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Patriots 27, Cardinals 13

How it happened: Behind defense, New England scores 20 unanswered points to jump back into playoff race

Raekwon McMillan (left) celebrates with teammate Deatrich Wise after McMillan recovered a DeAndre Hopkins fumble and ran it back for a touchdown in the third quarter. It was the fourth defensive touchdown for the Patriots this season.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

With the site of two of their most dramatic Super Bowls as a backdrop, the Patriots hung on for a 27-13 win over the Cardinals Monday night at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., that is crucial for their playoff hopes.

Without running back Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle, ruled out in second half) and wide receiver DeVante Parker (head, ruled out before halftime) for much of the night, New England turned to rookies Kevin Harris (26 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown) and Pierre Strong (5 carries, 70 yards, one rushing touchdown) to help lift Mac Jones (24-for-35, 235 yards, one interception) and the offense.


The win broke a two-game losing skid for the Patriots, and allowed them to leapfrog the Jets into the seventh and final spot in the AFC playoff chase.

It was the defense that helped shift the momentum for New England. Josh Uche had three sacks, Matthew Judon had 1.5 sacks, Marcus Jones added an interception, and linebacker Raekwon McMillan had a scoop-and-score off a fumble from DeAndre Hopkins.

Uche and Judon became the first Patriots duo to record double-digit sacks in the same season since Andre Carter and Mark Anderson in 2011.

Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray went down with a knee injury three plays into the game, and the Cardinals turned to backup Colt McCoy. In the meantime, the Patriots built an early 7-3 lead, with Kevin Harris in place of Stevenson pushing it from 14 yards out.

The Cardinals answered with 10 points to take a 13-7 lead, with James Conner bulling his way for a 10-yard touchdown run.

But New England would score the next 20 points, a stretch that started with a Nick Folk field goal just before the end of the half to cut the lead to three. A Folk field goal tied it early in the third, but it was a scoop-and-score from McMillan with 5:32 to go in the third to give the Patriots the lead for good.


New England stretched the lead to 27-13 when Strong plunged in from the three with 14:09 to go.

For the Patriots, the night was punctuated by the roller coaster ride of Mac Jones. The quarterback, who appeared exasperated by offensive play caller Matt Patricia at one point in the second half, was seen hugging and smiling with the assistant coach after New England took a 14-point fourth-quarter advantage.

Read more about the game here:

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Three takeaways from Bill Belichick’s postgame press conference — 12:20 a.m.

He was impressed by the defense

“I was proud of the way the defense hung in there,” he said. “We made some big stops.”

Belichick pointed to the work on fourth down, particularly the pass breakup by Jahlani Tavai.

“That was a big play for us,” Belichick said. “I thought (the defense) did a pretty good job tonight. … They didn’t get much in the second half, so it was good.”

He acknowledged the work of the rookie running backs

Without Rhamondre Stevenson for much of the night and Damien Harris inactive, the Patriots needed a big night from their rookie running backs.

And Pierre Strong (five carries, 70 yards, one touchdown) and Kevin Harris (eight carries, 26 yards, one touchdown) got a thumbs up from the coach.

“They got an opportunity and made some big plays,” he said. “It takes everybody, and I thought we kind of had that. We kind of had everybody pulling tonight.”


The duo was an important part of the offensive attack.

“The offense played better,” Belichick said. “We had a tough break on the interception — Mac got his arm hit.

“I though we did some things better, but we still have a long way to go.”

It’s a unique stretch for the Patriots

Belichick and the team will spend the week on the west coast. It can be a logistical challenge, but the coach was happy with the way the team has handled itself through the early stages of the road trip.

“I was really proud of the way the team handled themselves,” he said. “It’s always good to win.”

Josh Uche on ‘demoralizing’ an opponent — 12:10 a.m.

Josh Uche helped make history Monday night.

The pass rusher notched three sacks in the 27-13 win over the Cardinals to reach the double-digit plateau.

Paired with Matthew Judon — who had two sacks of his own to boost his season total to 14.5 — New England became the first team this year to have two players with 10 sacks or more.

“Judon has been a blessing in my life. That’s big bro,” said Uche. “I don’t know where I’d be without him.

“It’s just a great group of guys in the locker room.”

Uche, who had three sacks last year, was part of a defense that finished with six sacks on the night. The group also managed to put up six points of their own when Kyle Dugger forced a fumble on DeAndre Hopkins and Raekwon McMillan delivered a scoop-and-score for a game-changing touchdown.


