Oct 6, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New England Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty (32) returns a kick off against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots put forth one of the ugliest performances in recent memory today, as they fell to the Bengals by a score of 13-6. The offense was largely at fault here, as anytime you fail to produce a touchdown, I guarantee that most of the blame will fall on your shoulders. Here are the negatives and positives from today’s contest.
Defense Continues Terrific 2013 Campaign:
The phrase ‘good defense’ has not been associated with the New England Patriots in quite some time. Ever since their eventful 2007 season where they finished fourth in overall defense, they have plummeted straight towards the bottom of the stat-sheet when it comes to defensive numbers. However they seem to have turned it around thus far in 2013, and with the way the offense has produced, it is a good thing that the other side of the ball has shown up on game-days. The Patriots held Cincinnati to 341 total yards today, came up with two Bengal turnovers, and sacked quarterback Andy Dalton four times. All of this resulted in holding the Bengals to 13 points, which should have been good enough for a victory. Arguably the weakest point of last year’s team, was the secondary. Here in 2013, it may be the strongest part of this Patriots roster. Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard are two of the best cover corners that you will find, and they are backed up by Devin McCourty, who in my opinion is the most underrated safety in the NFL. They played great once again today versus the Bengals, holding Dalton and company to a mere 179 yards through the air. Something that I noticed as the game went on, was how much man coverage this group employed. Rarely did I see them drop back in a soft shell and react to what Dalton did, instead they were up in the faces of Cincinnati’s receivers, disrupting their timing all game long. The front seven struggled a little bit with Vince Wilfork out, but Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes played very well, as they attempted to limit the amount of yards that Cincinnati garnered on the ground.
Ryan Allen Owns The Field Position Game
The signing of rookie punter Ryan Allen is proving to be one of the smarter things that Bill Belichick has done this season. He took the risk of letting go one of the best punters in the league in Zoltan Mekso, and replacing him with the inexperienced Allen. But through four games Allen has played very well, and his stellar play continued in today’s slug-fest. Allen was called upon to punt eight times, and he dropped five of them inside the 20 yard line, keeping the field position in New England’s favor for most of the afternoon. In a game where points are scarce, winning the field position battle is a big key if you want to win the game, and although the Pats didn’t come out with the victory, Ryan Allen did his part with eight tremendous boots.
Offense Struggles All Around
Last week, it looked like the New England offense had turned the corner in their win against the Falcons. Brady and company put up over 400 yards, to go along with their first 30 point output of 2013. But today it looked like the Patriots offensive unit had never stepped foot on the same field with each other. Receivers couldn’t get open (except for Amendola), Brady wasn’t sharp, and the offensive line had their worst game of this young season. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins found themselves on the wrong page with their quarterback once again, highlighted on their last drive where Dobson ran a deep post, while Brady threw a deep corner route. If they had been on the same page, Dobson might have scored and ‘Patriot Nation’ wouldn’t be a depressed mess. Not only did the passing offense struggle, but the running game was non-existent as well. Stevan Ridley missed this game with a thigh injury, and despite the hype surrounding LeGarrette Blount, he is definitely not the same back as Ridley. Although this is probably a moot point because the offensive line of the Patriots didn’t open up any holes for the running backs, and it resulted in a meager 82 total rushing yards.
Danny Amendola Solid Return
Amendola’s final numbers may not suggest it, but I thought that he had a successful return after he injured his groin in week one. He only pulled in four receptions for a total of 55 yards, but he was the only Patriot receiver that consistently got open. He did drop a couple of balls, but that is bound to happen when you miss three weeks of action. The more important thing that I took away from his performance, was that his groin did not limit his ability to separate from his defender. I am sure that additional game time will help his drops, and the offense will benefit from his presence on the field.