CINCINNATI – The first loss was going to come eventually. But to do so while struggling so mightily on offense comes as a surprise.
The Patriots lost to the Bengals Sunday, 13-6, falling to 4-1. It was the first time the team did not score an offensive touchdown since a 16-9 loss to the New York Jets, Sept. 20, 2009.
Here's some takeaways from Sunday's game.
1. Offensive inconsistency is the new norm -- The Patriots converted 1 of 12 third downs. They were 0 for 1 in the red zone (more on that later). And, when they struggled in the running game (82 yards on the ground), they didn't find much rhythm in the passing game either. Tom Brady was 18 of 38 for 197 yards and an interception. He failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time since 2009 (the 16-9 loss to the Jets).
The offense as a whole is struggling. The Patriots managed just 248 yards Sunday and have varied wildly in their performances while managing injuries. While last week they reached a high point against the Atlanta Falcons (448 total yards, 30 points), this was a low in points and a near-low in yards. Who knows how they'll perform next week against the New Orleans Saints.
Patriots total offensive yards:
Week 1: Bills - 431
Week 2: Jets - 232
Week 3: Buccaneers - 358
Week 4: Falcons - 448
Week 5: Bengals - 248
2. The Bengals tried to give the win to the Patriots -- It's not like this game was a blowout. The Patriots had plenty of chances to snatch the win out of the Bengals' hands. Held scoreless in their only red zone attempt, they had three chances to punch it in, airing it out to Julian Edelman and Nate Solder (a former tight end), and getting stuffed on a run up the middle by LeGarrette Blount before settling for a field goal. And then, down only by a touchdown, the Patriots' defense managed to force a fumble and and get the ball back with 3:34 left. But two straight incomplete passes, including a dropped ball by Danny Amendola in the rain, followed by a sack on Brady, and the Patriots were forced to punt again.
There was still an opportunity to tie the game down the stretch. The Patriots forced a three and out for the Bengals on the following drive, getting one last possession with 1:48 left in the game. The Bengals were kind enough to add two penalties on a fourth and third down (one a defensive offsides, the other a 15-yard roughing the passer) to extend the Patriots' drive for one last shot with 26 seconds left only 27 yards from the end zone. That's when Brady was intercepted by cornerback Adam Jones to seal the game.
"We unfortunately had to probably win it three of four times there in the fourth quarter," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. "So we’ve got a lot to learn from that way and good things to coach off of."
I'd say the Patriots didn't take advantage of three opportunities.
3. Can't give the defense enough credit -- Two takeaways, including Devin McCourty's forced fumble with 3:34 left in the fourth, and four sacks, including rookie Chris Jones's 9-yard takedown, to go along with only 13 points allowed marked a fantastic defensive effort.
4. A little pow on defense -- Brandon Spikes was particularly good with an expanded role this week. While in weeks prior he was not on the field in passing situations, he supplanted Dont'a Hightower in the nickel packages and his impact was immediate. He came up with an interception on an Andy Dalton pass to tight end Tyler Eifert and combined for 12 tackles, including two for a loss. The more he plays, the better he gets. It's a far cry from his Week 1 performance that was overshadowed by his dehydration.
5. On further review -- From the press box vantage point, it appeared the Bengals were trying to run at young defensive tackles Jones and Joe Vellano. While the Bengals had 162 yards rushing, I'd caution waiting on seeing the film before further judgment. They appeared to hold their own against a stacked Bengals line and, up until the second half (101 yards), had helped the defensive unit keep Cincinnati's running game in check. There will be much more to glean from the film, particularly in a loss like this.