“It was just great,” Uche said of the play. “A momentum-changer when we needed it.”

It was the fourth defensive touchdown of the season for New England.

“We take a lot of pride in it,” Uche said. “Any time the defense can put up points on the board, it’s demoralizing.

“Definitely, definitely a great feeling.”

Two big surprises? The rookies who stepped up. — 12:05 a.m.

The Patriots got a couple of surprise performances out of rookie running backs Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris in Monday’s win over the Cardinals.

Without Rhamondre Stevenson (who suffered an ankle injury in the early going) and Damien Harris (who was inactive because of a thigh issue), Strong and Harris provided an offensive boost for the Patriots.

Strong had five carries for 70 yards and a touchdown, while Harris added eight carries for 26 yards and a touchdown of his own in the 27-13 win.

“That’s how this business goes. You never know when your numbers is going to be called,” veteran offensive lineman David Andrews said

“They did a great job,” he added.

The ground game wasn’t overwhelming, but did just enough to lift New England to victory, and keep the Patriots’ playoff hopes alive. Andrews recognized the must-win nature of Sunday’s victory, as well as the urgency they need to show moving forward.

“We have four opportunities left,” he said, referencing the rest of their schedule. “It’s a fleeting thing. You gave to take advantage of all of them.”


“One game at a time,” he added. “It’s a one-game season.”

Instant Analysis: A win is a win is a win — 11:55 p.m.

Raekwon McMillan (center) and some of his teammates mug it up for the "Monday Night Football" camera after McMillan returned a DeAndre Hopkins fumble for a touchdown.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

By Ben Volin

If we’re being honest, Monday’s win was more about the opponent than the Patriots. The Cardinals had little to play for, entering the game with a 4-8 record. They have the bottom-ranked scoring defense. And Kyler Murray suffered a knee injury on the third play of the game, which sucked the air out of the Cardinals’ sideline. The Patriots have struggled against scrambling quarterbacks this year, and were extremely fortunate to instead face 36-year-old backup Colt McCoy.

But when you’re riding a two-game losing streak, you feel the playoffs slipping away, and your quarterback is screaming his head off with everyone frustrated, all that matters is the win.

Read the rest here.

Shaughnessy: Not the finest football, but the Patriots remain in the playoff chase — 11:45 p.m.

Mac Jones (left) and Tyquan Thornton (right) celebrate with Pierre Strong after Strong scored his first NFL touchdown in the second half.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

It was injury-plagued, mistake-filled, and sometimes downright unwatchable.

But in the end, it was a beautiful thing for New England football fans as the ragged Patriots staggered to a 27-13 victory over the 4-9 Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football.

Bill Belichick and Co. are 7-6. Postseason hopes live.

Read the rest of Dan Shaughnessy’s column here.

Pats win — 11:30 p.m.

The win broke a two-game losing skid for the Patriots, and allowed them to leapfrog the Jets into the seventh and final spot in the AFC playoff chase.

Judon, Uche team up for double-digit sacks for Pats — 11:22 p.m.

Uche picked up a third sack. He and Matt Judon are now the first Patriots duo since Andre Carter and Mark Anderson in 2011 to have double-digit sacks in the same season.

Uche and Judon inching toward a milestone — 11:16 p.m.

Uche now has two sacks and Judon has 1.5 sacks. The Patriots are one sack from Uche away from being the first Patriots team since the 2011 roster (with Andre Carter and Mark Anderson) to have two defenders with double-digit sacks on the roster.

Josh Uche picks up second sack, and that’s five for the Pats D tonight — 11:15 p.m.

The Patriots have been able to get some incredible pressure on Colt McCoy. The Cardinals couldn’t convert on fourth-and-13, and the Patriots take over.

ESPN: Kyler Murray might have torn an ACL — 11:14 p.m.

Devin McCourty looks like he got a head injury — 11:10 p.m.

The play had to be ended and McCourty was escorted off the field.

It’s 27-13, Patriots, with about 6 minutes to play.

OK, the momentum is really shifting in New England’s favor now — 10:57 p.m.

With the Cardinals in throw-mode, the momentum has really started to shift to New England. The Patriots have the ball and a 27-13 lead with 12:33 left.

New England now has two takeaways and three sacks.

Pierre Strong scores his first NFL TD — 10:50 p.m.

