By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 06, 2013

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CINCINNATI -- The two minute warning came, the Heavens opened, and you just knew that it wasn't the Patriots' day.

Rob Gronkowski still did not make the trip. Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead toil out in the AFC West. Aaron Hernandez is still in the hoosegow. Vince Wilfork went on IR this week, and Tommy Kelly may join him.

The only thing that kept the Patriots in the game is that Andy Dalton is a more despised quarterback in his city than Josh Freeman or Mark Sanchez, and his results bear that out. The Patriots were in this game until the very end, the Cincinnati Bengals could not put them away, and it came down to an Adam (Pacman) Jones pick with eight seconds left for the football warriors of the Queen City to secure a 13-6 win on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Credit the Bengals with a hard earned win. Their defense is the best the Patriots have faced thus far this year. But had the Patriots had any semblance of their old offensive selves, or if the middle of the Patriot defense had been able to handle their old teammate a little bit better, the Patriots win this game without breaking a sweat. Tom Brady did the best he could given the elements and the paucity of offensive weapons (and don't forget that Stevan Ridley was an injury scratch for this game), but the Patriots simply did not have the material to overcome an inferior opponent, and that opponent played just well enough to win and hand the Patriots their first loss of the season.

If there was one backbreaking moment for the Patriots, it was in the fourth quarter. After old friend BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored on a one-yard touchdown run (on fourth down), the Patriots got the ball at their own 24. On second down, Brady found Aaron Dobson in the right flat who took a soft toss and turned it into a 56-yard gallop down the right sideline that was almost ruined by a fumble at the end of the play which he recovered himself. On the next play, Brady found Danny (don't faint, folks, this guy really did play) Amendola near the goal line for 16 yards. He needed 17 for the end zone, but he was stopped just short of the goal line by Chris Crocker. This would prove crucial for both teams, and it would pretty much prove to be the play of the game.

On first and goal at the one, LeGarrette Blount was stuffed for no gain (actually he lost yardage, but he got a generous spot). On second down, Brady rolled right and found tackle-eligible Nate (I'm no Mike Vrabel) Solder in the end zone, but overthrew him. On third down, Brady had Julian Edelman in the left corner of the end zone with Jones in coverage. Edelman might have made the catch if the ball had been dry, but the ball slipped through his hands and it was fourth down.

Green-Ellis had just scored from the one on fourth and goal, and it was 13-3 Bengals at the time. Bill Belichick did not respond in kind, but instead went with a 20-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. Even if the play fails, and even though the field goal makes it a one-score game, going for a touchdown was the better move. Making it 13-10 given how the game was going might have made for a better finish for the Patriots. This is perhaps a bit ticky tack, but it forced the Patriots to have to score a touchdown to tie the game when the weather was starting to worsen.

The Bengals made the Patriots expend all their timeouts when three Green-Ellis runs begat a punt. The Patriots got the ball back for one final push, trailing by seven and just under two minutes to go.

As if this was a case of divine intervention, a heavy downpour broke out. The rain was steady and absolutely torrential, not to catastrophic proportions, but to the point that it affected Brady and his receivers. The Patriots did preserve one timeout, but with the elements dictating the game, it almost didn't matter.

The Bengals being who and what they are, tried their darndest to help the Patriots force overtime. On fourth and four at the Patriot 41, Crocker mistimed the snap count and was called for offside and the Patriot drive continued despite two incomplete passes prior. On second and ten two plays later, Brady ran Brandon Bolden on a draw out of the shotgun, and the Bengals were caught off guard. He ran twelve yards to the Bengals' 42, and the Patriots used their last timeout. Two plays later, with Brady totally unable to complete anything resembling a pass in the driving rain, Wallace Gilberry was called for roughing the passer. The Patriots now had the ball at the Cincinnati 27 with 26 seconds left. They had plenty of time for 2-3 shots at the end zone. The first shot was a floater lobbed in the direction of Dobson near the left pylon. The ball was tipped in the air and Jones came down with the ball to seal the win.

Prior to all this, it was a defensive struggle all the way. Green-Ellis' touchdown was the only touchdown in the game. Dalton continued to infuriate his home town crowd with an inability to finish drives, was sacked four times, and threw for only 212 yards. He threw a dumb interception on the final play of the first quarter when, in the red area, rolled to his right and threw across his body right into the arms of Brandon Spikes. Against his former team, Green-Ellis managed 67 yards on 19 carries, but Giovani Bernard had a slightly better day, with 62 yards on 13 carries and a little bit better average (4.8 yards per carry) than the Law Firm.

But the Patriots were stagnant offensively all game long. They failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2009. Brady had his 54-game touchdown pass streak snapped one week before his duel with Drew Brees, who holds the record at 56. Brady was an abysmal 18 of 38 for 197 yards and a passer rating of 52.2 (a remarkable stat given that he suffered no interceptions). Belichick and Josh McDaniels tried to establish the run, and did manage a team average of 4.6 yards per carry, but Blount and Bolden only combined for 75 yards rushing.

Field position also hampered the Patriots. Their first four drives all started inside their own 15 yard line, and all drives ended in punts. Ryan Allen had eight punts on the afternoon, with five of them pinning the Bengals inside their own 20.

The Patriots come home next week to take on the Saints. The big question will be the status of Rob Gronkowski, and how badly he will be needed to shake off this offensive abomination.

If he can't go, then pray the Red Sox knock out the Rays and are still playing next weekend. You might be better entertained by those guys.


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