Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez exited Sunday's loss to the Cardinals in the first quarter with a high-ankle sprain. (AP)

The New England Patriots may own one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, but even they can't get away with going through the motions for 40 minutes. They tried, and almost got away with it, but a late push at Gillette Stadium came up short when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal to the left with one second left that delivered the Arizona Cardinals a 20-18 victory and lifted their record to 2-0.

The precise execution that New England (1-1) is known for wasn't seen until quarterback Tom Brady manufactured an 11-play, 54-yard scoring drive with a little more than two minutes remaining. New England had a chance to tie, but Brady failed to connect with Rob Gronkowski on a two-point conversion attempt because Cardinals free safety Kerry Rhodes batted the ball away. The Patriots forced a fumble from Arizona RB Ryan Williams on the next series, but Gostkowski missed the go-ahead field goal.

Before that, Brady struggled to hit his marks and never got any momentum going, which limited the Patriots to four field goals until the waning moments of the fourth quarter. WR Wes Welker, who saw a reduction in snaps last week, played extensively after TE Aaron Hernandez injured his ankle, but Welker wasn't targeted until late in the second quarter. Gronkowski, the focal point of the offense a year ago, was only thrown to twice in the first half.

Instead, New England focused on running the ball early, much to the chagrin of fans. The approach led to some curious play calling, including a failed sweep to Danny Woodhead on third-and-6 in the third quarter.

Arizona never seemed to feel the pressure that the Patriots typically generate on offense. The Cardinals were able to overcome unspectacular play by the Cardinals offense and QB Kevin Kolb (15 of 27, 145 yards), who appeared to be shaken by the New England defense early in the game.

When the game turned: Quentin Groves blocked a Zoltan Mesko punt in the third quarter that gave his offense possession at the 2-yard line. Kolb found Andre Roberts three plays later for the touchdown.

Highlight moments: The blocked punt and Gostkowski's missed field goal will define this game, but it was vintage Brady when he tried to lead the Patriots back late in the fourth quarter. It was the first time during the game that he was turned loose, and he quickly put the Cardinals defense on the ropes.

Top-shelf performances: Cardinals DE Calais Campbell: two sacks, two tackles for a loss, three quarterback hits; Cardinals DE Darnell Dockett: four tackles, tipped pass that was intercepted by Patrick Peterson; Patriots DE Chandler Jones: forced fumble, quarterback hit, holding penalty drawn.

What they said about Stephen Gostkowski's missed field goal:

  • Patriots  quarterback Tom Brady -- “There's no one play that lost the game; we did a lot of things that allowed us to lose this game. We had a lot of opportunities out there to make more plays than we did. Hopefully, it never comes down to a 42-yard field goal."
  • Gostkowksi -- "I'm not scared to fail. It stinks when you do. But I wouldn't go out there every day if I was scared to screw up. I'll feel bad about this for a few days, and I'm sure I'll get ripped for it by the fans. It's well deserved."
  • Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski -- "He kicked four great field goals to keep us in the game. The loss is not on him. The loss could be on me. I got that penalty at the end holding the guy (on the would-be Danny Woodhead touchdown in the fourth quarter). You can't have things like that happen."
  • Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson -- "We put a lot of pressure on a lot of field goal teams. I think he was a little scared of us, honestly, that is why he pushed it left."

Numbers you should know: Welker played 62 total snaps (there were 78 offensive plays) after being limited to 43 last week against the Titans. He finished with five receptions for 95 yards. However, Julian Edelman (five receptions, 50 yards) played 75 snaps and appeared to be favored in two-receiver sets. This continues to be a situation to monitor moving forward.

Injury update: Hernandez suffered a rolled ankle during the second series of the game and had to be helped to the locker room by the medical staff. A source indicated that it is not believed to be broken, though there was no word on potential ligament damage. He left the stadium wearing a walking boot and was on crutches. Cardinals tight end Todd Heap left the game with a knee injury. His status is not yet known.

Going forward: Patriots -- New England is coming up on a difficult stretch with road games against the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. After returning home, the Patriots host the Broncos. A return to glory could quickly slip out of reach if they fail to rebound from this loss. Cardinals -- The Cardinals return home for two weeks to host the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. They then go on the road against the St. Louis Rams.

Nick Underhill covers the Patriots for Follow him on Twitter @CBSPats or @nick_underhill.