Patriots 27, Cardinals 13 | 14:09, fourth quarter

The drive: 5 plays, 63 yards, 1:58

The Patriots just went up by 14 points in what has turned out to be a dramatic game in the desert.

The big play of the series came on a 39-yard pass play to Henry down the seam that got the Patriots into the Arizona red zone. One play later, Pierre Strong plunged over from three yards out for the touchdown.

It’s 27-13 with 14:09 to go in the game. New England has now scored 20 straight points to take command.

End of third quarter: Patriots 20, Cardinals 13 — 10:46 p.m.

The Patriots will have the ball on the Cardinals’ 43.

Stat check:

Mac Jones: 20-30, 187 yards, 1 INT

Pierre Strong: 2 rushes, 44 yards

Kevin Harris: 7 carries, 26 yards, 1 TD

Kendrick Bourne: 3 catches, 3 targets, 39 yards

Marcus Jones intercepts Colt McCoy — 10:43 p.m.

Marcus Jones just came away with the second takeaway of the night. If the Patriots are able to cash in here, you have to feel pretty good about their chances.

Provided they continue to dodge bullets like they just did on that last play. The Patriots almost turned it over when Mac Jones hit Nelson Agholor with a pass that seemed to be scooped up by the Cardinals’ Zaven Collins, who ran it back into the end zone. It was ruled an incomplete pass.

Pats strip Hopkins, McMillan returns for TD — 10:33 p.m.

Patriots 20, Cardinals 13 | 5:32, third quarter

There. You. Go.

After a nice catch-and-run from DeAndre Hopkins, Dugger knocked the ball loose and Raekwon McMillan picked it up and took it 23 yards for the touchdown. It was the fourth defensive touchdown of the season for the Patriots, and gives New England a 20-13 lead with 5:32 left in the third quarter. A lightning bolt of a play that could go a long way toward a Patriots’ win.


Actually ... never mind — 10:29 p.m.

No dice. The Patriots go three-and-out as the Cardinals get the ball back at their own six-yard line after the punt. (Great coverage on that play by New England.)

The defense will go to work as it looks to get the ball back with 6:19 remaining in the third quarter — the Patriots could use a takeaway here, because the New England offense really needs a spark.

Can the Pats shift the momentum? — 10:24 p.m.

The Cardinals turning the ball over on downs feels like a big momentum play. The Patriots have the ball at their own 40 with the game tied at 13 with 7:54 left in the third quarter.

Let’s see how Mac Jones and the offense respond without Rhamondre Stevenson and DeVante Parker, both of whom have officially been ruled out.

ESPN shows Mac Jones waving off Matt Patricia — 10:17 p.m.

I’m not a big body-language guy, but the sight of Mac Jones waving off Matt Patricia during that drive says something about the state of the relationship between the quarterback and the offensive play caller. (Especially on the heels of his outburst earlier this month against the Bills.) At the very least, it’s not a great look.

All tied up after another Folk FG — 10:15 p.m.

Patriots 13, Cardinals 13 | 10:15, third quarter

The drive: 8 plays, 71 yards, 4:45

Mac Jones did a nice job zinging a 15-yarder to Kendrick Bourne to open the drive, and added a 16-yarder to rookie Pierre Strong. Strong followed that up with the biggest gain of the night, a 44-yard run that got the Patriots into the red zone. New England had to settle for a 23-yard field goal that tied the game at 13 with 10:15 left in the third quarter,

Rhamondre Stevenson downgraded to out — 10:13 p.m.

He made his way back to the locker room before the half.

Nine takeaways from a rough first half in the desert — 10:00 p.m.

▪ It was a tough half for both teams with injuries, as both teams lost a ton of players. Among the most notables: Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (leg), Patriots WR DeVante Parker (head), Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle), and Patriots CB Jack Jones (knee). Murray, Parker, and Jones were all ruled out midway through the second quarter. The team with the best depth chart is going to end up winning this one.

▪ From a New England perspective, the loss of Stevenson was tough. However, rookie Kevin Harris was impressive, finishing the first half with some excellent yardage and giving the Patriots their first score of the night, a 14-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. Stevenson returned with just over nine minutes left in the half.

▪ Kevin Harris’s impressive first-half performance got me thinking: the 2014 team had four guys rush for 280 yards or more. Coming into tonight’s game, the 2022 Patriots have two players at 380-plus rushing yards. Not saying that the 2022 team is going to have the same happy ending, but you can never have enough quality backs.

