Despite the fact that’s it’s only Week One, the Patriots’ offense looked like it was in mid-season form, defeating the Bengals 38-24. Tom Brady looked sharp and threw to the ball to 7 different receivers, 5 of which had multiple catches. Brady was 25/35 for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wes Welker had a tremendous first regular season game back from the torn ACL. He finished the day with 8 catches for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was targeted by Brady 11 times. The running game looked like something opposing defenses are going to have to account for, with Fred Taylor leading the way with 71 yards on 14 rushes. In total, the Pats finished with 118 yards on 23 carries (5.1 average). BenJarvus Green-Ellis also had a good day rushing the ball, going for 22 yards on 5 carries (4.4 average). While the effectiveness of the running game was somewhat of a surprise, the biggest (and most pleasant) surprise was the play of the young defense, especially in the first half.
The young defense flew to the ball and made some big stops and big plays. ILB Gary Guyton had a 59-yard INT return for a TD. The defense did not yield any points until Mike Nugent kicked a 54-yard field goal with 4:42 left in the second quarter. At the half, the defense had only yielded 30 rushing yards and 130 passing yards. OLB Tully Banta-Cain and DL Myron Pryor combined for a half-sack each, but the team hit Carson Palmer 6 times and consistently provided pressure. S Pat Chung led the team with 12 combined tackles and looked real good coming up from the safety spot and making plays. The defense softened up in the second half and the Bengal offense found a rhythm, scoring 21 points in the half. However, the fire the defense played with and the effectiveness they had in the first half is a good sign moved forward.
Special teams also found its way to contribute. Just like he did in the preseason, WR Brandon Tate took the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards for a touchdown. Tate looks like he could be a secret (maybe not so secret anymore) weapon on special teams for the Patriots. Rookie Zoltan Mesko only had to punt once, and he did so effectively, booming one 43 yards. K Stephen Gostkowski had a rough day, going 1/3 in field goals, missing a 47-yarder wide left and a 56-yarder wide right. He did a good job on kickoffs, getting a touch back on 3/7 attempts.
The Pats have some good momentum heading into next week’s divisional clash at the New York Jets. More to come later…