It was only one game. But here’s what we now know about Jimmy Garoppolo. The kid can play.
Garoppolo made his first career NFL start on Sunday night in Arizona, helping the New England Patriots to a 23-21 win over the Cardinals. The 9.5-point spread told you all you needed to know about what was supposed to happen in this nationally-televised Week 1 battle.
The Pats were underdogs because they were without Tom Brady. They became even greater underdogs when Rob Gronkowski was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
As someone who admittedly sips the Patriots’ Kool-Aid more often than not, there was a real hope that Bill Belichick would still be able to construct a gameplan worthy of stealing a win. That gameplan would have to include putting plenty of pressure on Carson Palmer, while not asking your own quarterback to do too much. Run the football, play solid defense, and rely on special teams to shock the football world, a football world that is only realistic to expect the Patriots to struggle without two of the best players in the game.
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Now, entering a Week 2 game at home against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots are 1-0, the only team in the AFC East to win in Week 1. But they weren’t perfect in Arizona. They lost the turnover battle. Both Garoppolo and LeGarrette Blount lost fumbles. Meanwhile, the Cardinals didn’t turn the ball over once.
And even though Garoppolo’s numbers aren’t going to win him player of the week honors, he did some things that I honestly didn’t think he had in him, Solo cup full of Kool-Aid and all.
Garoppolo finished the win going 24-of-33 for 264 yards passing, while throwing one touchdown, a perfect 37-yard strike down the left sideline to Chris Hogan. It was the first score of the game, on the Patriots’ first possession. On 2nd-and-4 from the Arizona 37-yard line, Garoppolo lined up under center, in an I-formation. He dropped back, got a great block from Blount, and dropped a pass right into the hands of a streaking Hogan, who caught the ball at the 10-yard line and walked into the end zone untouched.
You can’t be any more cool, calm, and collected than Garoppolo was while dropping back to make that pass. And you can’t drop it in there any more perfect than Garoppolo did. I’ll be the first to tell you I didn’t see that coming.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding a guy who had never made a regular-season start. But if you had told me Garoppolo would complete 24 passes and throw zero interceptions, I would have at least told you the Patriots had a chance to win a low-scoring affair.
Credit to Garoppolo for not throwing a single pick against a very good defense, in their building. But also, if you had told me Garoppolo would throw the ball 33 times in this game, I would have told you he’d throw at least one interception.
I expected the gameplan to be one that wouldn’t ask Garoppolo to make too many big throws down the field when he didn’t have to. That wasn’t the case. Garoppolo answered the call, as you saw right away on his touchdown pass to Hogan.
Garoppolo also hit Julian Edelman seven times for 66 yards. He found Amendola three times for 48 yards, and Hogan finished the game with three receptions for 60 yards.
All of a sudden, Brady’s backup looked like a big-game hunter, even without one of the NFL’s most dynamic receivers in Gronkowski.
This isn’t me telling you that Garoppolo is about to steal Brady’s job. He’s not. That notion is laughable. There might actually be some lunatics who believe that. But I assure you I’m not one of them. And I never will be, regardless of what happens in the next three games. This is still Brady’s team. No ifs, ands, or, buts about it.
That said, what Garoppolo did on Sunday night in Arizona was pretty damn impressive. Sure, it was only one game. But it was enough to answer a question most of us asked all summer long.
Now we know. The kid can play.