▪ Mac Jones was inconsistent early, but improved early in the second quarter when it came to taking what the Cardinals’ defense offered. He delivered a couple of really nice passes to help move the chains, including one to Agholor midway through the second quarter and a 30-yarder to Henry. For a team that was struggling with consistency on third down coming into tonight, it was a positive sign.

▪ Jones did see his completion streak come to an end in the first quarter when he tossed an interception — 159 consecutive completions over four-plus games. (His last intercepted pass was in the second quarter of the game against the Jets on Oct. 30.) It was the longest active streak in the league.

▪ The offense missed out on some opportunities, and the lack of execution late in the second quarter saw the Cardinals get the ball back at the end of the half — it was really bad. Arizona turned the ball over on downs thanks to an excellent pass breakup by Jahlani Tavai, but as a team, it was poor stretch of complementary football by the Patriots.

▪ The offense did rebound late in the half when Mac Jones hit Henry for a 30-yard completion with 18 seconds left. It was the biggest gain of the half for New England. That set up the late field goal from Folk to close the first half.

▪ The weekly Marcus Jones offensive highlight came when he caught a 12-yard pass from Mac Jones, one of the longest play of the first half for the Patriots. Marcus Jones also saw time on defense, matching up on multiple occasions with DeAndre Hopkins and getting more reps after Jack Jones went down. If the Patriots’ Pro Shop doesn’t have Marcus Jones jerseys in the front window tomorrow morning, they’re missing out.

▪ The complexion of the game changed after Murray went down with a right knee injury. Colt McCoy is a pocket quarterback who has absolutely no inclination to take off and run with the ball. As a result, a strong New England pass rush got even stronger. Judon finished the first two quarters with a half-sack.

▪ Special teams for New England was relatively uneventful, with one positive, a 51-yard field goal from Folk at the end of the first half; and one negative, a not-so-great 33-yard punt out of bounds midway through the second quarter from Michael Palardy.

▪ The Patriots will get the ball to start the second half.

Halftime stat check — 9:56 p.m.

Two quarters are done in Arizona, and the Patriots trail, 13-10.

Mac Jones: 14-21, 123 yards, 1 INT

Rhamondre Stevenson: 3 carries, 8 yards

Kevin Harris: 5 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD

Nelson Agholor: 4 catches, 6 targets, 31 yards

Hunter Henry: 2 catches, 2 targets, 31 yards

Kyler Murray: 1-1, 9 yards

Colt McCoy: 14-20, 129 yards

DeAndre Hopkins: 2 catches, 5 targets, 26 yards

Halftime reading: ESPN pregame show questions Belichick, and sheds light on Patricia-Mac Jones relationship — 9:54 p.m.

By Ben Volin

Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, and Mac Jones were put under the microscope by ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” show before the game against the Cardinals. The analysis wasn’t always kind.

Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young got animated when talking about Bill Belichick’s decision to put Matt Patricia, a career defensive coach, in charge of offensive play-calling this season. The Patriots entered Monday’s game ranked 19th in scoring (20.8 points per game), 26th on third down, and 32nd in the red zone.

“It’s complete hubris to say that that doesn’t matter, expertise doesn’t matter,” Young said. “If I’m Matt Patricia, I want to stay in my lane.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Folk adds an FG to make it 13-10 — 9:51 p.m.

Cardinals 13, Patriots 10 | halftime

The drive: 6 plays, 35 yards, :32

Patriots forced to punt it away in waning minutes of first half — 9:42 p.m.

The good feeling that permeated the New England offense through a sizable stretch of the first half just went poof, as the Patriots went three-and-out, and will punt it away with just under two minutes left in the half. The Cardinals lead, 13-7.

For the record, the Patriots have allowed points in the last two minutes of the first half in five games this year. They’ve lost four of those games. It’s not the only reason for each defeat, but it’s not coincidental. We’ll see how New England responds here.

James Conner sneaks across goal line to score — 9:36 p.m.

Cardinals 13, Patriots 7 | 2:59, second quarter

The drive: 7 plays, 63 yards, 3:54

James Conner just bulled his way past the New England defense for a 10-yard run and the first touchdown of the night for Arizona.

Conner got the touchdown, but Robbie Anderson, who came into the game with just two catches in his brief Cardinals’ career, was the key on that drive for Arizona. A great one-handed grab by Anderson that went for 22 yards set the Cardinals up nicely on the cusp of the New England red zone.

