By: Christine Roy
The rain started coming down in sheets as the Patriots made their last-ditch effort to mount a comeback against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Unfortunately the wet conditions made for six incomplete passes in the Patriots final drive and a Tom Brady interception sealed the 13-6 victory for the Bengals. Aside from some solid play by the linebackers, there was little to cheer about from the Patriots sideline.
Brandon Spikes led the defense but it wasn’t enough as the offense came up short.
(USA TODAY Images)
Brandon Spikes had his best game of the season and led the linebacking core with 12 tackles, two of which were for a loss. Jerod Mayo was also impressive with 11 tackles and a half a sack. And in his second game of the year, defensive tackle Chris Jones stood his ground, getting credit for one and a half sacks and four tackles, one of which was for a loss. As Patriots fans we are not used to such a defensive battle but with the way this offense is struggling, we may just have to get used to it.
The Patriots were 1 for 12 on third down opportunities and only amassed 248 total yards. Brady’s streak of 52 games with a touchdown pass came to a screeching halt as he only completed 18 of 38 passes for 197 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He felt the pressure all afternoon as he was sacked four times for a loss of 31 yards. The offense averaged 4.4 yards per pass and only 4.6 yards per rush. Overall an unimpressive performance to say the least.
Cincinnati’s offense wasn’t much better but they aren’t working with a quarterback the caliber of Brady. Andy Dalton for his part completed 20 of 27 passes, was sacked four times for a loss of 33 yards, and threw one interception with no touchdowns. Aqib Talib kept AJ Green in check, holding him to only five receptions for 61 yards. And the Wilfork-less defensive line showed they would bend but not break. They managed to keep the Bengals out of the end zone until the fourth quarter and only gave up 162 yards on the ground.
As for the Patriots offense, the play calling was questionable. Cincinnati from the start showed they had a very solid defense and penetrating it proved to be a challenge. With Stevan Ridley sidelined and Brandon Bolden and Legarrette Blount left to shoulder the load, the run game obviously wasn’t going to be as strong. Blount finished the game with 12 carries for 51 yards and Bolden had five carries for 24 yards. What was missed was the speed of Ridley and Shane Vereen. Bolden just doesn’t have the lateral speed necessary to escape linebackers and Blount is more of a physical, pounding back than a finesse runner.
Overall the Patriots seemed to force the run when it clearly wasn’t working and they went for the big yard plays rather than the small gains in the passing game. With Danny Amendola back in action the Patriots should have called on him for those Welker like receptions. What they did instead was rely on him for longer gains and while he came up big with some athletic catches, unfortunately for the Patriots, it just wasn’t enough. Having him back was helpful but it didn’t have the impact it could have. It seemed as though Josh McDaniels didn’t have a grasp on what the Bengals were doing and he was out-coached by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
There will be a lot of tape to breakdown from this game and as the theme of the season continues, it will be the offense who needs to make the most adjustments. From the top down, nothing was working and with Drew Brees and the Saints coming to town next week, a performance like this cannot happen again. As it always is, this team is all about moving forward and with Rob Gronkowski hopefully coming back, the offense stands a chance to figure it out and finally come together.