By: Steve Balestrieri
The Bengals defense shut down New England’s offense, limiting Julian Edelman and the Wide Receivers to few catches on Sunday.
(USA TODAY Images)
The Cincinnati Bengals used a stifling defense to shut down the Patriots offense and beat New England 13-6 on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati. Brady’s last gasp pass was picked off with just 16 seconds left near the Bengals goal line to end what was a very frustrating day for the Pats offense.
The loss also signaled the end of Tom Brady’s personal streak of throwing a touchdown pass in 52 straight games, two shy of Drew Brees’ NFL record.
The loss dropped the Patriots to 4-1 but they remain on top of the AFC East as Miami also lost and dropped to 3-2 but the team ending a two game road trip had the opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Dolphins but let it slip away.
Here are some observations from Sunday’s loss-
Kelly Injured: Perhaps more importantly the loss may have been costly as DT Tommy Kelly injured his knee and was forced to leave the game in the second half.
Having already lost Vince Wilfork for the season to injury in Atlanta last week, if Kelly, whose play has been very solid, is lost for any stretch of time it will leave a huge gap in the Patriots middle.
Leon Washington also left the game with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Washington who missed the first four games with a thigh injury was hurt early in the game. No word has been issued yet on the condition of either one.
Offense Stagnant:The Patriots offense rather than Kelly’s injury however was the story of the game as they struggled all day to move the ball and had two chances late in the game to score touchdowns and failed both times. After two straight weeks of the offense making progress, Sunday’s defeat marked a big step back for the unit.
The running game was already minus Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen and couldn’t get much going. LaGarrette Blount gained 51 yards on 12 carries but was stripped of the ball on a promising first half drive and played sparingly in the second half.
The passing game was abysmal all day and the Bengals defense deserves a ton of credit for coming up with an excellent game plan. The Patriots offensive line struggled in this one as Tom Brady was sacked four times and his protection was breaking down on many others as he was hit (8) on many other occasions.
Brady’s final numbers were 18-38 for 197 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception and more importantly the team was 1-12 on third down. Those won’t get it done against most teams and it wasn’t on Sunday.
Rookie WRs MIA on Sunday: After having two big games in a row, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were rendered virtually invisible on Sunday. Thompkins, fresh off a 100 yard effort against Atlanta, caught only 3 passes for 16 yards with a long of only 6 yards.
Aaron Dobson had one of the few highlights for the Patriots offense with a 53 yard catch and run in the 4th quarter.
(USA TODAY Images)
Dobson did reel in a 53 yard catch and run late in the game, but other than that he only had one catch for minus 4 yards on a screen pass to show for his efforts against the Bengals secondary.
With no viable targets from the tight end position, the onus is on the wide receivers to get it done, and the many drops and low production isn’t acceptable. There was also a play to Dobson where he was open but read the defense to go to the post. Brady read the play for him to go to the corner and his pass sailed into the end zone harmlessly.
There is still a lot of work to be done there and the opposition isn’t getting any easier.
Amendola Returns: One bright spot for the offense was the return of Danny Amendola from a groin injury and the results were mostly positive. He still appeared to limp at times but for the most part ran well and his return should help the offense down the road.
The plan was to limit his snaps and they did, he was in for only 38 plays on offense. But he did chip in 4 catches for 55 yards. But Amendola wasn’t immune from the drops that plagued the offense yesterday and had a couple as well.
But he also had a nice leaping catch for 21 yards in the first half and another at the 1 yard line for 16 yards where it appeared he rolled into the end zone in the 4th quarter.
Defense Continues to Step Up: The Patriots defense had another solid game and held the Bengals to only 13 points. They were also able to dial up the pressure on QB Andy Dalton as they sacked him four times and pressured him on a few others.
Two of the sacks stalled drives that ended in field goals rather than touchdowns so the defense did come up with them at key times.
With the middle of the defense line hurting and playing two rookies, veteran linebackers Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes stepped up and played very well. Spikes also had an interception in the first half and picking off a Dalton pass deep in the Patriots red zone.
And Devin McCourty made a huge play when the team needed it most, forcing a fumble and giving the team the ball in excellent field position late in the fourth quarter.
Saints Coming Marching In:Things won’t get any easier for the defense as the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees come calling next Sunday in Foxboro. The Saints are rolling along at 5-0 and their offense looks as good as ever.
The Saints also employ Rob Ryan’s attacking defense and will certainly try to test the Patriots ability to protect Brady. We’ll have more on the matchups later in the week.