A few plays later, Anderson struck again with a 10-yard catch on third down to move the chains. Conner finished things off a couple of plays later.

Parker, Jack Jones ruled out with injuries — 9:28 p.m.

Wide receiver DeVante Parker (head) and cornerback Jack Jones (knee) have been ruled out for the Patriots.

Jones, who had been testing his knee on the sideline for a while, walked back to the locker room about 10 minutes ago.

Cards get another FG on the board — 9:22 p.m.

Patriots 7, Cardinals 6 | 9:35, second quarter

A 39-yard DPI on Jonathan Jones put the Cardinals into position for that 32-yard field goal from Matt Prater. It’s 7-6 New England with 9:35 to go in the second quarter.

In eight-plus career games against New England, Hopkins still doesn’t have a touchdown catch against the Patriots. That’s wild.

Who is Kevin Harris? — 9:15 p.m.

The rookie Harris, who was drafted in the sixth round by New England, entered the game with 4 yards on 4 carries.

Now, he has his first NFL touchdown.

Read more about Harris here.

Rookie Kevin Harris steps in for Stevenson and scores — 9:08 p.m.

Patriots 7, Cardinals 3 | 11:25, second quarter

The drive: 8 plays, 75 yards, 3:27

Kevin Harris might be ready for prime time.

Harris, in the game because of an injury to Rhamondre Stevenson, rumbled for 14 yards to get New England deep into Arizona territory, and stacked another 14-yarder on top of that for his first career NFL touchdown a few moments ago. It’s 7-3 New England with 11:25 left in the first half.

It’s the Patriots’ first rushing touchdown in five games, and their first redzone TD since Week 9.

One more note: the Patriots’ relied on their depth at the wide receiver spot on that drive, leaning on Kendrick Bourne (eight yards), Nelson Agholor (six yards), and Tyquan Thornton (12 yards) to get good yardage in the early going. It was an eight-play, 75-yard drive. Good sequence for the New England offense.

Rhamondre Stevenson is back on the sideline — 9:05 p.m.

Prater nails FG to put Cards on the board — 8:59 p.m.

Cardinals 3, Patriots 0 | 14:52, second quarter

The drive: 7 plays, 20 yards, 2:16

Matt Prater’s 33-yard field goal is good, giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead early in the second. It puts the capper on a seven-play, 20-yard drive after the Jones’ interception. There’s 14:52 to go in the second quarter.

Injury updates — 8:57 p.m.

Kyler Murray has been ruled out with a knee injury.

DeVante Parker (head) and Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) are both questionable to return.

End of first quarter: Patriots 0, Cardinals 0 — 8:55 p.m.

End of the first quarter. It’s scoreless.

Stat check:

Mac Jones: 3-6, 36 yards, 1 INT

Rhamondre Stevenson: 3 carries, 9 yards

DeVante Parker: 2 catches, 2 targets, 24 yards

What to make of the end of a rough quarter for the Patriots — 8:53 p.m.

That’s a rough sequence. You lose Rhamondre Stevenson and DeVante Parker, and then, the Cardinals come away with a pick. (That breaks Mac Jones’s interception-free streak at four games.) Arizona gets the ball with good field position.

Love seeing Marcus Jones get more involved in the New England offense — the rookie picked up a 12-yard gain to move the chains on that last drive. We’ve seen the Patriots use defensive players on offense before (Mike Vrabel chief among them), but Marcus Jones’s electric skill set stands apart from many of the others.

Jones throws his first pick since Oct. 30 — 8:51 p.m.

Jones entered the game with a streak of 156 consecutive passes without an interception. He was up to 159 — the longest active streak in the NFL — before he was intercepted by Isaiah Simmons.

DeVante Parker heads to locker room — 8:50 p.m.

It’s been a rough start for New England.

Rhamondre Stevenson down — 8:49 p.m.

The training staff is checking on the Patriots’ workhorse running back. There is 2:43 to play in the first quarter.

Pats CB Jack Jones questionable to return — 8:44 p.m.

Patriots rookie cornerback Jack Jones briefly entered the medical tent on the sideline after a dust-up with DeAndre Hopkins. The Patriots say he is questionable to return with a knee injury.

Patriots pressure Colt McCoy and take over — 8:41 p.m.

The Patriots are really getting after it when it comes to pressure on Colt McCoy — someone who has zero inclination to run.

