By: Russ Goldman
Going into the game on Sunday there were many questions I had regarding the Patriots. Would Tom Brady and the offense be able to be dominant against a good Bengals Defense? Would the Patriots defense be able to contain what was thought to be the high-powered offense of the Bengals? Would the Pats be able to improve their field position with their special teams unit? The answer to all three questions turned out to be an emphatic “yes”. The Patriots took care of business in all three phases of the game yesterday in beating the Bengals 38-24.
On offense, I think it is safe to say that Brady is completely healed from his knee injury of two years ago. He was sharp and in complete control of the offense. Brady finished 25-of-35 for 258 yards, and 3 touchdowns, and looked just like the Tom Brady fans are used to seeing.
On top of Brady’s performance, you had the return of Wes Welker who had 8 receptions for 64 yards, along with two touchdowns. This is amazing considering many in the media did not see his return coming until the middle of the season coming off of his knee injury. I think Welker proved them all wrong yesterday.
The Patriots were also able to run the ball, with Fred Taylor showing once again if healthy he still is a top NFL running back. He ran for 71 yards on 14 attempts. His average per carry was 5.1, which is excellent. Yesterday the offensive line showed some signs of being able to open up holes, which could make the running game more effective than it was last year for New England.
On defense, the best way to describe this unit yesterday would be “active.” What I watched was a young athletic defense flying to ball. The defensive line also did a nice job against the run, holding the Bengals to just 87 yards on the ground with an average of 3.5 yards per carry.
Rookie Devin McCourty has turned out to be a pretty good player so far for the Patriots (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
The secondary for me was the brightest part of the defense. Patrick Chung was everywhere yesterday. He had 12 tackles, and was constantly around the ball. Devin McCourty and Darius Butler I thought both did a nice job covering their receivers.
The big surprise on defense had to be the pass rush. I got sick and tired of hearing in the media this off-season saying that the Patriots have no pass rush. Well, one game doesn’t make a season, but it definitely made a great first impression. The Patriots harassed Carson Palmer, and did pressure him often. They hit him six times and sacked him once.
The score doesn’t indicate just how well the defense played against the Bengals, and I think this performance could be something to build on.
On special teams, this unit definitely did their job. Brandon Tate had another great day on kick returns, returning a kick-off 97 yards for a touchdown to start off the third quarter. Also, the special teams unit consistently covered kick-offs very well, giving Pacman Jones very little room to run. They were flying down the field, and hitting like missiles. The only disappointment for me had to be Stephen Gostkowski missing two field goals, but overall, this unit was dominant on Sunday.
There was so much positive to take from this victory. However, it is only one game, and we will have to see if the Pats can build on what they accomplished against the Bengals as they get set to travel to the new Meadowlands to take on the Jets next Sunday.
As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game. Were my factors a difference yesterday? Below is my analysis of “ My Five Keys To Victory For The Patriots Against The Bengals”
1. Special teams need to really have a positive effect on field position for the Pats. The special teams unit definitely got it done yesterday. On kick-offs, they consistently kept the Bengals inside the 30 yard line and did an excellent job of containing Pacman Jones. Tate did a great job in kick-off returns, and his kickoff return for a touchdown more or less put the game out of reach, and ended up being the difference in the game.
2. The Patriots cornerbacks need to contain Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Now, if you go strictly by the numbers you would think that Darius Butler and Devin McCourty did not do their job on Sunday. Chad Ochocinco had 12 receptions and one touchdown, while Terrell Owens finished with 7 receptions of his own.
Butler was inconsistent, but at times he really did a good job. McCourty showed the promise that I think he could eventually be a number one corner, as he was continuously in tight coverage on his receiver. These two young corners I thought did their job well overall.
3.The Patriots need to handle tight end Jermaine Gresham. I thought the Patriots did a nice job on Gresham. He did catch a touchdown pass, and had 6 receptions. However, the Patriots were up to the challenge of staying with this tight end. They even got a big payoff one play. Gary Guyton was covering Gresham, and while in coverage intercepted a pass and took it back for a touchdown. All in all I thought they handled him pretty well.
4. The Patriots need to score touchdowns when they are in the redzone. The Patriots definitely did a great job in this key area, which is obviously a nice improvement over last season. They scored on 3 of their 5 trips inside the redzone with touchdowns. Honestly, the last drive was more to run out the clock. So, for me it was more like 3 of 4 in the redzone, which is very good. Brady threw two touchdown passes to Wes Welker, and one to Rob Gronkowski, with Gronkowski’s being an impressive leaping grab where he twisted back for the ball in mid-air to make the reception.
5. Tom Brady and the offense need to control the ball and the clock. Again, statistics can be a little misleading. Overall, the Bengals had the ball for 31 plus minutes compared to the Pats who had it for 28 plus. However, the game was decided in the first half when the Pats really did a good job controlling the ball. The Patriots were not one dimensional in this game. The Pats ran for 118 yards on 23 attempts, while Brady was 25-of-35 for 258 yards. It turned out to be about a 60-40 split which is fine for the New England. They are always going to pass more. But, they showed yesterday that they can run the ball effectively.
Overall, this was an impressive win in all phases of the game. Next week the Pats go on the road to the play the Jets, so we’ll see if they can improve on a solid performance that has me feeling pretty optimistic heading into this AFC East Division battle against Rex Ryan and company.