FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Stephen Gostkowski lay face down on the field after missing a shot at a winning field goal. On the sideline, Kevin Kolb and the Arizona Cardinals celebrated their victory.
The most accurate kicker in New England Patriots history sent a 42-yard attempt wide left on the next-to-last play — after making three longer field goals — and the Cardinals held on for a 20-18 win Sunday.
“Nobody really gave us a chance,” said Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, whose team was a two-touchdown underdog, “but our guys believed they could do it.”
Backup quarterback Kolb did his part by throwing for one touchdown and running for another. Arizona’s defense contributed by sacking Tom Brady four times. And the special teams came through with a blocked punt that set up a touchdown.
“We knew what kind of game this was going to be,” said Kolb, filling in for John Skelton, who sat out with a sprained right ankle. “We’ve been kind of stressing it all week, stay patient, don’t get greedy.”
The Patriots began their final possession after Vince Wilfork recovered a fumble by Ryan Williams at the Cardinals’ 30-yard line with 1:01 left. A 30-yard run into the end zone by Danny Woodhead was nullified by a holding penalty against Rob Gronkowski. New England then moved to the 24 before Brady spiked the ball with 6 seconds remaining.
But Gostkowski sent his kick to the left, just as Billy Cundiff did facing the same goal post on a 32-yard attempt with 11 seconds left in the Patriots 23-20 AFC Championship win over Baltimore last season. They visit the Ravens on Sunday.
“It came down to me, and I didn’t pull through, and it stinks,” said Gostkowski, who had been 3 for 3 in his career on field-goal attempts in the final two minutes with a chance to tie or win a game.
The Cardinals (2-0) have won nine of their past 11 games. The Patriots (1-1) suffered a big loss when tight end Aaron Hernandez hurt his right ankle in the first quarter. He left Gillette Stadium wearing a walking boot and carrying crutches. The Patriots gave no update on the injury.
“Aaron’s in there almost every play,” receiver Wes Welker said, “so it changes quite a bit.”
Kolb overcame a shaky start and then threw a 2-yard TD pass to Andre Roberts six minutes into the third quarter after Quentin Groves blocked a punt. Then Kolb ran for a 5-yard score on the third play of the fourth as the Cardinals took a 20-9 lead.
“If you can get those ugly wins checked off in the win column, that’s big,” Kolb said.
With the Patriots trailing, 20-12, after Gostkowski’s 53-yard field goal, Brady led his best drive of the game. He completed 8 of 10 passes for 82 yards, capped by a 5-yard touchdown throw to Gronkowski, making it 20-18 with 2:06 left. But his pass to Gronkowski for a 2-point conversion was broken up by Kerry Rhodes.
The loss was the first in 11 home openers since the Patriots moved into Gillette Stadium in 2002. The Cardinals beat the Patriots for the first time since Sept. 29, 1991.
Brady completed 28 of 46 passes for 316 yards and extended his streak to 34 games with at least one touchdown pass.