With that last half-sack midway through the first quarter, Judon now has 13.5. He’s three behind Andre Tippett for second place on the list of all-time single-season sack leaders in franchise history. (Tippett had 16.5 in 1985.)

Four penalties in a half-quarter. Going to be that kind of evening.

The Patriots take over at their own 3-yard line with 4:56 left in the first quarter of a scoreless game.

Third-down woes continue for Pats on first drive — 8:33 p.m.

Good first play for the New England offense, but after the punt, the Patriots are now 6 for 23 in their last two-plus games on third down.

Brown was flagged for his third false start of the year (it was his eighth of the season if you count flags that were offset or declined). We told you that Shawn Smith’s crew has one of the highest per game penalty averages in the league, and it appears they are determined to keep up their average tonight.

The Cardinals will take over at their own 4-yard line with 9:12 left in the first quarter. We’re still scoreless.

Colt McCoy takes over — 8:28 p.m.

Third play from scrimmage, the Cardinals went to backup Colt McCoy after Murray was carted off. The biggest thing I know about McCoy? He’s only one of a handful of rookie quarterbacks who beat Belichick in his first start — all the way back in 2010 when New England faced Cleveland.

Regardless, it’s going to be interesting to see how things change with McCoy under center as opposed to Murray.

Great pass breakup by Jack Jones on a ball intended for DeAndre Hopkins on second-and-long.

After the missed field goal from Matt Prater, the Patriots will take over at their own 40 with 10:34 left in the first quarter. It’s scoreless.

Prater FG attempt no good — 8:25 p.m.

It’s 0-0 with 10:34 to play in the first half. The Patriots will take over at their own 40.

Watch: Kyler Murray carted off after injury — 8:22 p.m.

Kyler Murray goes down injured — 8:18 p.m.

Murray went down awkwardly on that last scramble, and Matthew Judon was instantly calling for the Arizona sidelines to help him out. A non contact right leg injury would be bad.

The Cardinals’ backups are Colt McCoy and Trace McSorley.

Patriots win the toss and defer — 8:15 p.m.

Here we go.

Official Price prediction — 8:12 p.m.

There’s something about the Patriots and State Farm Stadium. With one notable exception, it’s been a favorite spot for New England, and I think the Patriots cash in on some of that good feeling again this evening. The Cardinals, who are one of the worst home teams in the last couple of years, struggle to stop backs in the passing game, which should mean big things for Rhamondre Stevenson (and everyone has struggled to stop Stevenson on the ground). In the end, the defense and special teams come through, but I think the Patriots come up with just enough offense to come away with the win.

I’m saying New England 23, Arizona 17.

Tonight’s offensive line — 8:10 p.m.

From Globe reporter Jim McBride in Arizona, the Patriots lined up like this in warmups:

LT Trent Brown

LG Cole Strange

C David Andrews

RG Mike Onwenu

RT Conor McDermott

Yodny Cajuste has been limited in practice, which is why McDermott has replaced him. Cajuste is active, however.

In a season of must-wins ... this is another must-win — 8:05 p.m.

By Chad Finn

One of the hard realities from the Patriots’ current status as a dweller of the NFL’s mediocre middle is that they find themselves having to play so-called “must-win” games frequently just to keep their heads above water to reach the postseason.

By my count, there have been three must-wins this season so far against flawed or unimpressive teams, opponents that wouldn’t have warranted much concern in the dynasty years.

Read the rest of the story here.

Enough is enough. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are done. — 7:55 p.m.

By Ben Volin

The best way to find yourself mocked by Freezing Cold Takes is to count out Tom Brady.

He’s a sixth-round pick who became the GOAT. He bounced back from a shaky year to win the Super Bowl in 2018. He did it again in 2020. He has authored 53 fourth-quarter comebacks and 70 game-winning drives.

But enough is enough. I’m calling it now. Brady and the Buccaneers were my preseason Super Bowl pick, but they are done.

Read the rest of the story here.

What Bill Belichick said before the game — 7:45 p.m.

Here are some takeaways from Scott Zolak’s pregame chat with Bill Belichick on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Belichick was asked about the elevation of Cam McGrone and Jamie Collins from the practice squad, and said there could be some “game-time decisions” at play there. That would seem to make sense with the decision to leave McGrone inactive, even though he was elevated.

On the Cardinals: “The Cardinals are a good football team. Very explosive on offense and they bring a lot of pressure on defense. … This should be a good test for us here.”

