BOSTON (CBS) -- This first weekend of the NFL was one of the greatest first football weekends in a long time. The Patriots hit the field without Tom Brady, without Rob Gronkowski and without their best offensive lineman in Nate Solder and, they still were able to get the job done.
Here are your gold stars and penalty flags from New England's season-opening 23-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
- Martellus Bennett gets a gold star. I know he only had three catches for 14 yards but what he did in the blocking game should not go unnoticed. Bennett's job was to keep Chandler Jones at bay and, despite a couple of instances, Martellus won the situation. Being strong in the blocking game is not something that he's known for but it showed up against the Cardinals.
- Chris Long gets a gold star. All preseason, Long was a monster on the defensive line. He was at it again against the Cardinals with three tackles and a big sack. Long was disruptive from the very beginning of the game and played a big part in the defense's success in the Patriots win.
- The coaching gets a gold star. I'm not sure that this gets said enough. The Patriots coaches are the best in the league, hands down. What Bill Belichick did to get this team ready was outstanding. What Josh McDaniels did to make sure Jimmy Garoppolo felt comfortable in the offense and put him in the right positions to make use of his strengths, was perfect. Matt Patricia slowed down the Cardinals offense for three quarters and deserves some credit. The biggest item is Dante Scarnecchia must be a magician. That offensive line held up, the Pats were able to run the ball for over a hundred yards and it was done with glue and scotch tape. The Patriots got some great coaching on Sunday night.
- Jimmy Garoppolo gets a gold star. It would have been as solid game for Jimmy with any outcome but the circumstances were huge. We will never know how much behind the scenes he's been grinding to get out from behind Tom Brady's shadow. This game went a distance in doing that. He played the game his way and afterwards he walked off the field strong. Good for him.
- Danny Amendola gets a gold star. This is for what Danny did before the game. The Patriots always encourage the players to walk out and grab the flag, if they want to, but no one has in the past. Danny did last night and it stood out. He was the only player for either team to do so and it made for a perfect moment.
- The Patriots ball security gets a penalty flag. The players talked about it during the week. They mentioned how opportunistic the Cardinals defense was at getting the ball. Then the Pats went out and put the ball on the carpet twice, leading to 14 Arizona points. The Patriots were able to overcome them on Sunday, but that won't always be the case.
- The League gets a huge penalty flag. There were 9/11 ceremonies around the league on Sunday, but because the NFL does not sponsor the activities players will get fined for wearing anything in remembrance (like special cleats or gloves). That is ridiculous and the league has to be better than that. There is already an image problem with the amount of games they suspend players for in different situations, but to have the players pay for honoring those we lost on the 15th anniversary of 9/11 is nuts.
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