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Passing-game woes really are a team effort

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  October 7, 2013 04:15 PM

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The Patriots' offensive output was pitiful against the Cincinnati Bengals, as they failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2009 and scored their fewest points since they were last shut out, way back in 2006, a 21-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

The Patriots, pending the results of the Monday night game, have been outscored by 20 teams in the NFL, as they now average 19 points per game.

A big part of the offensive woes has been the passing attack, which has been tepid at best.

Sunday's game marked the end of Tom Brady's illustrious 52-game touchdown-pass streak. He now stands second all-time to Drew Brees (54), whom the Patriots face this upcoming Sunday when the New Orleans Saints visit Foxborough.

Brady didn't get much help by way of his receivers in Cincinnati. That group, along with his running backs, accounted for six drops in the 13-6 loss to the Bengals, some of which could be blamed on the rain. In his first game back from a torn adductor, Danny Amendola had three drops while catching four passes on nine targets for 55 yards. He was inches away from one touchdown, trying to squirm into the end zone on a 17-yard reception.

This season, Brady has had 8.7 percent of his passes dropped. The worst offender has been rookie Aaron Dobson, who has a 23.5 percent drop rate, according to the statistical website ProFootballFocus.com. The Marshall product, who didn't record a single drop in his senior year in college and has four to his name with the Patriots, has had difficulties being consistent.

"I feel like we beat ourselves," said Dobson after the loss. "It feels like it's stuff that we can improve on. It's nothing that they did. We just have to improve."

Of course, all of the blame doesn't reside with the receiving corps. Brady hasn't been his stellar self, seemingly inaccurate in spots. He's had trouble completing passes downfield (5 for 22 when throwing 20 yards or more) and he's had poor production when under pressure, completing 25 of 54 passes with no touchdowns and an interception.

Take away drops from the equation, as well as spikes and balls thrown away, and Brady is completing 68.1 percent of his passes this season. On Sunday, he was 18 of 38 for 197 yards and an interception. A good portion of his yardage came from a catch-and-run by Dobson for 53 yards, boosting what would otherwise have been a dismal effort.

After the game, offensive lineman Dan Connolly said the Patriots simply didn't do their job on offense, especially given the effort of the team's defense in holding Cincinnati to 13 points.

“Our job on offense is to score, and when we don’t do that, we are disappointed," he said. "That’s our part of the deal, and we didn’t do it.”

Consistency and rhythm appear to be key sticking points that will continue to be brought up with a relatively green receiving corps.

"We just didn’t overall offensively perform to the level that we did last week or that we’re capable of doing," said Bill Belichick. "I think everybody is accountable for that: the coaching staff, the players. Again, I certainly give Cincinnati credit there. They have a good defensive front and they played well, but we have to do a better job than that.

"We put ourselves in too many long-yardage situations. We couldn’t convert in the red area and had some consistency running the ball but not nearly enough in the passing game, and not in any critical situations. We have to do better in all those areas. That’s all of us. I don’t think it’s any one guy or any one thing."

When the Patriots say they need to get better and play more consistent, that's when they're acutely accurate.

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry and on Google+.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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