Garoppolo hadn’t had too many chances to play as Tom Brady’s backup.

But with the superstar quarterback sitting out the first four games of the 2016 NFL season for his role in the “Deflategate” scandal, his 24-year-old backup stepped up as a capable replacement, completing 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards, and throwing for one touchdown and no interceptions. And he was able to pull all of that off with several other offensive players sidelined; tight end Rob Gronkowski, left tackle Nate Solder, and right guard Jonathan Cooper all missed Sunday’s game due to injuries.

After the game, Garoppolo’s teammates were all praises for his performance. Defensive end Chris Long cited his “quiet confidence,” and credited his ability to make a few “really gutsy plays” that helped the Patriots win on the road despite being undermanned.

These key plays came when the Cardinals were leading 21-20 with over nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, right after wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald scored his 100th career touchdown. Although New England’s succeeding drive didn’t start off on the right foot, with Garoppolo getting dropped for a sack on the first play, the young QB didn’t lose his composure.

The Patriots would hold on to the ball for the next six minutes, and while the 13-play drive didn’t end in a touchdown, kicker Stephen Gostkowski was able to hit a 32-yard field goal to give the lead back to New England, 23-21.

Arizona missed big chance to win when Catanzaro FG wentwide left

Despite having the home field advantage, the Arizona Cardinals were behind for most of the game, and only took the lead following the aforementioned Fitzgerald touchdown.

But they had a solid chance to pull off the win in the last minute, as kicker Chandler Catanzaro prepared for a 47-yard field goal. His attempt, however, saw the ball hooking to the left, dashing the home crowd’s hopes of seeing the Cardinals escape with a thrilling victory.

After the game, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians told reporters that his team “didn’t really play well enough” in any aspect of the game tobeat the Patriots.

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