Talk about an ugly football game. The Patriots went into Cincinnati riding high coming off of a 30-23 win over Atlanta in week four, and left demoralized with a pathetic six point showing as they suffered an ugly defeat. There were very few positive things to take away from this loss, so get ready for an article chock-full of negativity.
1. Injuries Starting To Pile Up
The Patriots began this game without their starting running back, tight end, and in my opinion the best defensive tackle in the NFL. It was obvious that the Pats offense was struggling without Stevan Ridley, and Rob Gronkowski, as save for Danny Amendola, nobody could consistently get open for quarterback Tom Brady. New England’s running game was also affected by these absences, with Ridley and Gronk out, the Pats managed to grind out only 82 total rushing yards. We knew that the run defense of the Patriots would suffer from Vince Wilfork’s injury, but late in the game his ex-partner, Tommy Kelly fell victim to a knee injury. He attempted to return just a few plays later, but he had to leave again and he did not make another return. While he was gone, the Pats had two undrafted rookies as their starting defensive tackles, and the drop-off in run defense was obvious. Joe Vellano and Chris Jones seem like fine backups, but they don’t have the talent of a Wilfork, or a Kelly and this lack of solid depth at this position, will hurt them as we continue this 2013 season. Despite a solid overall performance from the New England defense, they still surrendered 162 rushing yards to the Bengals, and the inability to stop the run late, led to this loss.
2. Offensive Line Struggles
Coming into this game, the Patriots offensive line was tied for fourth in the league in terms of sacks given up. I had been impressed with their play all season long, and for that reason, their performance in this game came as a complete surprise. Brady was sacked four times today, with two of them coming on the opening two drives for the Patriots. I thought that those first two sacks set the tone for the New England O-line, as it seemed that they never recovered. The left side of the offensive line is led by Logan Mankins and Nate Solder, who are two of the best in the league. But they were both victimized by Geno Atkins and Wallace Gilberry at the beginning of the contest and the game was never the same. Seeing the Patriots two best lineman (Vollmer has an argument) get beat must have shaken not only Tom Brady’s psyche, but the rest of the O-line’s as well. Open holes for LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden were hard pressed to find, and Brady was frequently pressure into a bad throw because of their play. Honestly, for a good portion of today’s game, it wouldn’t have mattered if Gronkowski was back catching passes for the Patriots, because Brady did not have the necessary time to do much with the football.
3. Brady Not His Usual Self
As a Patriots fan, I have seen Tom Brady do some amazing things. Last minute comebacks, perfect seasons, and prime-time destruction among them. Even though his receivers were not up to par in today’s game, Brady’s talent would have normally allowed him to make the necessary plays to win the game. But Brady struggled throughout, and it culminated in a terrible game ending interception to Adam Jones (the rain helped on that). He was wildly inaccurate at times, and he didn’t seem to have that “total control” of the offense that he normally has. Completing 47% of his passes for 197 yards is not entirely his receivers, or offensive line’s fault. There were a number of times where he had someone open, and he simply did not deliver the throw as accurately as he should have. I am going to give him a little bit of a pass on that final drive, as the rain made it impossible for him to control the football, and make a decent throw. But aside from that, Brady was very “human-like” for the majority of this game, and it is a big reason why New England is no longer undefeated.