5 takeaways from Patriots-Cardinals

After tight end Aaron Hernandez was injured, Wes Welker’s snaps picked up.

FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals highlighted a number of evolving issues with this team, from Wes Welker’s role and the offensive line’s struggles to the team’s offensive execution, and Ras-I Dowling’s place on the defense.

Let’s get right to it.

1) The offensive line had a tough time — Nate Solder appeared to fix any problems from last week against the Titans in a solid effort. But the Patriots’ interior linemen were having a difficult day dealing with the likes of Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. Campbell had 10 tackles and two sacks, manhandling guards Donald Thomas and Logan Mankins at times. Cardinals lineman Sam Acho also got loose for a 10-yard sack and had a tackle for a loss. Afterward, Thomas was obviously not happy with his performance.

“I mean, the game plan was to control those guys up front,” Thomas said. “They got a good line. We just had to execute really better. They played well today. I can’t take anything from them.

“At the end of the day, we just didn’t execute well enough to win the game … I’m my hardest critic. So you know, I look at all the plays I had. I’m gonna go back and take a look at them. Since I’ve been playing football I’ve never been satisfied with the way I’ve played. I’m certainly not satisfied today. I’ll go back and just try to get better each week.”

2) With Aaron Hernandez’s injury, Wes Welker filled the vacuum — Welker was looking at another down day after Julian Edelman started and Welker stood on the sideline in the team’s base offense. It wasn’t until Aaron Hernandez went down with a right ankle injury that Welker’s snaps picked up. He ended up being targeted 11 times, catching five passes for 95 yards. He took the franchise lead in receptions. When Tom Brady needed a huge pickup, he was looking in Welker’s and Rob Gronkowski’s direction. It’s safe to say that Hernandez would’ve picked up some of those plays. It’s also safe to say that Edelman, who had a terrific offseason, deserves some increased playing time. But it’s befuddling that Welker was initially minimized.

“Aaron is in there almost every play, so [the offense] changes quite a bit,” Welker said. “You have to go to a different attack and go out there and play the way we need to and execute the way we need to and today just wasn’t enough.”

For the rest of this post, visit the Extra Points blog on Boston.com.

Worst Super Bowl ever

Some are saying it was the best Super Bowl ever, and I’m saying it was the worst. As exciting as the fourth quarter was, the whole thing was ruined for me by the worst officiating I’ve ever seen in a Super Bowl. Pittsburgh had a lot of help. If this was an NBA game, I would’ve been convinced it was fixed. I have a little more confidence in the NFL, but that’s the only thing stopping me from saying that.

Exhibit A – there was a clear and obvious block in the back on James Harrison’s length-of-the-field touchdown return. There’s seven points off the board. Exhibit B – an awful roughing the passer call that gave the Steelers a first down and eventually led to a field goal. That would’ve been a bad call in a regular season game, but was truly terrible in the Super Bowl.

Exhibit C – same drive, roughing the kick….field goal holder??? I’m not quite sure when that became a penalty. It sounds vaguely familiar, but that can’t be in keeping with the spirit of the rule, can it? He hardly roughed him up. Exhibit D – the first Kurt Warner fumble, that was overturned after a review. They got the call right, but it was so obvious that the Cardinals shouldn’t have had to waste a challenge on it.

Every one of those bother me, but I’m able to look past them. To not review a questionable fumble call, with seconds remaining in the game, the game being the freaking Super Bowl, is inexcusable. Initially I thought it was a fumble, and I understand the call. But the replay looked different. I thought the ball may still have been in his hand (and I wasn’t the only one) and that there was a real good chance the call was overturned. Needless to say I was pretty surprised when they didn’t bother to look at it!

NFL Head of Officials Mike Pereira’s lame excuse was that “the booth” reviewed it and found it to be a fumble. Well fantastic, but their job isn’t to make the calls, it’s to tell the actual referees who are working the game whether a call is close enough to take a look at. Clearly this was, if only for the importance of the moment. Say the Cardinals get the ball back, plus the 15 yard penalty for taking of a helmet, you’re looking at a 29-yard toss into the endzone with Larry Fitzgerald on your side. It’s a long shot, sure, but it would’ve had a chance, and sure would’ve been fun.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was rooting for the Cardinals. But in general, I’m more of a Steelers fan. I just thought it was a better story if Arizona finally won a championship. (Side note: It also bothered me that the Super Bowl winning team had three different players throw punches in the game. Has that ever happened before? Stay classy, Pittsburgh.) I’m not saying the Steelers don’t deserve it. But that left a real bad taste in my mouth.