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Jimmy Garoppolo plays like a real starting quarterback in Patriots' 23-21 win over Cardinals

Garoppolo looked prepared and competent as the Patriots held on for a hard-fought win.

New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Starting in place of Tom Brady, who is serving his four-game DeflateGate suspension, Jimmy Garoppolo looked perfectly capable under center for the New England Patriots in a 23-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals. For the Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald’s two-touchdown performance helped his team almost pull off the late-game victory.

With Brady suspended and tight end Rob Gronkowski sidelined for Week 1 with a hamstring injury, the Patriots still looked solid. Even without the most important offensive players on the roster, the Patriots are still the Patriots.

Garoppolo, starting at quarterback in Brady’s stead, looked competent throughout. New England’s first score of the night was a 37-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Chris Hogan, which capped off an eight-play, 74-yard drive for the Patriots.

Garoppolo certainly wasn’t solely responsible for the Patriots’ success, even if he did complete a pass to himself. New England’s defense was aggressive against the Cardinals offense, sacking Carson Palmer twice and forcing a fumble. Still, it was a perfectly respectable performance from Garoppolo, and he looked prepared and effective in Brady’s absence.

The Patriots turned the ball over, too, and the Cardinals capitalized on those opportunities. Arizona sacked Garoppolo twice, and former Patriot Chandler Jones and his new Cardinals teammate Calais Campbell each recovered fumbles. Those turnovers led to 14 of Arizona’s points.

The Cardinals know that, considering the ages of Fitzgerald and Palmer, this is the team’s only shot to win a Super Bowl with this group. After a 13-3 finish in the regular season last year, Arizona made it to the NFC Championship, but lost to the Panthers. The team wants to take that next step this season.

Fitzgerald continues to prove that he has plenty to contribute to the Cardinals’ offensive success. He hauled in his 100th career touchdown catch on Sunday night, joining an elite group of just nine other NFL players to reach that mark. Fitzgerald made catch after catch, converting first downs and keeping drives alive for Arizona.

The Cardinals were in position to win the game late in the fourth quarter with a field goal, but the Chandler Catanzaro attempt went wide left.

Despite the loss, the Cardinals look poised to try to take a step forward this year and build on last year’s successes. It was a big win for New England to start the season, and the Patriots appear prepared to be competitive in Brady’s absence.