This 13-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was hard to watch, but even harder to swallow. This was an important conference game, which may have playoff implications down the road. It was so frustrating to see the game there for the taking, only to see the Patriots' offense do a first rate immitation of the 2011 Indianapolis Colts' offense, as run by QB Curtis Painter. It's a shame that the offense could not pull it's wieght in support of a fine overall defensive effort by the Pats' "D". Here are my grades:
I. OFFENSE: The entire offensive unit should, in good conscious, not accept their checks for this week, as they completely failed to show up for todays' game. The "O" could only keep the ball for 25:30 over the entire 60 minute game. Tom Brady ran 59 plays, gaining a putrid 248 total yards.
1.) QB: In one of the worst performances of his career, Tom Brady completed just 18 of 37 passes for 197 yards, and no TDs...snapping a 52 game steak in which Brady had thrown at least one TD pass per game. What's worse was that the Pats' averaged a mere 5.3 yards per completion, and were able to convert only one (1) out of twelve (12) third down attempts. It was clear throughout the game that Brady was not on the same page with his receivers. Though Tom faced some heavy pressure at times from the Cincy front seven, even when given ample time to throw, his passes were underthrown, overthrown, or thrown behind his receivers, throughout the game. There was one play in the 4th quarter in which Brady missed a wide open Aaron Dobson on a deep post, when Brady evidently thought that Dobson would be running toward the pi-line. Nor was he helped by the play calling, which seemed disfunctional and disjointed, particularly after the awful LeGarrette Blount fumble at the Cincinnati 25 yardline, just when the Patriots appeared to be on the verge of taking control of the game. Tom appeared frustrated, rattled, and indecisive, especially in the second half. Folks, take away the 53 yard play from Brady to Aaron Dobson late in the 4th quarter, and Tom's stats were 17 completions in 36 attempts, for 144 yards. Ouch: GRADE: F;
2.) RBs: Injuries to Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden (playing on a gimpy knee) certainly didn't help the cause. But, the way Legarrett Blount was running early, it didn't seem to matter. Bringing back memories of the Corey Dillion years, Blount ran hard, and ran tough. On several occasions, though he was hit behind the line, he still managed to generate a few hard earned yards. But, then came the second quarter strip by Bengals' DE Carlos Dunlap, after Blount have broken loose on a 7 yard run, at the Cincinnati 25 yard line. Thereafter, the Pats' running game was never heard from again...as some disjointed play calling and a disfunctional passing attack led to a pitiful six (6) points over the remainder of the game. Blount fionished with 12 carries for 51 yards. But, after the fumble, he was benched, and thereafter used sparingly. Brandon Bolden, bad knee and all, finished with 5 carries for 24 yards. Bolden did well as a receiver coming out of the backfield, with six (6) catches for 40 yards. But oh...that Blount fumble: GRADE: D+;
3.) OL: The Big Uglies faced a tough task this week, in the rugged Cincinnati front seven. Unfortunately, they weren't up to the task. But, after a slow start, they appeared to be taking charge of the game, with RB Blount eeking out some hard earned, smash-mouth yards. But, after the above mentioned Blount fumble, they were never the same, as Josh McDaniels appeared to abandon the running game. This group allowed too many hits on Tom Brady, which led his showing of happy feet, and skittishness in the pocket: GRADE: C-;
WRs and TEs: The Hooman was able to get open on occasion, and did haul in a 2 yard pass today. There was a play where Brady threw a terrible pass behind him, almost resulting in an interception on a tipped ball. The Hooman also failed to get out to block on a flanker screen to Aaron Dobson, which resulted in a four (4) yard loss, leading to a 3rd and 14 in the second quarter, rather than, say, a 3rd and two. As for the WRs, it was another tale of woe, similar to what we saw against the Jets in Foxborough. Whenever they got open, Brady could not adequately deliver the ball. There was at least one Danny Amendola drop, as the returning Wes Welker wanna-be wasn't today, finishing with 4 catches for 55 yards. After a big game last Sunday night in Atlanta, Kembrel Thompkins returned to his rookie ways, and did not appear to get open. Targeted only four (4) times, he had three (3) catches for a mere 16 yards. Ditto Julian Edelman, who, though targeted seven (7) times, had just two (2) catches for 35 yards. Aaron Dobson contributed two (2) catches for 49 yards...one for the above mentioned loss when the Hooman failed to get a block, and one the 53 yard catch and run...the teams' lone big play on an otherwise very bleak afternoon...and Dobson nearly marred that play by fumbling it away: GRADE: F;
II. DEFENSE: Though the "D" obviously tired during the final quarter, they kept the Pats in the game, holding the Bengals to just 13 points...which should have been good enough to win.