On the fact that some players are out, namely Jakobi Meyers, and this being an opportunity for some other receivers: “All the receivers will play, the tight ends, the backs. … Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some positive plays.”

On Kyler Murray: “He has a few designated run plays, but for the most part, he runs when he needs to. … He’s not looking to take off if there’s an opportunity to throw the ball. … He’s got a very good deep ball and a lot of good receivers.”

On DeAndre Hopkins: “He has tremendous ball skills. ... He’s a tough matchup and really a good (receiver) that in critical situations has really delivered over the course of his career.”

What’s wrong with the Patriots’ offense? A little bit of everything. — 7:35 p.m.

By Ben Volin

The Patriots’ offense isn’t playing well, but no one can agree on the cause.

Former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis told The Ringer it’s because the Patriots don’t have elite receivers.

“Tell me who the No. 1 receiver is that you’re concerned with every time you go to play against New England?” he said.

Former Rams coach Mike Martz told The 33rd Team it’s the offensive line.

“They’ve got to do a better job of protecting [Mac Jones], change up the protections, because they’re not very good up front,” he said.

Former Patriots special assistant Michael Lombardi told VSIN that first-time offensive play-caller Matt Patricia is the issue.

“To me, when I watch the Patriots, they don’t have an offense. They just run a bunch of plays,” Lombardi said.

NBC analyst Chris Simms said Jones’s limitations — a lack of arm strength and athleticism — have been exposed.

“I love Mac, but he’s not a superstar,” Simms said. “He needs a system and a support system to make it all work.”

The real answer: They’re all right.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tonight’s betting notes: Pats a small favorite — 7:25 p.m.

Most outlets have had the Patriots as a small favorite coming into tonight’s game, and the consensus seems to be New England either -2 or -2.5 with an O/U at 44, at least at this point.

A few numbers from Odds Shark to consider:

▪ New England is 6-3 against the spread in its last nine games.

▪ The total has gone under in four of New England’s last five games.

▪ New England is 7-1 against in its last eight games against Arizona.

▪ New England are 7-1 straight up in their last eight games against Arizona.

▪ The total has gone over in five of Arizona’s last six games.

▪ Arizona is 1-4 straight in their last five games.

▪ The total has gone under in five of Arizona’s last seven games against New England.

▪ Arizona is 1-11 straight up in its last 12 games at home.

Five stats to watch tonight — 7:15 p.m.

Some numbers to consider tonight:

▪ If Josh Uche finishes with three sacks against the Cardinals, it will mark the first season since 2011 the Patriots will have two players reach double digits in sacks. That year, Andre Carter and Mark Anderson (10 each) turned the trick. Matthew Judon comes into tonight’s game with 13.

If Uche has two sacks, he would be the first Patriot to finish back-to-back games with at least two sacks since Trey Flowers did it in 2016.

▪ If Judon has 3.5 sacks this evening, he’d tie Andre Tippett for second on the list of all-time single-season sack leaders in franchise history. (Tippett had 16.5 in 1985. The Hall of Fame also has the team mark for most sacks in a season with 18.5 in 1984 — a 16-game slate.)

▪ Mac Jones has a streak of 156 consecutive passes without an interception, the longest active streak in the NFL. His last intercepted pass was in the second quarter of the game at the New York Jets on Oct. 30.

▪ If Marcus Jones has one offensive touchdown tonight against the Cardinals, he’d be the second Patriots defensive player to have more than one offensive touchdown in a season, joining Mike Vrabel who had two touchdown receptions in 2004, three in 2005 and two in 2007.

The last defensive player with two touchdowns in a single season in the NFL was DL J.J. Watt in 2014 with Houston, who had three touchdown receptions.

▪ If Brenden Schooler has five special teams tackles this evening, he would set the team record for most special teams tackles by a rookie. (Willie Andrews had 16 total special teams tackles as a rookie in 2006.)

Judon fit check 📸 — 7:10 p.m.

How the AFC playoff picture looks ahead of Patriots-Cardinals — 7:00 p.m.

By Hayden Bird

After the dust settled on Sunday’s games — which included losses by both the Jets and Dolphins — here’s how the AFC playoff standings look:

  • Buffalo Bills (10-3) AFC East leader
  • Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) AFC West leader
  • Baltimore Ravens (9-4) AFC North leader
  • Tennessee Titans (7-6) AFC South leader
  • Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) Wild-card
  • Miami Dolphins (8-5) Wild-card
  • Los Angeles Chargers (7-6) Wild-card
  • New York Jets (7-6)
  • New England Patriots (6-6)

Seven teams make the playoff in each conference, which means that the Patriots (and Jets) are currently outside of being either a division leader or one of the three wild-card berths.

