The New England Patriots beat the Arizona Cardinals, 20-17, on Sunday, getting a 50-yard Nick Folk field goal as time expired.
But the story of that game-winning drive happened four plays earlier.
The Patriots called for a read-option run play with just under a minute remaining on third-and-13 from their own 32-yard line. Cam Newton kept the ball and rumbled 14 yards for the first down before he was slammed out of bounds by Cardinals rookie Isaiah Simmons.
The hit drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness flag. Did Simmons hit him out of bounds? Helmet-to-helmet? It was a close call for sure — and one Newton never seemed to get in the prime of his career.
Nonetheless, the ball moved to the Arizona 39-yard line as a result. Three plays later, Folk hit the game-winner.
Cam Newton struggles, but wins
The Cardinals dropped to 6-5, and the Patriots now are 5-6.
Newton finished the game 9-of-18 passing for only 84 yards with no touchdowns and two picks. He also ran nine times for 46 yards.
Simmons, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, has seen his role on defense grow since early in the season. He had a sack of Newton and finished with five tackles, but also was guilty of another penalty earlier in the game — 15 yards for lowering the head to initiate contact — that helped the Patriots score their first touchdown.
The Patriots had a punt-return touchdown taken off the board earlier in the third quarter on what appeared to be a questionable illegal blindside block call.
The Cardinals took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter and outgained New England in the game, 298 yards to 179. Teams with fewer than 200 yards of offense in a game this season entered Week 12 with a 1-8 record.
It was the fewest yards by the Patriots in any game since 2010, when they also totaled 179 in a win over the then-San Diego Chargers.
The Patriots lost the turnover battle, time of possession and the yardage total — yet still won. You can point to that crucial and controversial penalty as a big assist they needed.
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