FOXBORO -- The last time the Patriots played at Gillette Stadium, a game -- indeed, a championship -- was decided by a shanked field goal in the south end zone.
Nine months later, it happened again. Only this time, they were the shankers, not the shankees.
The Patriots seemed on the verge of a miracle comeback victory Sunday when Stephen Gostkowski was set up for a 42-yard field goal with six seconds left. The kick -- which would have been Gostkowski's fifth FG of the day -- was about to complete a comeback from a 20-9, fourth-quarter deficit and erase a multitude of New England sins over the course of the afternoon.
Only he missed it. He missed it nearly as dramatically as Billy Cundiff missed the potential game-tying field goal for the Ravens in last January's AFC championship, pulling it to the left and never coming close to the goal posts.
It allowed Arizona Cardinals to come away with a 20-18 victory over the Patriots, New England's first-ever Opening Day loss in the 11-year history of Gillette Stadium.
In the end justice may have been served, because this was a game the Patriots hardly deserved to win. Their statistical advantages (387 total yards to 245 for Arizona, 25 first downs to 16, three-minute edge in time of possession) camouflaged a mistake-riddled, inconsistent afternoon for New England.
"You miss kicks, you throw interceptions, you fumble the ball, you miss tackles . . . I mean, over the course of a long season, those things happen," said quarterback Tom Brady. "There's not one play that lost this game. We did a lot of things that allowed us to lose this game. We had a lot of opportunities out there to make more plays than we did.
"Hopefully, it never comes down to a 42-yard field goal at the end. Hopefully we do a much better job on offense so it's not that kind of game at the end."
More to come . . .