1. DL: Playing their first entire game without Vince Wilfolk anchoring the middle, the DL had some trouble stopping the run, as BJGE and rookie Giavanni Bernard combined for 129 yards on 32 carries. But, the majority of that came later in the game, when the ineptitude of the Pats' "O" had forced the "D" to play for over 34 minutes. QB Andy Dalton also hurt the Pats by picking up some key first downs with his scrambling, as he gained 25 yards on 5 attempts. Though chances of getting to Dalton were diminished by the Bengals limiting him to throwing slants and check-downs throughout the game, The Jones boys were able to get to him on a couple of occasions...as the DL registered 2.5 sacks. GRADE: B;
2.) LBs: Great all-around game by Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. This pair accounted for 23 tackles, including 14 solos. Spikes had with two tackles for loss among his thunderous hits, along with a drive killing red zone interception, in the first quarter. Dont'a Hightower appeared to be slowed by a gimpy knee, as he had a quiet game: GRADE: B+;
3.) SECONDARY: Another fine game by Aqib Talib, who, for the most part, contained Cincinnati stud receiver, A. J. Green. Green was targeted eight (8) times, and had five (5) catches for 61 yards. But, Green did beat Talib on a 3rd and 3 from the New England 23...gaining 17 yards, for a first and goal at the Patriots' six (6) yard line. The Cincinnati TEs, Jermaine Greshan and Tyler Eifert were targets 11 times, but were held to nine combined catches, for 77 yards. But, late in the 3rd quarter, with the Bengals facing a 3rd a 15 from their own two (2) yard line, leading just 6-3, the Pats gave up a 28 yard completion to WR Marvin Jones, giving them a first down on their own 30 yard line. That was the key play on what would be a 14 play, 93 yard TD drive, that took up nearly eight (8) minutes...and gave the the Bengals a 10 point lead, midway through the final quarter. It appeared that Kyle Arrington failed to nail down the coverage on that huge play. Still, when a defense holds any NFL offense to less than 14 points, it's usually cause for celebration: GRADE: B-;
III. SPECIAL TEAMS: Another solid performance by The Ghost, who was two for two in FG, including a 42 yarder to close the half. Unfortunately, he was the Patriot's only offense today. Good job of punting today by rookie Ryan Allen, with several punts placed inside the Cincinnati 15 yard line. Another good job of returning punts by Julian Edelman. His 24 yard return put the Patriots in prime position to score, from the Cincy 45, early in the 3rd quarter. But, unfortunately, Brady and his offense could not do anything with that great field position. The kick coverage was adequate: GRADE: B+;
IV. COACHING: Lots of soul searching and butt kicking needs to be done by BB and his staff after this stinker. Thankfully, there's a long way to go before playoff time in January. But, based on what we saw this afternoon, can this team even win it's division? There's simply no excuse for the seemingly complete lack of communication between Tom Brady and his young receivers. The game plan was unimaginative. I can't understand why the Patriots chose to give up on the run the way they did. True, fumbles are inexcusable. But when your down to one healthy RB, was it really wise to punish him by pulling him? Much of the Pats' passing attack is predicated on timing. Credit the Bengals for doing a good job of jamming the Pats' receivers inside of 5 yards, and credit their LBs for doing a good job in patroling the short stuff over the middle. Their defensive game plan of pressuring Tom Brady and taking away the short stuff, thus forcing him to throw deep, worked. The best answer would seemingly have been to continue to pound the ball, and mix it up with deep play action throws. But, when tried, for whatever reason, Brady couldn't convert. Can't complain about the "D", though that 28 yard completion on a 3rd and 15 from the Cincy two (2) yard line in the fourth quarter was a killer. You best believe that ball security will be a hot topic in Foxborough on Monday. Next week, one has to wonder how this pop-gun Patriots' offense is going to keep pace with Drew Brees?: GRADE: D;
V. PLAY OF THE GAME: The strip of LeGarrette Blount in the second quarter blounted a Patriots' scoring drive at the Cincinnati 25 yard line...just as the Patriots appeared to be taking control of the game.
VI. PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cincinnati DE Carlos Dunlap was a pain in the Patriots' proverbial neck all game long...and made the aforementioned strip of Blount, which changed the momentum of the game. I wonder how BB feels now about his decision to select Florida DE Jermaine Cunningham in the 2010 draft over the other, more heralded Florida DE, Dunlap? Poor drafts, and poor draft selections do come back to haunt a team.
Here are the putrid game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=331006004.
As always, your comments and opinions are welcome.