The New England Patriots bounced back with a road victory over the Cincinnati Bengals after suffering consecutive losses in their previous two outings.
The New England Patriots got a much-needed 34-13 win versus the Bengals in Cincinnati on Sunday. As a result, they improved to 11-3 on the year and earned a spot in the playoffs. New England will have an opportunity to clinch the AFC East with a win over the Bills in Week 16.
Although they ran the ball better than they have for much of this season, the Patriots are still unable to consistently put drives together. They managed to put the ball in the end zone on their opening drive of the game, but the remainder of their offensive touchdowns came as a result of being gifted with short fields. It’s fair to assume that this team will not go far in the postseason if their defense isn’t playing at a high level.
Thankfully, the defense was up to the challenge on Sunday, as New England came away with four defensive turnovers via interceptions. However, the Patriots D did not do a great job of stopping Cincinnati’s rushing attack. They will have to be better on Saturday when the fifth-best running team in the league (in terms of yards per game) comes to Foxborough.
The Patriots played well enough in all three phases to get a road win in Week 15. That said, there are several key areas that they need to improve upon with the playoffs on the horizon.
Here are the top takeaways from Week 15:
Gilmore continues to further his case as the best cornerback in football. He had a pair of interceptions against Andy Dalton and the Bengals, the first of which was a spectacular one-handed grab over Tyler Boyd. His second interception essentially ended the game in the third quarter, when he jumped an out route and returned the ball to the end zone for a 64-yard pick-six.
He is having an incredible season, and has emerged as the favorite to take home the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
J. C. Jackson
Gilmore’s performance should not overshadow that of his fellow corner. Jackson also had two interceptions against Cincinnati and was a big part of their defensive success against the pass in Week 15. The undrafted free agent is playing very well in his second year in the league, and has quickly become a valuable member of New England’s stacked secondary.
The Patriots yet again got a lift from their special teams while their offense continues to struggle. Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel teamed up to come away with a fumble recovery on a punt at the end of the second quarter, which allowed New England to steal three points just before halftime. Additionally, Nick Folk was 2-2 on his field goal attempts and 4-4 on extra points.
The rookie wide receiver’s numbers won’t jump off the page, but Harry had one of his better games of the season versus the Bengals. He made an excellent play to uncover himself in the back of the end zone for a scramble drill touchdown in the third quarter. Harry also made some plays on the ground with a pair of rushes on end-arounds for 22 yards.
Tom Brady seems to be trusting him more as a pass catcher, and Josh McDaniels has become more creative with how he uses the first-year wideout on offense.
Jones did not have a terrible game, but he did give up a touchdown through the air for a third straight week. His stock has also taken a dip due to the fact that he sustained a groin injury in the fourth quarter and will likely miss the team’s upcoming matchup with Buffalo. He has played well as the Patriots’ nickel corner in 2019, so his expected absence should not be understated.
The defense had another tough outing against the run in Week 15. The unit allowed Joe Mixon to run all over them, surrendering 136 rushing yards to the third-year back out of Oklahoma. Stopping the run continues to be the weakness of New England’s defense.