Cardinals win over Patriots does in fact make a statament

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Cardinals win over Patriots does in fact make a statament

FOXBORO -- Ken Whisenhunt didn't necessarily put the league on notice, following the Arizona Cardinals' 20-18 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

And he can deny all he wants that a statement was made in leaving New England with a win and a 2-0 record to begin the season.

But facts are facts. And sometimes, reality can get in the way of a politically-correct post game comment.

"Nah, we don't want to talk about statements," said Whisenhunt after the win. "It's two games, okay? You know, I'm proud of our guys and the way they work, and the way they play."

Well, the way the Cardinals worked, and played, on Sunday -- handing the Patriots their first ever loss in a home opener at Gillette Stadium -- a statement was made.

And even the coach who tried to downplay that statement, couldn't help but to remind the football world know that his Cardinals were a two-touchdown underdog, and that calling this win "huge" would be an "understatement."

"We've been a good red-zone team, and we executed our plan," said Whisenhunt. "We had a good plan coming in. Our players believed in it. We stayed patient, worked at it, and had a good week of practice. It's not easy coming in here against a very good football team and a good quarterback.

"Nobody really gave us a chance," he added. "But our guys believed they could do it. And it's great to see them operate that way."

The Cardinals won in dramatic fashion, with a Patriots missed field goal. The finish wasn't exactly how anyone wrote it up, but the end result is all that matters.

And afterwards, the Cardinals locker room reeked of a team that -- by coming into New England and getting a win -- believed their statement was strong.

"Defensive coordinator Ray Horton and coach Whisenhunt, they've been talking about it all week. Come here to get a 'W' and it can definitely propel our season to the next level," said Cardinals cornerback patrick Peterson. "Some guys in the locker room described it as a statement game. But we'll have to wait and see what the rest of the season has for us."

The meaning of this win had some looking further ahead than others.

"It was electric, bro. It was electric," said Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves. "Just to get this win for us, man, it was electric. It's one of those wins, where you look back during a championship run, and say, 'That was the moment in our season where we knew we were a great team.'"

To say that Arizona was prepared for Sunday's game against the Patriots would also be an understatement. After the win, defensive coordinator Ray Horton told a story from this past NFL Draft, that had him drawing up plays for the Week 2 game, while the rest of the team made the picks.

"We were doing the draft, and I was sitting there doing New England plays," said Horton. "They couldn't see what I was doing, but that's the honest truth. I was doing New England plays that we ran in this game, during the draft. We're sitting there talking about draft players, and I'm sitting there doing that. That's a true story."

The Cardinals bought into that well thought-out game plan, and will leave New England as a 2-0 team.

"Coach Horton, he definitely had a pretty good game plan together," said Peterson. "He wanted to get after these guys. He wanted to keep pressure in Brady's face, so we can confuse him a little bit. And that's what we did.

"Coach Whisenhunt preached about it all week, take what these guys give us. They'll give us our shots sooner or later . . . We just kept grinding, man. It was all about grinding, playing a quarter at a time, and playing for each other."

"I think we've developed a never-say-die attitude," said Horton. "We won so many close games last year -- four overtime games. So we know how to react and play in tight games. It's just a lot of hard work that paid off."

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Jimmy Garoppolo can't help but hear trade rumors that involve his name. He heard all about them during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now his mom's keeping him up to date. 

"My mom loves telling me the news updates," Garoppolo told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "so she’s all over that stuff, but it’s been working really well . . . 

"I’m telling you, she could be your assistant. She’s all over the place. Her and my dad on Twitter and stuff like that. I don’t even think they know how to tweet, but they always have something going on . . .

"They know what to hit me with and what to keep quiet. They know me so well that they know what I’d like to hear and what I don’t need to hear. There’s a couple slip-ups here and there, I’m not going to lie to you, but they’re just so excited about it. It’s an exciting time, and they’re loving it."

Garoppolo tried his best to deflect questions about his future as he prepared for Super Bowl LI, but he could only insulate himself so much from those conversations. After six quarters of well-played football, he's chummed the waters for quarterback-starved franchises. As the draft nears, offers are expected to hit the Gillette Stadium offices, and it will be up to Bill Belichick and his staff to determine whether they should part ways with Tom Brady's backup. 

Schefter asked Garoppolo about one team in particular that could be interested: the Chicago Bears. Their general manager Ryan Pace is an Eastern Illinois alum, like Garoppolo, and Garoppolo is a Chicago-area kid. 

"I get asked about [that possibility] all the time from my friends and family back in Chicago," Garoppolo said. "They’re good reporters, my family. But I keep telling them I really don’t know how it would feel until . . . if it was to happen, I wouldn’t know how I’d feel until it did, you know? So it’s kind of one of those things, it’s hard to say right now."

Garoppolo added: "For the most part I am just trying to stay level-headed, trying not to think about it, over think it too much because at the end of the day I am still under contract. It is not my decision if I get traded or if I don’t, so I am just trying to take it all in stride. At the end of the day, you just have to enjoy it. The NFL, it is a hard place to be, hard place to succeed and when you get an opportunity you have to go and take advantage of it."

The idea of getting an opportunity, though, is an enticing one. Before the 2016 season, Garoppolo was very open about how he looked forward to his opportunity to start with Brady suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And with Schefter, he acknowledged that there are times when it's hard not to be impatient when you're the guy behind the guy.

"There’s times," Garoppolo said. "Obviously the kickoff happens and you are ready to roll. The juices get flowing again. You get the adrenaline, the butterflies. It’s football, you have to love the atmosphere . . . 

"We all play the game. We all want to be out there on the field and get an opportunity to play. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there is probably the best way to put it. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We want to be out there, I want to be out there competing and playing with my teammates.”