In this week’s Monday Musings, we look at the Patriots continued home dominance, Rob Gronkowski’s ascent in the record books, and the sudden abundance of talent in the New England backfield.
Those damn Patriots. We almost had them.
Such is the familiar refrain of teams who have daned to venture into the confines of Gillette Stadium with thoughts of scoring a victory over the Patriots. Many have left beaten and humbled, licking their wounds and trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Others come away with stories about how they had Brady and his cohorts on the ropes, only to suffer a heartbreaking loss in the waning moments of the affair.
No matter the twists and turns each story takes, almost all of them come to the same ending — Brady and the Patriots standing victorious.
It was no different for the Bengals, who admittedly came into Gillette and punched the New England square in the mouth with a strong first half performance. Andy Dalton started the game on fire, seemingly finding his receivers open at will. He nimbly shifted and scrambled, carving up soft spots in the Patriots zone defense — holes opened up by green linebackers filling in for the injured Jamie Collins, Shea McLellan and Jonathan Freeny.
Tom Brady found himself ducked and dodging Geno Atkins and the rest of the Bengals defensive line. The Patriots juggernaut offense seemed… human. Fallible. The Bengals put together seven and eight play scoring drives while the Patriots could barely manage to stay on the field. What many had dismissed as an easy win for New England now looked to be in question.
Enter Dont’a Hightower.
Looking healthy for what seems like the first time in recent memory, Hightower reminded everyone just why he is so highly revered by Matt Patricia and the Patriots coaching staff. He flew all over the field, seemingly in the mix on every play. Trailing 14-10 in the third quarter, it was his sack of Andy Dalton in the Bengals end zone that completely turned the tide.
Smelling blood, Brady and the Patriots offense would move with precision on the ensuing possession, marching down the field and scoring on a Rob Gronkowski touchdown reception to take a 19-14 lead.
New England would never trail again.
Tom Brady is now 49-1 at home since 2007 against AFC opponents and his team once again sits atop the AFC standings.
Meet the new Patriots; same as the old Patriots.