Should the Patriots defeat the Cardinals, it would move the team’s record to 7-6. And because New England is 2-0 against the Jets this season, and would hold a one-game conference record edge over the Chargers, a victory over Arizona would vault Bill Belichick’s team into the final playoff spot.

Of course, that could change again the following week (when the Patriots play the Raiders), but the Monday night game against the Cardinals provides an opportunity to leapfrog multiple opponents in the standings.

In all, the Patriots have five games remaining in the regular season, including a closing trio of match-ups against the Bengals and Dolphins (at home) and the Bills on the road. The current odds on New England making the playoffs stand at 25 percent according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis (and increase to 39 percent should the Patriots win on Monday). The odds of a possible Patriots Super Bowl are unsurprisingly much longer, hovering around 125:1.

Breaking down the Patriots’ inactives — 6:55 p.m.

The Patriots just made their complete list of inactives official.

Jakobi Meyers (concussion), Jalen Mills (groin), and Isaiah Wynn (foot) were all downgraded to out over the weekend. What does it mean? In a nutshell, the Patriots will be forced to rely on their depth at receiver, corner, and offensive tackle this evening against the Cardinals.

Without the usually dependable Meyers (who hasn’t looked quite right since he was banged up early in the Minnesota game), the Patriots’ receiving corps will consist of DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton. Agholor has flashed positively on occasion, and this could also set up an opportunity for Thornton to get some quality reps as well.

The injury to Mills is also an opportunity for some younger member of the New England secondary to assert themselves, including Jack Jones and Myles Bryant. Both figure to be called upon this evening against the Cardinals. One notable active is youngster Shaun Wade, who is making a rare appearance on the game-day roster.

No Wynn means New England’s depth at tackle remains paper thin. Trent Brown (illness) and Yodny Cajuste (calf/back) were listed as questionable coming into the weekend, but it appears both will at least suit up. Expect Connor McDermott to also see some time if either Wynn or Cajuste does go down.

Running back Damien Harris (thigh) will be sidelined again, which means more work for Rhamondre Stevenson. Youngster Kevin Harris is among the actives tonight, which means he could see time if Stevenson needs a rest or is injured.

The rest of the inactives are healthy scratches; safety Joshuah Bledsoe, defensive lineman Sam Roberts, and linebacker Cam McGrone. The decision to leave McGrone inactive is a curious one, as he was elevated from the practice squad earlier in he day.

Among the notables who are active include veteran linebacker Jamie Collins; he was elevated off the practice squad in advance of tonight’s game.

Tonight’s inactives — 6:45 p.m.

No worries with the weather — 6:35 p.m.

No worries about weather tonight, as the Patriots will play their second dome game of the season. Dating back to last year, New England has lost two straight dome games — a 2021 date in Indy against the Colts, and a Thanksgiving night defeat at the hands of Minnesota last month. (That’s on the heels of three consecutive indoor wins dating back to 2020.)

What to know about tonight’s officiating crew — 6:25 p.m.

Shawn Smith is the referee for tonight’s game. Smith is in his fifth season as an NFL referee. He initially served as an umpire from 2015 to 2017 before ascending to the role of lead official. Tonight marks his second Patriots game of 2022 (his first was on Oct. 30, a 22-17 win for the Patriots at MetLife Stadium). According to NFL Penalties, Smith’s crew is fifth-lowest in NFL in average penalties per game (11.08). On average, his crew calls more on road teams (6.33) than home teams (4.75).

Your prediction? — 6:15 p.m.

Or tell us in the comments.

Pregame reading list — 6:10 p.m.

The best way to get prepared for tonight’s game? Your personally curated pregame reading list:

Welcome back to football! — 6:00 p.m.

Good evening, and welcome back to football! After a 10-day break, the Patriots return to action tonight in the desert to face the Cardinals.

Will the time off do them some good? Can Mac Jones help lead a late-season turnaround for the offense? And could tonight’s game serve as a springboard toward a push to the playoffs for New England?

We’ll find out the answers before the end of the evening. Keep it here all night long; we’ll have all your pregame news and analysis, in-game updates, and postgame reactions.

Christopher Price can be reached at Follow him @cpriceglobe.