By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots lost 13-6 against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
The Patriots are now 4-1 five weeks into the 2013 season. While it wasn’t all negative, they still have a lot of work to do moving forward. Here is my report card for week five. —
Offense Grade: F
After a poor offensive performance Sunday, Patriots fans anxiously await the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
(USA TODAY Images)
If I told you the Patriots would only put up six points against the Bengals, not only wold many of you laugh, but you would probably say they would lose. If I coupled that prediction with saying New England would go 1-12 on third down conversions, one might say there’s almost no chance the Pats can get the victory. Well, both scenarios came to fruition Sunday, with one of the worst offensive outputs in the Brady and Belichick era.
Brady was 18-38, for 197 yards and an inteception. Not only was Tom Brady’s streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass snapped at 52, he had two more incompletions than completions. A stat line that is almost unbelievable, and not in a flattering sense. Brady was off the mark and was hesitant in his decision making throughout the game. It’s hard to believe Brady has trust in his offensive line or his current weapons right now.
The offensive line was dominated Sunday, both in pass blocking and run blocking. Simply put, it was an unacceptable performance by a unit that has devoted high draft picks, money and possesses one of the best positional coaches in the NFL with Dante Scarnecchia. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly have been exposed as weak links in the unit multiple times this season, but Nate Solder also had a terrible game Sunday. It’s hard to get the offense in rhythm when the line is performing so poorly.
The wide receivers have to improve. The unit had six drops on Sunday alone. On top of that, Amendola was clearly limited and only played 38 0f 63 totals snaps. Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson need to step up as well. Yes, they are rookies, but mental errors, running routes and performances like Sunday can cripple the team. Maybe it’s too harsh, but this team has to have these two improve if they want to be successful this season.
It was clear Rob Gronkowski, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen were missed during the week five contest. When each of them can return, they will help, but the team needs other players to carry the load for the time being.
Defense Grade: B +
The defense had another tough test on Sunday, with several weapons to game plan for in the Cincinnati offense. The Patriots did another solid job, holding the Bengals to 13 points.
Aqib Talib was competitive with star receiver A.J. Green, holding Green to 61 yards on the day. Linebackers Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes were also terrific, both making several big plays during the contest. With Vince Wilfork now out for the season, both will need to continue to be a force against the run.
That being said, however, the Patriots did allow 162 total yards on the ground Sunday. While it didn’t feel as the Bengals racked up that many yards, their 4.2 yards per carry gave them the ability to control the tempo. Quarterback Andy Dalton’s late game scrambling also hurt the defense and gave Cincy the ability to keep drives alive.
While the defense did get four sacks on Dalton, the pressure was still pretty inconsistent. That being said, it was probably the best pass rushing performance by the defensive line on the season. Hopefully the Pats can find a way to generate more pressure in key situations. It was great seeing more linebackers sent on blitzes, though.
Special Teams Grade: A –
The Patriots special teams were stellar on Sunday. Gostkowski nailed both field goal attempts and only allowed one return by the Bengals for 29 yards. With special teams ace Matthew Slater sidelined with a broken wrist, both coverage units have been solid.
Rookie punter Ryan Allen had the best game of his young career. Five of his eight total punts pinned the Bengals inside the 20, several inside of the 10. His ability to flip the field and make the Bengals work for their yardage was crttical. Especially after the offense continually put the team in a hole.
Julien Edelman had four punt returns for 43 yards. My biggest gripe with the unit, and stop me if you’ve heard it before, but there was almost no production from the kickoff return men. Devin McCourty seems to be the best option as of now.
Overall Game Grade: C –
This grade is essentially because of the offenses ineptitude Sunday. The defense and special teams were more than solid. If the offense was even average, we are talking about the Patriots winning five straight to start the season.
Overall, not a ton of positives to take away from the game. My biggest concerns from this game starts with the offensive line and the Pats lack of ability to run the ball in short-yardage situations. Once Amendola returns to form and Gronkowski can get back in the fold, a lot of the problems could be alleviated.
Until then, the Patriots must improve and prepare for a red-hot New Orleans Saints team to come to Foxbrough Sunday. Be sure to check back later in the week for my analysis of the upcoming week six matchup.
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