1. Patriots Secondary vs Bengals Receivers. Well, hooray! Devin McCourty showed why he was a first round pick and shut down his side of the field for most of the day. Darius Butler did well on his side of the field and showed his strong tackling skills. Hell, even Jonathan Wilhite contributed well in the slot. Pat Chung knocked some players on their behind and the overall play of the other safeties was solid. Overall, a thumbs up for this absurdly young secondary. Palmer definitely picked up plenty of garbage time yards (51 at the end of the first half), and the prevent defense that was utilized at the beginning of the second half (!!??) padded the stats of the Bengals.
2. Patriots Defensive 7 vs Bengals Running Game. Oh boy. The defensive front seven held Cedric Benson to a 2.9 yards/carry and definitely held up their end of the bargain. However, the main worry was how the Bengals would attack and succeed against the Patriots RDE position- and the Bengals definitely attacked that side of the defense. All of Benson's big gains were to that side, which means the Patriots need to improve the RDE position against the run. Mike Wright does a fantastic job against the pass, but he's a one gap defensive end and isn't much help against the run.
3. Patriots Linebackers vs Bengals Offensive Line. Jerod Mayo showed how well he plays when he's next to a legitimate starter and had a stellar performance. Brandon Spikes had a great "welcome to the NFL" game, but his role seemed pretty vanilla in the defense. Gary Guyton did stellar coming off the bench and made a big play to help win the game. However, one running play at Guyton for 7 yards, after Guyton engaged contact 2 yards after the line of scrimmage, showed why he's not big enough to be an every down ILB. Most plays for the ILBs seemed to be in the middle of the field, which means that they never really engaged with the Bengals' offensive line.
The outside linebackers, however, had a great day. For all the grief I gave about Tully Banta-Cain, I'm starting to like him more and more. He was great at stopping the run and was a nuisance for Carson Palmer all day. Rob Ninkovich showed that he has some untapped potential and should have a career season.
Final Things to Review After the Jump!
4. Patriots Receivers vs Bengals Secondary. Five Patriots receivers had plays for over ten yards. The Patriots definitely had waaaay too many weapons for the Bengals to cover- and no team has anyone who can cover a big tight end like Rob Gronkowski. Wes Welker was a superhero and Randy Moss showed his versatility by catching the ball all over the field. The Bengals secondary is the second best backfield the Patriots will play all season- and the Patriots passed the exam with flying colors.
5. Patriots Running Backs vs Themselves. Kevin Faulk scared everyone with two big drops early on in the game to stall drives- but he redeemed himself as the game progressed. Fred Taylor had one of his best games in a Patriots uniform. The Patriots used the running backs early, but they focused on the same scheme they used in preseason- they used one running back to feature all game. Taylor got into a groove and did well enough to keep the defense honest.
6. 2010 Bill O'Brien vs 2009 Bill O'Brien. The Patriots play calling in the first half was tremendous and they only had two real drives in the second half- one that was stalled by a Dan Koppen holding penalty and one that resulted in a touchdown. He has definitely improved as a play caller with a more diverse playbook and more explosive weapons. Hopefully, O'Brien can continue his great play calling for the duration of the season.
7. Patriots Offensive Line vs ?????.
Will the Patriots miss Logan Mankins? I couldn't tell any difference.
Can Matt Light revert to his pre-2009 form? As of now, YES.
Can Sebastian Vollmer have another fantastic year? Looks like he's ready for one.
Can Dan Koppen stop the defense up the middle? He's mediocre at best. Called for that holding penalty and was facing the weak Bengals defensive tackles. I don't think he can hold against better competition.
Can Dan Connolly fill Mankins' vacated shoes? From what I saw, he did a fantastic job. High five for Dante Scarneccia and his incredible coaching skill.
I'm still not a fan of using the prevent defense with so much of the game remaining. It allows the opposition to get into a rhythm and back into the game- and with two quarters to get into a groove, with that type of talent? Not a good call.
Looking at the new players from the past two years thrust into a starting role: Aaron Hernandez. Rob Gronkowski. Pat Chung. Devin McCourty. Darius Butler. Brandon Spikes. Gerard Warren. Fred Taylor. Dan Connolly. Sebastian Vollmer. Brandon Tate. Rob Ninkovich. Tully Banta-Cain. Myron Pryor. What do all of these players have in common? They were all added in the past two seasons and all had tremendous games.
Speaking of these players, how great do the past two drafts look? Chung, Ron Brace, Butler, Vollmer, Tate, Pryor, Jake Ingram, McCourty, Gronkowski, Jermaine Cunningham, Spikes, Hernandez, Zoltan Mesko. I'm excited about this team's future.
Special Teams? Holy cow. Great on kickoff coverage, great on returns. This unit looks fantastic.
Overall, a great first game. Here's to a great season!